French Fast Food Showdown: McDonald's vs. Quick

You're in France, and you're hungry for fast food. You see the Golden Arches, and head in that direction. Then you see a similar looking restaurant across the street, whose logo has a large white Q inside a red house—that'd be Quick, in these parts, McDonald's main competitor. It's fast food, you can tell, but it's French, so surely it must be better... or is it? What do you do? On a trip to Paris, I pitted Quick and "McDo" against each other.

Round One: Fries

McDonald's fries in France taste exactly like their fries here: salty, slim, crisp. Quick's are slightly limper, and are served with no salt. Customers are encouraged to add their own salt to taste, but warned that too much salt can be harmful to your health. Verdict: Tie, once Quick's are salted.

Round Two: Big Mac vs. Giant

In France, "Le Big Mac" is a carbon copy of the American version. I could barely taste a difference. The only things I noticed were that the buns were slightly less sweet, and the pickles were crispier. The Giant, on the other hand, is Quick's response to the Big Mac, and accounts for 50% of all their burger sales. Two beef patties, melted cheese, onions, lettuce, and "Giant sauce," it's like a Big Mac without the bun and pickles. The secret sauce is made with capers, mayo, and mustard, and ample enough to make the unfortunately dry beef moist. I wasn't that impressed. Verdict: The Big Mac still reigns.

Round Three, Interesting Burgers: The 280 versus the Doublemix

I'll bet you've never heard of the 280. It's a large beef patty with cheddar cheese, emmental, tomato, mayo, and ketchup on a floury ciabatta bread. It's unique to McDonald's France, and made with French beef. The Quick Doublemix is two burgers on one sandwich-style bun: a cornmeal-dusted side with beef, cheese, lettuce, onions, and a peppercorn sauce; a plain side with cheddar, onions, and "fondu cheese" (melted cheese). To top it all off, you get three beef patties instead of two. Both sandwiches suffered from "too much bun" syndrome. The 280 had too much sauce, and the tomatoes were awful, so I just ate the bottom, which was actually great; the beef is much better than the Angus beef at home, but I had a hard time tasting the emmental. The DoubleMix had delicious sauce and was a very creative concept, but needed more beef. Verdict: Draw; McDonald's wins for beef, Quick for overall sandwich concept.

Round Four: Dessert

In a McCafe, there are plenty of confectionary treats to choose from; or you can try the McFlurry at the main counter. Little surprise, by now: it tastes exactly the same as the McFlurry back home. Nothing at McDonald's, though, measures up to Quick's Mix Mania: vanilla soft-serve blended with caramel and Lion Balls (French Buncha' Crunch). It was the best soft-serve ice cream I'd had in awhile: sweet, but not too sweet, creamy and rich. The Lion balls were little chocolatey, crunchy delights. Verdict: Quick by a long shot.

My overall verdict: Draw. Neither struck me as vastly superior to the other. Kudos to McDonald's (I suppose) for ubiquitous uniformity; or, to put it more kindly, keeping its standards aboard. Kudos to Quick for innovative concepts (DoubleMix) and delicious ice cream. Neither took the contest hands down.

Ultimately, I left struck by how similar McDonald's France was to McDonald's US. There are variations in taste (buns less sweet in France, slightly different pickles), but not massive, life-altering ones; it was an effort to find them. Yes, the 280 has better beef than the Angus, but the 280 isn't branded as "Angus". I come away from this trip thinking that whoever says McDonald's in Europe is radically better than the US (with the exception of the McCafe) is drinking their own Kool-Aid.