A's List: Get a Taste of the African Diaspora at These Authentic Chicago Gems
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By Audarshia Townsend
In recent weeks, I’ve seen a few articles float around spotlighting random restaurants, cafes and even movie theater concession stands trying to capitalize on the “Black Panther” phenomenon. Nah. There’s nothing like the real thing, baby, so we sought out some of the greatest and most authentic African restaurants in Chicago.
Why we love it. Senegalese grub gets the spotlight at this friendly Rogers Park storefront eatery. If some of the food looks familiar, that’s because you’ll also find soul food and Jamaican fare on the menu.
What to eat. Order the "soul food delight" entrée of black-eyed peas, smoked turkey with Senegalese spices, and collard and mustard greens. There's also the mafe lamb dish that’s a creamy peanut butter stew filled with sweet potatoes and carrots. Wash down your meal with one of two signature, spirit-free sippers: a ginger cocktail of house-made ginger soda with fresh pineapple or bissap, a homemade hibiscus drink.
Why We Love It. Ethiopian restaurants are a popular sight around town, but Demera is a bit more upscale than its competitors. It’s in the heart of Uptown and is a mainstay for those hitting up a concert or theater production in the area.
What to eat. Check out classics like doro wat (lemon-marinated chicken stewed in berbere sauce and served with onions, garlic and ginger), gomen (slow-cooked collard greens with onions, garlic and ginger) or derek tibs (goat sauteed with onions, garlic and sliced jalapenos). Demera also roasts Ethiopian coffee beans on premises and serves real Ethiopian beer.
Why We Love It. Head to the South Side for this Senegalese eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis. Seafood and vegetarian lovers will appreciate this vast menu.
What to eat. Menu highlights include grilled lamb chops (dibi lamb), brochette chicken (Senegalese-style shish kabobs), whole grilled tilipia and c'est bon, or a whole smoked fish paired with shrimp. Each entrée arrives with a side of the diner's choice, from couscous to steamed cabbage with carrots.
Why We Love It. One of the most recognized African restaurants in the Windy City, Vee Vee's is a staple at the Taste of Chicago. Vee Vee's food truck hits up downtown lunch crowds, bringing unique eats to the Loop every day. The food is West African focused, with an emphasis on classic Nigerian fare.
What to eat. Pepper soup (made with stockfish, fish or goat), red beans and rice and jerk chicken are some of the more popular dishes. Feeling adventurous? Order nkwobi—a cow foot prepared with special seasonings and cooked in palm oil—or ishi ewu, a goat head prepared in traditional Nigerian fashion. Vee Vee's is BYOB.
Why We Love It. Owned and operated by Madieye and Awa Gueye, a husband-and-wife team originally from the Wolof Tribe of Senegal, Yassa specializes in fare native to their homeland.
What to eat. Get ready for generous portions of dishes like thiebou ganaar (chicken fried rice and stewed vegetables with or without tomato sauce), whole grilled fish, and stews made with curry chicken, lamb or seafood. All entrées come with plantains, jollof rice or steamed carrots and cabbage.
See previous A's List columns right here.