Like a Local: Shopping In Chateau Rouge

by Akil Wingate  |  Published October 1, 2017

Chateau Rouge, or Quartier Africain, is a metro stop in the 18th arrondissement of Paris that’s vibrant with African vendors, restaurateurs and tradesmen. This thriving district pulses with sensory delights from spices plumbed from Gambia to wax couture fabrics imported from Nigeria.

Pomi Les Primeurs (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Pomi Les Primeurs (Photo: Akil Wingate)

You may find yourself weaving through heavy foot traffic here, be it on a quest to hunt down succulent sea bass cured with a peanut sauce or shopping for traditional West African garments, perfect for that next international Carnival. Here is a list of the top 10 shopping attractions in Chateau Rouge, to make shopping in Chateau Rouge that bit easier.

Pomi Les Primeurs

Pomi Les Primeurs is the front-line of Chateau Rouge exoticism. Sitting right at the intersection of rue DeJean and Rue Poulet, it opens up the quarter with its huge fruit and vegetable stand that stretches for nearly 2 blocks. Les Primeurs has a fresh array of produce that ranges from standard western, to more exotic fruits and veggies. Everything is reasonably priced despite not being drenched in pesticide or treated with hormones. The old-school brand of farming and harvesting hasn’t completely gone out of style. Anyone on an exotic food quest would do well to start here.

8 rue DeJean

Boucherie Atlas

Atlas Boucherie (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Atlas Boucherie (Photo: Akil Wingate)

At the top of Chateau Rouge’s food chain sit the butcher shops. Their display windows are often scarlet with ample cuts of beef, pork or other locally-farmed meats. At Boucherie Atlas you’ll find a delightful mix of traditional meats, where everything from hoof to hind sits perfectly arranged in the window. Don’t be fooled by the people behind the glass counters; they don’t just serve as butchers. They have a healthy number of recipes on hand to give you plenty of ideas on what to do with your choice cuts. Prices are fairly reasonable and the shop is open every day.

1 Rue DeJean 

Poissonnerie du Chateau Rouge

Perhaps just as high on the food chain in Chateau Rouge are the fish markets. Poissonnerie du Chateau Rouge’s heads of fish stare back at you from their mounds of packed ice. The vendors are barely tucked behind the carts that bear them as they bark out the latest catch of the day in various languages. The selections usually range from traditional sardines and cod to catfish and conger eel. The latter fetches a hefty price. At Poissonnerie du Chateau Rouge it sits wedged in the center between catfish and cod, where it gets plenty of attention from knowing gourmands and curious buyers who don’t know what it is. Fish prices are mid-market to upmarket and the quality is exceptional.

3 Rue DeJean

Togo Exotique

Togo Exotique (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Togo Exotique (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Togo Exotique is one of a crush of general stores that are perched in the heart of the Quartier Africain. Each one specializes in the rarities and gems of their respective region. Togo Exotique bustles with gourds, flaming bright peppers, dried fish, veggies that have rarely seen the western world in such quantity, and a number of roots and herbs that are eaten after being doused with boiling water. Everything here is ripe for the picking. When your palette is in need of a rich boost of flavor and rustic authenticity, this is the remedy. A tip: buy the dried fish, usually curved in the shape of a donut, with a peanut paste (pate d’arachide). Drop it in boiling water to rehydrate it, then season it with the paste and exotic spices.

6 Rue DeJean 

Au Gamin de Paris

Somewhere in the world it’s happy hour, so the fine folks at Au Gamin de Paris won’t judge anybody who decides to stop in for a robust pint around brunch time. This bar – restaurant is a bit of a hybrid. The menu seduces every kind of palate with global inspirations, not just African. The bar is stocked with exotic drinks and simple, uncomplicated fare. And when the weather is just right, punters can sit out on the sidewalk and relish a Monaco or guzzle down a cider. During a football match, expect shoulder to shoulder action, with fans double fisting their brown brews while rooting on Les Bleus.

55 rue Doudeauville

La Poissonnerie

La Poissonneire (Photo: Akil Wingate)

La Poissonnerie (Photo: Akil Wingate)

La Poissonnerie boasts a staff with a legacy of fishing etched in their DNA. The vendors are sub-Saharan and West African. And the discourse about fish is thick with the accents of people who know how to fish with nets from simple canoes. La Poissonnerie also has bragging rights for some of the largest heads of catfish to be found in the quarter.  What it doesn’t do is charge an arm and a leg for them. The vendors might as well moonlight as athletes and comedians: they nudge you and joke about your pick and then hoist hefty portions of fish overhead to the counter, to be cut to your preference. Open every day.

5 rue DeJean

Wax Joli Afrique

Wax fabric boutiques sit door to door in close competition. But there are some major distinctions to be made. Not all of them sell fabric imported from Africa. Wax Joli Afrique, with its intimate storefront ambiance, makes up for modesty with a large authentic stock of wax fabrics from the continent. Fashion week creatives have been known to visit the unassuming boutique shop, combing for new ideas to pepper into their runway shows and lookbooks. Swatches of fabric start at 15 euros. Open every day.

28 rue Poulet

Bh Patissier

Bh Patissier (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Bh Patissier (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Bh Patissier is devilish with its window displays of multilayered cakes and profiteroles, decadently dark chocolates and long eclairs. The one major baker in the quarter, Bh Patissier separates itself from the traditional bakeries in Paris, with a touch of Africa. The family-owned bakery pulls from a recipe book that is largely inspired by North African sensibilities. Here the sandwiches have a nuanced punch, and the cakes are a taste bud titillation of sweet and tart. It’s a moderately-priced bakery bursting at the seams with little treats and gargantuan delights.

22 rue des Poissonniers

African Beautiful

One of the less expected effects of a jaunt through Chateau Rouge can be a sudden desire to buy wax fabric. African Beautiful not only sells the precious fabrics used in traditional robes and gowns, they are couturiers too. The window display is alive with color, transporting viewers to a lively open air market in Joss or a nightclub soiree in Abidjan. The silhouettes of the women’s gowns are svelte and curvaceous with plunging necklines that give way to frilled seams and hauntingly magical color patterns. For those who’ve gotten their fill of haute couture shopping in Paris, browse through this boutique’s lookbook for fresh wardrobe inspiration.

68 rue Doudeauville

African Beautiful (Photo: Akil Wingate)

African Beautiful (Photo: Akil Wingate)

Barbes Marketplace

Every Wednesday and Saturday between 7am and 3pm a vast, sprawling produce, antiques, clothes and electronics goods market takes place under the impressive metro rail bridge. A fresh selection of locally farmed produce, exotic goods brought in from the African Union and rare specialties fill the market. This is where you come when you want to experience a rewarding outdoor market experience. People are friendly. Produce is tender and ripe. And you’ll find yourself either haggling with or being charmed by the locals who’ve ventured out to hawk their goods and wares.

Metro Barbes Rochechouart