Monday, January 3, 2011

El Nopal

Paris has a serious problem when it comes to spicy ethnic food, in that, there isn't any.  Or rather there isn't much that's any good.   It's no problem finding a good Vietnamese or Moroccan place but heat? Forget it.  It's not in their blood.  So for the most part when it comes to spicy ethnic treats, the best bet is to eat it elsewhere -- Indian food in London, Thai food in Sweden, we've done that and more.  And almost without exception it's been better (and cheaper) than what we could have found in Paris.

So when my husband mentioned that he'd read about a good Mexican place near Gare de l'Est, let's just say I was a bit skeptical.  But the review was by American foodie Barbra Austin and our dance card was pretty much empty so I figured why not?

Austin wasn't kidding when she said that El Nopal was just a hole in the wall.  There are two stools there but if they're occupied, there's scarcely room for anyone else to breathe, let alone order.  So I let my husband do the talking, while I stood out on the sidewalk with the kids, stamping our feet to stay warm and making up corny jokes, each one worse than the last.

By the time we got our food, got back on the metro, made a few changes and walked back up the stairs to our apartment, the whole ordeal had taken a good hour and a half.  But fortunately, we were not disappointed.  Still warm, the burritos, quesadillas, and tacos were a hit all around.  I don't know where they find the ingredients (especially the cactus that was in my quesadilla) but they certainly shine.

We'll be back, but maybe next time, we'll wait until the weather's warmer and we can just take our goodies out to the Canal St. Martin for a little Tex Mex picnic.  El Nopal is a keeper, even if you're not hip enough to live in the neighborhood.

And to those who question why eat Mexican food in Paris, I can only say, live here for awhile and then ask that question again.  If you're here as a tourist, it's a different matter altogether.

Read Barbra Austin's review here.

El Nopal
3 rue Eugène Varlin
Paris 75010
Metro:  Chateau Landon or Colonel Fabien

Open: Mon-Fri: 11:30 am -3:00 pm; 6: 00 pm - 10:00pm (Fri.until 11: 00pm)
Sat: 6-11 pm
Sun: 11h30-9pm non stop


Cynthia said...

I've been longing for a Mexican Restaurant! Thank you for the tip :)

I get my spicy fix at the Nepalese restaurant close to my place, I'm usually the only one ordering "spicy" but it's so good!

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

When I lived in Paris, many years ago, the only thing I ever missed was ....yes ....spicy food... with an emphasis on Mexican. Seems not much has changed. Glad you found your "spicy" spot!

Sweet Freak said...

Tex-Mex picnic by the canal?! Yes, please!

Starman said...

I'm not really into Mexican, but I do like the occasional taco, so I'll have to give this a try. Thanks for relaying the info.

Glimpse Creations said...

Thank you for this post!!! I will be checking out this restaurant for sure! I totally miss spicy food, especially Mexican!

Ksam said...

There's also Boca Mexa on rue Monge in the's new and is a Chipotle copy-cat with a bit more seating room than El Nopal.

Anne said...

I hear that Chipotle will be opening its first Parisian outlet (with all French sourced ingredients) sometime early summer. Wonder how that will play?

Madeleine said...

I'm going to Paris with a friend in March. I could hand-deliver enchilada sauce, salsa, and whatever other Tex Mex ingredients you want. I even live in Texas, so it's bound to authentic!

MissPuce said...

THANK YOU!! Glad to see I'm not the only one desperately seeking my fix of Mexican food in Paris. I will definitely be checking this place out.

Anne - At this point I would sell my soul for some Chipotle. I heard they opened one in London, very happy to hear we're (hopefully) getting one too!

Ksam - Sounds like I need to pay a visit to Boca Mexa too! Thanks for the tip!

Sasho said...

I wasn't in France long enough to progress to the missing-spicy-food stage. But I had been reading blogs in which the writers longed for cheddar cheese. Idiotic. Or so I thought. But the last two weeks of my last sojourn, I suddenly understood the craving. I found some, imported from England, in a supermarché. So I bet if I had stayed longer, I'd have come round to craving extra picante.

Nicolas said...

There are actually more mexican restaurants in Paris: El Casa Palenque, rue de l'Arrivée near to Montparnasse. El Cielito Lindo, rue de Lappe, near to Bastille. El Arriba Mexico, avenue de la République but it's more Tex-Mex style than mexican... For my money, Casa Palenque is the best. The owners are from the DF. And if you're looking for mexican ingredients you can go to Izraël, a little shop in Rue François Miron, close to the Hotel de Ville...

Anonymous said...

Anne > I hear that Chipotle will be opening its first Parisian outlet

You can see the store at 18 Boulevard Montmartre 75009 Paris.

The sign's up, so the store should open in the near future.

Related Posts with Thumbnails