Behind a street art mural along the Canal Saint Martin hides one of Paris’ best-kept secrets: the self-titled “Ghetto Museum” Le Comptoir Général. This multi-purpose treasure trove celebrates Franco-african culture through music, film, fashion, and dance, and has a steady following among in-the-know Parisians and expats.
Guests enter the space through a softly lit corridor strung with chandeliers and covered in an Old Hollywood-style red carpet. Once inside, the space is broken up into five areas, including a snack stand with a sampling of mixed African specialties like lentil soup, samosas, and fried plantains. And on my most recent trip, I also stumbled on a library with a collection of books on African history and culture, a record-listening corner, and a small shop/épicerie selling colorful pots.
There’s a coffee bar offering espresso drinks and Le Comptoir Général’s own brand of fair-trade beans, Le Petit Noir; a retro hair salon; and Le Marché Noir, a street-style thrift shop stocking unique garments at enticing prices…and the list goes on.
After sunset the ground-floor rooms transform into a veritable playground. The crowd hovers around the space’s two bars and sprawls onto shabby-chic armchairs to sip glasses of ti-punch, though my drink of choice is the house cocktail La Secousse, a creative mix of hibiscus and passionfruit juice, vodka, and thin slices of fresh cucumber.
Beneath a spinning disco ball in the far corner, DJs spin live reggae, Afro-funk, and a slew of other styles for the dancers on the floor. The music rarely disappoints, but for more information on any given night’s sounds, peek at the calendar on the space’s website.
One of the best parts about Le Comptoir Général is you can come for drinks and dancing on Saturday night and return Sunday afternoon for an affordable brunch, which includes a plat du jour and fresh fruit served with coffee, tea, or fruit juice.
And to top it all off, every Sunday evening from 18h30 to 23h30 there are screenings of films tracing the history of ghetto culture. And Entrance is free.
Le Comptoir Général – 80 Quai de Jemmapes, 75010. Tel: +33 (0)1 44 88 24 48
- Also in the Canal Saint Martin area is Le Poutch, a cozy café perfect for lunch or a coffee date.
- Stop by La Bellevilloise in the nearby Menilmontant neighborhood, another hot spot for music, cultural events, and food.
- Thank you Time Out Paris for this great round-up of the city’s best African restaurants.
Written by Emma Stencil for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Lucien Poujol. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.