Monday, January 9, 2012

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Finding a great burger in Provence isn't so easy. I know, I know, I know...burgers aren't French and they're not good for you (or the cow). Then again, neither is drinking 14 bottles of red wine at dinner...but do I say anything when you do that? Jamais! So I'm here to report that I've found what seems to be the perfect burger in Provence. It's at Cafe Mirabeau in St. Remy, where they have seven different versions to choose from. My favorite is the Cheeseburger Sauce au Roquefort, which comes topped with caramelized onion, bacon and tomato.  For some reason, chef David Cabrol likes to put the Roquefort sauce on top of the bun, so this one you eat with a knife and fork. Meanwhile other burgers are topped with bacon, goat cheese, sliced Parmesan, egg--and there's even one with foie gras and Port wine sauce. The top of the line is the Super Maxi Cheese-Burger Royal, a whopping 360-gram egg-topped double burger.  (Anyone care to do a calorie and fat count on that? I don't.) All the burgers at Mirabeau are served with a small green salad and wonderful thick-cut fries that always come out at the perfect temperature. If you ask, they're happy to bring you ketchup.

Ok, so that's the good news. The bad news is that the burgers range in price from €14 to €22, roughly $18 to $30. Add a glass of wine, Coke Zero or beer--and a cup of coffee at the end--and you're looking at a fairly substational chunk of change...for a burger. On the other hand, I could send you to any number of restaurants around here where you'll pay two or three times that for a very-mediocre meal. And the the burgers are definitely whoppers so you can easily take half home (and yet somehow, that never happens). Life is short. Eat the burger.

Or don't. Mirabeau has a full menu, offering 12 large, lovely main-course salads, ten pastas, and an extensive grill menu of beef, pork, lamb, duck and sausage. Salads range from €10 to €14, pastas from €7 to €11, grilled dishes from €11 to €25 (but most are in the €13 to €15 range). Portions are large. They also have a weekday lunch special (€10.50), a charcuterie platter to nibble with drinks (€8), daily and  weekend specials and a plat du jour. The wine list is small (four rosés, three reds, two whites, one Champagne) and their house wine (by the pitcher or glass) is just fine.

Another thing I love about Mirabeau is the atmosphere. It's owned and run by Pascal and Remy Muller, a local father-and-son team, and they clearly set the festive tone. Remy is often working the terrace, flirting with women from age eight to 80, making puns in Franglais, offering to take photos of families, singing Beatles or sitcom songs and of course, waiting tables as well. Manager Sebastien Borromeo and servers Olivier and Cedric are equally charming. But they're all serious restaurant people who make sure you get hot food hot and cold food cold and like what you get. You want to chat? They'll chat. You want to be left alone? Pas de probleme. Everyone here speaks at least some English and they seem to enjoy doing it.

Mirabeau is the kind of place where you can eat alone and feel totally at ease. Or you can show up with a group of 12 and they'll shove tables around to accomodate you. You can reserve but you don't have to. I never go in the morning but they serve a nice breakfast, I'm told--and I often see people lingering over coffee on the terrace, reading the paper, enjoying the late-morning sun and free WiFi. They have a loyal, local clientele but they treat strangers just as warmly.

My friend Olivier, who always orders dessert, recommends the chocolate lava cake with chantilly and ice cream or the Cafe Gourmand: a small dark coffee served with a sampling of little sweets.

The restaurant is on winter hours until March, which means dinner is served weekends only. Meanwhile breakfast (eggs, bacon, omelettes, waffles, bakery) and lunch are served daily, year round. If you go, please tell them Julie from Provence Post sent you. Thanks!

3 blvd. Mirabeau
St. Remy de Provence

Photos: The Roquefort burger in all its saucy glory; Remy, his dad Pascal and the manager, Sabastien.


  1. The Best Burgers in all of France!

  2. Dear Julie,

    I expect you and your readers (and, for that matter, the boys at Cafe Mirabeau) would enjoy reading David Lebowtiz's 4 January posting on his blog "Living the Sweet Life in Paris". Like you, Lebowitz has finally and gratefully found the one (apparently) place in Paris that makes a decent hamburger.

    You can read the article at (just scroll down a bit to find "Le Camion Qui Fume"):

    Level Best as Ever,

    David Terry

  3. Just read you article about le Café Mirabeau and this great burger plater.
    Every time I see a new post pop-up, it makes my upcoming trip to Saint-Rémy
    seem like a better and better idea. Did I tell you my two daughters who are married with two kids
    each are leaving the kids with their husbands and joining us in Provence for one of our
    three weeks, this spring. We are ecstatic about that!

    Thanks for a great post again today. Have a good week. Here, the
    temperature is minus 10 this morning! The ground is covered with ice and snow.
    Enjoy Provence, my dear Julie.

  4. As you know, the French are not used to eating with their hands,, thus a burger with cheese on top is a French burger. At 11 euros plus, I would just wait to get a big mac or a quarter pounder.

  5. Hi Jim,
    This burger is another animal altogether! You really can't compare it to McDo. I'm not a McDonald's hater by any means but this is aged-beef, top grade, super juicy and flavorful. And the caramelized onion makes the whole thing sweet and really delicious. Try it next time you're'll see. Everyone who tries it loves it.

  6. I'm one of your veggie readers...but the owners look every nice, love the name of the place, and look forward to going when in Provence. Am sure there's lots of great dishes....or I could just have the 14 bottles of wine ;)

  7. I am not a burger fan and hardly ever orders one (usually opting for a chicken or vegetarian burger here in the States) but -dang!- sauce Roquefort?! I am tempted. This may be the perfect excuse for me to swing by next time I come home and head South ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  8. I would love to know where the beef comes from. I have never had good beef in France. When in France stick with the wonderful food of France and not Americanized versions. St Remy has lots of good restaurants but I don't remember Hamburgers on the Menu. We prefer the priced fixed lunches that are so good in St. Remy and other parts of Provence. Besides why would you pay that much to have some red meat. With the difference in the Euro/Dollar exchange, this could get pretty expensive.

  9. Finally...a burger in Provence. Can't wait to try it.
    And anyone who's trying to compare an item from McDonald's to any burger anywhere made by human hand in a mom n pop shop has clearly never had a real hamburger.

  10. The problem I have is that You made me hungry and I am in Milwaukee. Do the have home delivery???

  11. Hi Julie!
    I love that place!!!!!! all their food is good and the atmosphere delightful.......You got me at the title..... A great burger and a great song.What more could one want??????Maryanne xo

  12. Oh Julie: I do remember our very good lunch there, with Remy flirting outrageously! And actually, I had a salad: goat cheese?, that was also one of the best anywhere. Thanks for reminding me! Maybe next fall again???