It’s not quite a bistro, but it’s close. This is McDonald’s as a decidedly more grown-up experience, where hard plastic is traded for leather banquettes, pull-out chairs for angular cushioned stools, and golden arches for burnt sienna and low-lit nooks where couples can steal a quiet moment. You can still find a Big Mac and a box of nuggets here, but they are overshadowed on the menu boards by the bigger stars of the French universe: the McDoo, a warm ham and cheese take on the croque-monsieur, leafy salads that bounce like a Kardashian’s backside, and a line of burgers featuring artisanal French cheeses like Comté and Camembert that McDonald’s rolled out earlier this year.
I have come for the McCamembert, but I’m told the burger has sold out all across France, so I settle for a McRaclette, named for the famous cow’s milk cheese from the Alpine highlands. It arrives on a chewy roll with crunchy wisps of lettuce, a garlicky mayonnaise, a thick patty that stretched well beyond the borders of the bread, and, most importantly, a slice of ripe raclette cheese, mid-meltdown.
An amazing thing happens when I bite into the burger: A stream of juice dribbles down my chin. The patty is fashioned from a local breed of grass-fed cow common in French steakhouses. The cheese lends the same viscous coverage of a slice of American cheese, but with a pleasant nutty undertone. Paired with a spring salad and washed down with a cold Heineken, it makes for a kind of surreal McDonald’s experience. Afterward, I decamp to the McCafé for a cappuccino and a plate of green tea macaroons.