The 5 Best African Restaurants in Paris
Paris is an extremely multicultural city. The French have colonies in a number of islands, all across the world, not to mention the fact that the country is one of the links between Africa and the Middle East.
Think Mauritius, Tunisia, Madagascar, Algeria, Morocco, Guadeloupe. Martinique, and even as far as New Caledonia in the Pacific.
For this reason, the capital offers a huge variety of African, or island-food inspired restaurants. Central Africa is typically known for its cuisine starring green vegetables and meats, as their dishes avoided influence until about the 19th century. On the other hand, West African countries like Nigeria Senegal or Ghana, eat a lot of meals featuring jollof rice, which is rice marinated with tomatoes, nutmeg, ginger, cumin and onions. Today in Paris, restaurants will serve combinations of these once regionally exclusive dishes.
I am going to review and few of my favourites, based on value for money, authenticity and location.
Situated in the 3rd arrondissement, this Senegalese restaurant is hidden on a small street that links to the Boulevard de Sébastopol. As soon as you walk in you will notice its simplicity and practicality.
Money isn’t wasted on decorations; however, you do have a television that keeps all diners up to date with news while they eat. I remember that the last time I was there, I watched the excited journalists review the Royal Wedding, taking place in England. It is fair to say that the tables were more interested in their dinner than the dress the bride wore…
If you haven’t been distracted by the television, you have been reading their menu – a choice between 5 or 6 dishes, with an option for entrees. This menu usually rotates, so what you can order from Monday to Saturday will not always be the same. This is the beauty of it, you will have to come back to try everything they have to offer!
I recommend poulet braisé (grilled chicken) or maffé, your choice of meat with a thick rich sauce made from peanut – think satay gravy. Don’t forget to order a serve of alocco to accompany your dish. This is fried banana and adds that sweetness to balance out the salt and spices.
I suggest you visit this restaurant with an appetite, because the servings are very generous. Hungry? Then dig in, and don’t worry about making a little mess. They put down plastic, disposable table cloths so that we can fully savour the meal without worrying about being too neat.
The meal will arrive after a 20 minutes wait – I estimate this is maximum waiting time, as I frequent this restaurant on busy nights.
The staff aren’t very talkative when it’s busy, but very efficient and attentive. Need your jug of water refilled? They will notice this even before you do, more often than not.
One time when I ordered a takeaway meal, I waited at the bar. The man that took my order served me a complimentary glass of hibiscus juice to drink. We didn’t say much but he didn’t wipe the smile from his face. Everyone is very friendly here.
Practical Information: 6 Rue Blondel, 75003
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11h to midnight, Closed on Sundays
Godjo serves a completely different type of cuisine. Rather than Senegalese, this is Ethiopian cuisine. On the left bank of Paris in the 5th arrondissement, this restaurant is a hidden gem situated within the academic and literary suburb of Paris.
If you are looking for Ethipoian cuisine in Paris, this will generally be your first result on Google, so expect a wait for a table. The time I visited, we waited for 30 minutes out in the cold. Be smart (like I should have been) and reserve in advance. You can either go through La Fourchette application on your phone to get discounts on your meal, or call them up!
I wouldn’t recommend going with a large group unless you make a reservation, as tables are very cosy and close to each other. They have done as much as they possibly could with the limited space they have.
The restaurant continues sous-sol, and so the waiters are doing a lot of exercise. As soon as you get a seat, concentrate, make a decision and order efficiently, so as not to waste their time coming back and forth, up and down.
For those like me, that like to admire the decorations, this may be hard to do as soon as you arrive, but I promise that once you order you can admire the enormous colourful tapestries and artworks on the walls. Dimly lit lamps create an intimate mood, despite the slightly cramped spaces and how busy it gets.
I recommend ordering enjera, a large platter of meats, vegetables and sauces, all carefully placed upon a traditional kind of galette, made from sourdough-risen flatbread. It looks like a huge brown, spongey pancake that you pull apart and trap the meats within. Here, we eat with our hands. The platter is perfect for sharing, and is extremely filling.
Practical information: 8 Rue de l’École Polytechnique, 75005
Opening Hours : Monday 18h – 23h30, Tuesday to Sunday 12h to 16h then 18h to 23h30
Contact: +33 1 40 46 82 21
3. Babylone Bis
Babylone Bis is an unimposing little restaurant in the 2nd arrondissement. If you didn’t know to look for it, you could easily walk past without ever realising. It doesn’t try too hard to attract people.
You walk inside and you will be taken to a table all the way at the back.
Typical of this area, most restaurants and bars are cave-like. The menu is bigger that the other two restaurants I mentioned, as the cuisine is inspired by various different cultures. Curries and seafood are available, along with maffé and alocco.
The walls are lined with photos of celebrities that have visited the place. I spotted Snoop Dog and Akon.
Despite being discreet, you hear more English in this restaurant than in the aforementioned, and it is considerably pricier. This being said, it is a lot quieter and more stylish than its competitors that serve the same foods.
For romantic dates and long chats with old friends, this is the place you want to go. Some of the others get too crowded, or they are for local workers that just want a quick lunch at midday. Babylone Bis is African food for a special occasion.
Practical information: 34 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002
Opening Hours : Times vary, check website here
4. YA KWA by Jungle
For fast food, ditch the nearest Macdonalds for Ya Kwa. It is not only healthier but it is also prepared for you at lightning speed. If you want a quick fix of chicken, rice and a nice cold soda drink, this is where you should go. Plus, while you are waiting for your meal you can enjoy free wifi!
You will get a balanced meal for under 10 euros here, which is a considerable price drop from the previously mentioned Babylone Bis.
You can choose from fish, beef or chicken here, and the sauces range from mild to very spicy. The variety of combinations is enough, but not huge, so you won’t waste time in choosing what to order.
Another great thing that Ya Kwa has in common with Djoliba is that the cooks don’t try to satisfy every taste bud, but rather focus on perfecting a few great dishes.
What I also love about this place is that it’s open till late. If you need a snack on Friday night after too many beers at around 1.30 am, you will find it open. They also do catering, delivery, buffets, private events and even weddings of all things!
Practical information: 1 Rue du Cygne, 75001
It is parallel to the metro Etienne Marcel on Line 4, in the 2nd arrondissement.
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday & Sunday 11h00 – 22h00, Friday & Saturday 11h00 – 02h00
5. JAH JAH by Le Tricycle
This place serves up Jamaican inspired vegan and vegetarian dishes! For anyone who thinks vegetables are synonymous with bland will feel silly and naïve after coming here. Rated 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, this is not one to miss. The food is a fusion of island and European cuisine, and as you sit at the tables in the Rastafari decorated space, eating a hot dog, you might be surprised at how well the combo goes together.
Yes, these hot dogs are vegan, on vegan brioche bread with vegan smoked sausage. Heaven.
Similar to YAKWA, you can eat for an average of 10 euros, which is good for Paris unless you’re living off kebabs, which will save you money…
Practical information :
11 rue des Petites Ecuries, 75010 Paris
Opening hours: 3-7pm is sweets and drinks only. Monday 12h00-18h00, Wednesday – Saturday 12h00-22h30, Sunday 12:00-17:00
If you are looking for some more places to try, here are a few others that have great reviews. I have not dined there personally (yet) but they are on my list.