Malik Belkouche lives in a city brimming with fast-food restaurants, but it wasn't until a special one opened that he finally ordered a hamburger.
Like many other Muslims, the 24-year-old technician avoided the top item in fast-food chains because the meat had not been prepared according to the Islamic halal ritual. But Beurger King Muslim (BKM) changed that.
"I hadn't had a hamburger in seven years and I missed it," said Belkouche, who has eaten at BKM at least three times a week since the restaurant opened in July in the northern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.
BKM looks like an American fast-food restaurant right down to its brightly colored tables and indoor playground. There's not a Moorish peaked window or Arabic sign in sight.
But the beef and chicken are strictly halal. There is even an imitation of bacon -- normally banned for Muslims, since it comes from pigs -- made from halal turkey meat.
"I've always tried to persuade my non-Muslim friends not to go to McDonald's when we went out together," Belkouche said. "I knew there wouldn't be much choice for me, I could only have fish fillet. We needed something like this."
BKM derives its name from the U.S. fast-food chain Burger King and plays on the word "beur" meaning a French-born person of North African origin.
France has 5 million Muslims -- Europe's largest Islamic minority. Many younger Muslims are French-born citizens speaking little or no Arabic and most are integrated into French society although some still encounter racial prejudice.
European entrepreneurs have recognized the market potential of Muslim communities by rolling out products directed at this niche market, including soft drinks like Mecca-Cola, Muslim Up and British-based Qibla-Cola run by Muslim-run companies.
"All our products are halal," said BKM's 37-year-old manager Hakim Badaoui. "Today's food industry makes it possible for us to get halal meat of any kind, including poultry and cold cuts."
Halal meat is drained of all its blood, like meat prepared according to Jewish kosher laws. Unlike kosher, halal has no ban on mixing meat and dairy products -- as in a cheeseburger.
"I eat here because I like the taste of the food," said Jerome Martin, 24, an airport worker who converted to Islam four years ago. "It's just as good as a Big Mac, but it's halal."
BKM's menu includes several types of "koull" burgers -- a wordplay on "cool" and the verb "to eat" in Arabic.
Latifa Kadaouach, 24, a student sporting a Muslim headscarf, came after she heard about the restaurant on the radio. "In other fast-foods we can only eat fish," she said.
"We can finally choose what we want," said her husband Zakaria, 28. "We ordered double cheeseburgers with fries."
Working in a Muslim-run restaurant also offers employees more choices. "Here, women can work with their headscarves on if they like," Badaoui said.
France's government angered many Muslims when it banned the wearing of Islamic headscarves in state schools last year. Public services have also enforced a long-standing law barring civil servants from wearing religious symbols.
Private companies can choose their own policy, although usually only Muslim-run businesses allow the veil.
Kheditja Yahiaoui, an 18-year-old student working at BKM for the summer, was not wearing a headscarf, in contrast to many of her female colleagues and almost all the women customers.
"I never did," she said. "But working here I know that I could if I wanted to."
Badaoui said customers come from all over the region to eat in his restaurant, which is on a busy road near a shopping center in this suburb with a high Muslim population.
"We were astonished to see how many people came from very far away," he said, adding that some people even made a [50-mile] trip for a meal.
He said Burger King had not complained about the play on its name. A company spokeswoman in the United States told Reuters that the fast-food chain knew about BKM. "We are aware of the matter and we are looking into it," she said.
Badaoui hopes one day to build a chain like Burger King.
"It's going to be hard, but we're not scared," he said. "A restaurant like this would work in any place or city today."