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Burgers challenge baguettes in French fast food stakes

By Simon Busch, CNN
February 7, 2014 -- Updated 2029 GMT (0429 HKT)
Parisian burger: looks suspiciously like any other kind of burger, but with gourmet tendencies.
Parisian burger: looks suspiciously like any other kind of burger, but with gourmet tendencies.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Burgers make up close to half of sandwiches sold in France
  • Three-quarters of traditional French restaurants sell hamburgers
  • The French burger is different, apparently -- more gourmet

(CNN) -- Get ready for some McBashing.

The hamburger appears to be overtaking the filled baguette as France's convenience food of choice.

Burgers now make up just more than 45% of all sandwiches sold in France, according to research from the French consulting firm Gira Conseil cited by the Telegraph.

The research cites 2013 burger sales, which rose from a mere one in nine in 2000.

Moreover, three-quarters of traditional French restaurants now list "le burger" on their menus; in many cases burgers outsell more traditional meals such as steak frites.

Consumption of the baguette itself, dispensed from countless corner boulangeries, also appears to be declining.

It's the portable variety filled with jambon, fromage and other items, however, that's really beleaguered, figures show.

MORE: Paris and London fight over Chinese tourists

On top of that, France is McDonald's second largest market, after the United States.

In 2012, French fast food sales accounted for 54% of the restaurant market, outstripping traditional sit-down restaurant meals for the first time.

Baguettes: stuff \'em.
Baguettes: stuff 'em.

The 'long burger lunch'

The news isn't all bad news for French cuisine.

The French do hamburgers differently -- with a more refined, gourmet touch -- according to a Paris correspondent for the Telegraph.

Indeed, if you believe Natasha Edwards, resident in the capital for 20 years, le (gourmet) burger might almost find its place at a legendary three-hour French lunch, alongside a bottle or two of Bordeaux.

The burgers "young Parisian hipsters" are ordering are nothing like mass-produced McDonald's fare, Edwards reports.

She cites an €11.40 ($15.50) offering from the Paris New York hamburger restaurant (50 rue du Fauburg St-Denis; +33 1 47 70 15 24) made from rare-breed beef but using lesser cuts to keep the price down.

A search reveals other offerings, such as Big Fernand's (55 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière; +33 1 73 70 51 52) 3,840 hamburger combinations with a choice of Charolais or Normandy beef, among other meats -- including veal -- for an average of around $18.

Elsewhere, fillings in the five burgers at La Maison Mère's (French site only; 4 Rue de Navarin; +33 01 42 81 11 00) cost up to about $27 and include breaded cod and Black Angus steak (the "Black Label").

READ: 9 quirky and brilliant Paris boutiques

"Parisians have officially gone burger bonkers," as Time Out puts it.

Shorter lunch breaks (from a luxurious hour and a half in 1975 to a rushed 30 minutes more commonly today, according to the Telegraph) appear to be one prosaic reason, but Edwards also cites "the eternal French fascination with Americana."

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