The Beast Barbecue in Paris

The Beast barbecue Paris

I’ve been taking a breather writing about American-oriented businesses in Paris. Not because I don’t like them, but because there were so many of them that it was hard to keep up, and they were no longer a novelty. And while the hamburger craze was fun when it was just one lone (and very good) food truck, when the Paris café at the last annual Agriculture Fair featured burgers as the food to represent their city to an international audience, well, it’s become a bit trop. Even the swanky La Grande Épicerie is featuring le Brooklyn this fall, with mustaches, bonnets, and tattoos. The upside is that I can wear a hoodie and sneakers around Paris now – I fit right in!

The Beast barbecue in Paris-whiskey bar

Another subject I skirt these days is barbecue. There are so many styles and opinions out there, that as much as it’s nice that everyone is proud of the style of bbq in their state or region, I’m less-interested in the debate over who is doing what, and how, rather than what is on the plate – or in the case of barbecue, on the paper or tray. (Someone took me task once because I mentioned a barbecue that I went to in Texas and said that they had sauce. It seemed like a big deal to discuss that they didn’t have sauce, when in fact, they did. A picture that I took there was of a local dipping their barbecue in sauce served at said address. After sharing that, I never heard back, but I can’t see the point of getting yourself in a tizzy about a small puddle of liquid. I’m just happy when people are making good food. )

The Beast barbecue in Paris-knives

Thomas Abramowicz opened The Beast a year ago in Paris. I didn’t go because people told me it was crowded, and others said the meat was excellent but the sides were less compelling. I also think that if a restaurant is good, I don’t need to be the first one there. I can wait 6 months and if it’s good, it’ll still be there. (Although in some cases, by the time word gets out in Paris, it’s tough to get a reservation.) I also dislike being jostled when I eat and realize crowding is a necessary evil when a restaurant is “hot.”

But last night I went out with a friend in Paris and the rotating people on the stool at the communal table next to me kept pushing me out of their way, so my leg was constantly being jammed into the leg of the table. I finally said something about it, but it didn’t seem to bother them. So I tend to not to go to places where I’m going to be trapped in a throng of people.

The Beast barbecue in Paris- icd tea

However when my friend and barbecue expert Elizabeth Karmel was in town, I thought it’d be fun to finally attack The Beast.

Even hard-core bbq fans have been were impressed by this Paris barbecue. And so were we, when we went for lunch, which proved a reasonable time of the day to eat. People were calmly eating during their lunch breaks and there were seats available, although a number were getting take-out.First up? Iced tea!

Then, trays loaded up with barbecued pork, beef, jalapeño-cheese sausages, and even a little sauce with they kindly, and diplomatically, ask if you want first, before adding a squirt.

The Beast barbecue in Paris

Thomas is 100% French. He worked in the luxury business for years, then told me that when he in New York, he had an “Aha” moment, and decided that he wanted to learn all about barbecue. Cooking was what he did after a long day at the office, when he would take off his coat and tie and fire up dinner in his apartment. That’s what made him happy. And he had a hunch the ‘cue was his calling.

The Beast barbecue in Paris

So he quit his fancy job, got in a car, and drove to Texas. (Unfortunately you can’t drive from France to America, but he was already in New York when he started his quest.) He spent months working in barbecues across Texas. When I asked how he did that, he responded, “I just knocked on the door and asked. I said I was willing to do anything – even wash dishes. So they let me!”

The Beast barbecue in Paris-biscuits

When he returned to Paris, he opened his smokehouse. It’s very difficult to open a barbecue in any city where people live very close together and you’re cooking something that has a peculiar scent. Thomas persevered and set up his Texas smoker, and was off and running. Or off and barbecuing.

One challenge was getting the right meat in Paris. French meat can be tough as many of the races of cows are muscular and originally reared for working, not eating. And some cuts that adapt well to slow-cooking, like brisket and beef ribs, don’t exist in France. So Thomas cast a wider net to get the right meats. Judging from what we ate, including the astoundingly good beef rib (below), he hit the mark on all of them.

The Beast barbecue in Paris

A lot has changed in Paris in the last decade and I’m often asked about French cuisine, present and  future. Paris is a mix of cultures – a lot of them, in one, compact city. So it’s particularly nice to see a style of cooking that’s unique to another country being done so well here, not modified or toned down, by someone who was passionate about it and learned as much as he could before coming home and opening his own place.

Thomas agreed that there’s a bit of a learning curve for the locals in terms of flavors, and styles of eating (as in, with your fingers), but on the day we went, we were the only non-French diners in there. And yes, I used a knife and fork to eat my barbecue, comme les françaises. Elizabeth is more of the real-deal than I am because as much as she got through most of the meat with utensils, finally she said with a sweet touch of southern twang, “You know what? To heck with it. I’m going to use my hands.” Then she dug right back in.

The Beast barbecue in Paris

I’m happy to report also that we had an excellent selection of sides. (Which they must have changed from when they first opened, which is why it’s sometimes best to wait a bit for a restaurant to get its “legs” before you give it a go.) Kale with brisket, macaroni and cheese with sharp English cheddar, homemade baked beans, and our favorite, potato salad, was less-heavy than its American counterpart that you get at stateside barbecue joints. It was more like I make it at home, with grainy French mustard, red onions, and a modest amount of dressing. French potatoes are so good, it’d be a shame to hide their flavor under a thick coating of mayo.

The Beast barbecue in Paris - Pecan pie

Desserts hit the sweet spot with Pecan Pie, a French galette of summer fruits, and Banana Cream Pie (below), which was more restrained than its Chantilly-crowned American counterpart. Here, the pastry chef used a slather of crème fraîche to top the “pie,” which was more of a tart.

The word “pie” doesn’t really translate into the French dessert lexicon – tourte is the closest. And I finally got to ask a bi-lingual Frenchman, Thomas, what the word in French pickles is, and he rubbed his chin for a while, scrunched up his forehead, and said that he didn’t really know either. Whatever you call them, he is making excellent homemade pickles and Elizabeth was so smitten with them that he packed her up a container to snack on later.

The Beast barbecue in Paris-banana pie

Elizabeth and I chattered with Thomas a bit about the cocktail scene in Paris as well. The Beast has an outstanding selection of bourbons and I’m not as familiar with them as they are, even though I am happy to sample them : )

Ten years ago, the idea of going to a cocktail bar in Paris was somewhat far-fetched. Or at least a very good one. Yes, the hotels and some bars have existed for a while, but the cocktail scene really ramped up just a few years ago, and now Paris is a world-class destination for cocktail lovers with great cocktail bars all over the city. Romain told me that people used to think that drinking cocktails was considered vulgaire, so he never appreciated them. But now, he’s hooked, too.

The Beast barbecue in Paris-Papy van Winkle

On top of the bar, wisely out of reach (and guarded by a giant Opinel knife), were several rare bottles of Van Winkle and Pappy Van Winkle Kentucky bourbons. When I asked, they said some were around €90 for one ounce. So I didn’t get a taste.

The Beast barbecue in Paris-bourbon

But when I saw the Knob Creek smoked maple whiskey, which was within reach, I asked for a smell and it must have been the expression on my face, because the bar woman kindly insisted I take a taste. It was rich in maple and caramel, not too much smoke, with a lingering sweetness that made my knees buckle just a little. Or maybe it was the weight of my stomach from all that barbecue.

They were also unpacking some boxes of bourbons that had just arrived, which included – very carefully wrapped – a bottle of Willett Pot Still reserve bourbon, whose bottle is in the distinctive shape of a whiskey still. People come in just to taste the bourbons and it’s thrilling that Thomas has not only opened up a true Texas barbecue in Paris, but created such an impressive bar stocked with bourbons and whiskies that aren’t readily available.

The Beast barbecue in Paris

When we left, we were happy, but not as happy as Thomas, who I noted on the way out, was the happiest man in France. Which I mentioned to him. He had a big grin, and said, “I’m so happy!” Which made me think that, hmm, maybe I should give up my dream of opening an ice cream shop in Paris, and open a barbecue?

For those who say that they don’t come to Paris to eat Texas barbecue, that’s fine. (As for me, when I go to the United States, I eat Mexican, Korean, and Chinese food. I like fried chicken, meatloaf, and other American specialties, but I also enjoy other cuisines.) But it’s nice to have a variety of things to eat here in Paris, from various cuisines and cultures, especially for the locals. And even though I waited a while to finally go to The Beast, boy, I was glad I did. Everything was great, and Parisians are licking it up, too. Just not with their fingers.

The Beast barbecue in Paris

The Beast
27, rue Meslay (3rd)
Tél: 07 81 02 99 77

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 2:30pm for lunch, 7pm to 11pm for dinner. For the most updated information, check the Beast Facebook page.

Note: The Beast gets quite busy in the evening. Coming earlier in the evening may be preferential. On the day we went for lunch, the crowds were moderate and we were able to get seats and have lunch. You can perhaps expect a wait during peak times, but I can think of worse places to pass the time than at their bourbon bar!


Related Reading

Are Parisians Ready for the Meat Sweats? Pitmaster Thomas Abramowicz says oui! (Food Republic)

Interview: Thomas Abramowicz of The Beast (TMBBQ)

The Beast is Born: Texas bbq in Paris (Paris by Mouth)

American Barbecue in Paris (Alexander Lobrano/New York Times)

Texas barbecue lands in Paris (The Houston Chronicle)

 

 

 

 

 


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30 comments

  • Claire
    September 12, 2015 2:40pm

    David, I’ve been to “that” BBQ place in Lockhart, TX, since I live in Austin. Those meats in the pictures look just right! My husband and I have been on a smoked meat kick here at home lately and I was happy to see a Frenchman doing such a good job in Paris, and so happily too! Now, next time I am momentarily hungry for “home” when I’m in Paris, I have a place to go. Thanks so much for this piece.

  • September 12, 2015 2:54pm

    I *love* The Beast. I’ve been several times for lunch around 13h (1pm), and it’s never been crowded. I can confirm that their sides have been a work-in-progress, and their beans are really really good. But what I go for are the meats – particularly the brisket, but I also love the baby back ribs and pulled pork. I think I need to get back there soon…

  • Mike Smith
    September 12, 2015 3:20pm

    Sounds like barbeque is to the US what bouillabaisse is to France – each region/town/person’s version is the original and official. Sort of like my grandmother’s cheesecake – the only real one to me.

  • Katie
    September 12, 2015 4:20pm

    There aren’t pickled vegetables in France? Or just not the variety of pickled cucumbers that Americans are used to?

  • September 12, 2015 4:29pm
    David Lebovitz

    Katie: There are pickled vegetables, and there are “pickles” like cornichons. Often the word “marinated” or “sweet-sour” are used (in French) to describe them. In American English, “pickles” refers to cucumbers of many varieties so is kind of a blanket term.

    Lynn: That was what most people said when they opened, but they’ve got them down. Yes, the beans are great!~

    Claire: It’s pretty amazing how well he does Texas bbq. He said in an interview elsewhere that he probably worked in 15-20 places in Texas and one notable pitmaster gave Thomas an old American flag that had been in his family for generations, which is on the wall at The Beast. I liked it because it was a Frenchman doing it, and he was so happy and the food was so good. And what a selection of bourbons! : )

  • Aileen
    September 12, 2015 5:10pm

    Yes, some people from the US might not go to Paris to eat BBQ, but having moved from Austin to Germany, I’m happy to see this! We’re headed to Paris in November for a conference, so I’m putting this on the schedule!

  • Al Mullery
    September 12, 2015 5:45pm

    Living in France for over 30 years, there are things I really miss that are impossible to get here in France. You mentioned some of them in your reports from your visit to the U.S. this summer (e,g, steamers, fresh picked corn on the cob). And, of course, there is BBQ. Alec Lobrano’s NYTimes article left me wondering which of the BBQ restaurants he mentioned I should try on my next visit to Paris. Thanks to you, I now know which one.

  • September 12, 2015 6:59pm

    I went to see Thomas at the Barbecue Fest in NYC when I was in town in early June. So fun to see him there, in his element. You nailed it: he’s so genuinely happy doing this that it feeds into the product. A real treat that it’s nearby!

  • Mimi
    September 12, 2015 8:25pm

    Off topic, but must be said. David, I just made (another) batch of your Chocolate Chip Cookies from Ready for Dessert. Heavenly. Perfection. Oh my! I own all of your cookbooks and receive your emails. Thank you–your sweet and savory recipes are all fantastic. I am Google stalking you–if I have an ingredient I want to play with or a dish I want to try, I Google you and then the ingredient or dish. I never, never write comments on email posts, never. I do have to thank you though for your professionalism, expertise and humor.

  • September 12, 2015 8:46pm

    I’ve been transplanted to Texas three separate time. Round up all the years I’ve lived in this state and you’d think I would have mastered the success of some mighty fine ribs, brisket and whatnot. Keep driving…I haven’t mastered the art of the smoked meats (turkey is the exception), but more importantly, I could give a rats ass over this cuisine failure. I know when to stop trying.

    Get me back home to Colorado and I’ll fix you the best French Dip Sandwich with a horseradish sauce that beats all the world. (Grass fed beef is the secret, and freshly grated and puréed horseradish with just a wee bit of apple cider vinegar and a bit of homemade mayo. Served up on a fresh Kaiser bun, of course!)

  • Alan
    September 12, 2015 9:37pm

    I totally understand Americans coming to Paris on vacation not wanting Texas barbecue — after all, when I visit a city I generally want the local cuisine, especially if the place is famous for its food (though that said, I hear a depressing number of American accents every time I pass a McDonald’s in Paris…). But like you, I live in Paris and have certain cravings — I was sorely tempted to fill a suitcase with corn on the cob when I was in the States last month — and I’ll definitely be checking out The Beast. I’ve learned to do many of the things I miss from the States at home, but I can’t exactly set up a barbecue pit unless I move well outside the city. My wife might not join me, since she comes from one of those places with its own barbecue and Texas is decidedly not it, but I will be there with bells on.

    On a related note, if you haven’t checked out Floyd’s you might want to give it a go — their everyday menu sounds a bit like The Beast’s Fat French Tuesday. The chef is American and does American comfort foods with a French twist. The rabbit and waffles is my favorite, and the bartender is no slouch either. I was worried about their survival for awhile — for about a year I could walk in, get a table, and practically have the place to myself on any night of the week, but the last time I was there they were fully booked and I had to eat in the bar area. Hopefully that’s a sign that they’ve found their legs.

  • bev
    September 13, 2015 12:40am

    My last trip to Paris was year ago. I did a lot of research on restaurants before I left & all those that seemed reasonable &/or casual were run by Americans, Australians or Brits. Many featured hamburgers, which I don’t eat at all at home (NYC), or were vegetarian. Are there comparable restaurants that serve “French” food?

  • Sara
    September 13, 2015 1:47am

    Great article. I love The Beast but I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about the Chef. I’ve been several times and as far as I’m concerned The Beast is a totally different animal ever since he climbed on board. All of the sides and the meats are way way better than they were when they first opened. I love hearing about Thomas’ story but big props and recognition need to go to the people revitalizing the menu and doing the actual cooking.

  • E E Faris
    September 13, 2015 3:03am

    David, what a good post.
    Sides could use improvement in the U.S. too, I liked hearing about a potato salad with a lighter hand on the dressing.
    Is that lemon peel on top of the banana pie?

  • Doug Wagner
    September 13, 2015 5:46am

    Being from KY Imthink the best BBQ is slow smoked mutton with wet sauce… No mustard. Most of those Texans came from KY and learned from us. Forgot the sheep though. Sides need to include greasy beans( green beans slow simmered in bacon grease) corn bread cooked in cast iron, and the potato salad needs a spoon of horseradish. Those expensive bourbons are nice, but I think Makers Mark is still the best. The biscuits look good but only for breakfast.
    Love your blog!

    • Katie
      September 15, 2015 5:55pm

      Greasy Beans! My husband’s family is from Arkansas and there is no holiday where greasy beans is not served…I had never heard of them or had them until my first Thanksgiving at their house (I’m from the Southwest). They make them with Smoked Ham Hocks and I learned from my dear Arkie family, you must use canned green beans and cook them forever…but they are the bees knees!! No one ever knows what I am talking about when I say Greasy Beans!

  • September 13, 2015 6:39am

    mmmm that is some pretty meat.

  • September 13, 2015 9:29am

    David,

    Thank you for summing up the Paris food scene so accurately
    – why we should avoid just opened restaurants
    – the huge american influence : hamburgers, cocktails and now Barbecue

    Well done,

    Paule

  • Gavrielle
    September 13, 2015 3:47pm

    Yum! Re the pickles: I had no idea pickles were quite so critical to American cuisine until the other day. I was visiting the Auckland shop for expat Americans (looking for interesting mustard after your tempting post about mustard, even though that mustard was French…never mind) and they had a massive display of pickles, some in enormous jars. I guess when I think about it I’ve often had food in the US arriving with a pickle, but to be honest I thought people mostly left them on the plate. Or maybe that’s just me – they’re often a bit floppy (although I have had wonderful pickles at The Pickle Guys in New York).

  • Linn
    September 13, 2015 10:14pm

    I had to smile at the thought of a Frenchman coming to Texas to learn about our BBQ. It’s always been the other way around — us going to France to about fine French cuisine — who would have ever thought…. Too bad I didn’t run into him, I would have given him my Mom’s potato salad recipe — best potato salad in Texas! Oh well, him to email me….

  • September 14, 2015 4:36pm

    My sister lives in Paris, but she never mentioned this place. Maybe I’ll surprise her the next time I go to visit – I’ll show her something she don’t know yet. Which is achievement, by the way, she’s such a food lover.

  • September 15, 2015 4:56am

    I would definitely agree with you about not needing to be the first to visit a new restaurant. It takes time for everything to solidify, so while being the first people to visit might be exciting, you’ll likely have a better visit if you go later. Anyway, The Beast sounds fantastic, and if I lived in Paris I am certain I would visit frequently for their bourbon selection.

  • Julie
    September 15, 2015 7:03pm

    Hello David,

    I am a French-Canadian translator living in Quebec with many friends in Paris and I would say that “tarte” is the most obvious equivalent for “pie” and “marinades” works very well for “pickles”, when it refers to any vegetables marinated in vinagear and other condiments.

    Just thought you might like to know… Take care!

    • Wallie
      October 10, 2015 11:08pm

      Julie, that was nice of you to be helpful – I’m pretty sure that David is familiar with the word tarte. I read his statement in his post as meaning that there isn’t a French word for what we call pies (which, as you know, are a little different from tartes).

  • kim
    September 15, 2015 7:39pm

    David,
    I have a question on the “Chantilly-crowned” on the banana cream pie..What is chantilly cream? I’ve only had it once years ago at K Paul’s in NOLA and i still can’t find what it consists of or how to make it.

    • Carolyn Z
      October 4, 2015 7:27pm

      Chantilly cream is heavy whipping cream seasoned with sugar and vanilla. If you google, the first hit is a recipe from Martha Stewart. Good luck.

  • Anne Talley
    September 15, 2015 8:02pm

    I’m sorry to see the trend of using Mason jars as drinking vessels has arrived in France. So tacky.

  • September 15, 2015 9:32pm
    David Lebovitz

    kim: Chantilly is just the French word for sweetened whipped cream. It’s used in English sometimes as well, but is just whipped cream.

    Anne: I think that it wasn’t necessarily a trend when it started, which may have been in places like Texas and the south (in the U.S.) – although I’m not 100% certain. I became a trend when it reached places like Brooklyn, and yes, even Paris. But I think they use them here because of the Texas-connection.

    Julie: Thanks. To me, a tarte is a high-sided open tart, but not enclosed like a tourte is. I’ve heard pickled vegetables referred to as “Marinés” – which is the same as marinades, in English. But interesting that in English that we just say pickles and that assumes they are cucumbers. Thanks for chiming in! : )

  • Karine
    September 28, 2015 6:10pm

    Hi, thanks for your article, your description really makes me want to try Beast (like Thomas, I discovered barbecue restaurants only recently in NY and I’m glad we have some in Paris now). As far as pickles are concerned, I remember hearing the word “variantes” as a kid, when going on holidays in the South of France (my uncle loved “variantes”). It’s a “mot régional”, and some French people may not know the word (so I’m not sure you’ll find it very useful, sorry), but it seems to me that “variantes” are a bit similar to pickles.

  • Peggy
    October 4, 2015 1:07am

    Seeing the photo of the pecan pie reminded me of the one I made for Thanksgiving years, years, years ago for our blend of European and American friends in Geneva. The Americans dug into the pie without hesitation while the Europeans stared at it for awhile, took a small bite, and then stopped eating it because it was too sweet for their palette. They also thought the idea of “corn syrup” was strange. Oh well, more for us!

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