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Apr 18, 2007 11:42 AM

9 yr old and I lunch at Karibu (east african)

As you may know from a previous post, my 9 yr old son wanted to have lunch at an african restaurant where "they use bread for silverware". We live in Billerica so, as tempting as Addis Ababa seemed, I opted for an easier journey and went to Waltham for lunch at Karibu (bread for silverware will have to wait).

We were warmly welcomed by a lady whom I'll call the mother. She was very kind to my son and pleased that we had come to have an eating adventure. The food is set up cafeteria style and she was very nurturing with my son, giving him a little of everything but the fish -- "too many bones", she said.

The best parts:
The sweet plantains were a nice treat. The peanut sauce is very, very good with enough grease to counteract the fire of the chili paste. I'm not big on hot 'n spicy but enjoyed the chili paste. The mother gave it to me in a side dish and I used miniscule amounts but really enjoyed the extra oomph it gave the starches. Chicken was our favorite and fall-off-the-bone tender. Rice fragrant and tasty. Stewed green plantain were great with the peanut sauce and chili paste. My son loved the little meat pies. Side of beans was also tasty.

Parts I didn't like as much:
The beef had a nice smokiness to it but was tough. It needed to stew for a few more hours, I think. Tilapia didn't taste fresh (the sauce it was cooked in was tasty, though). The green veggie dish was a spinach/peas/carrot squares combo that was okay for what seemed like frozen veggies. I'd have preferred some stewed fresh greens.

Nice surprise: They serve "South American" coke, in a bottle. The mother said their customers like to drink what is familiar. The ingredients on the bottle read sugar instead of corn syrup or high fructose syrup.

Not as nice a surprise: Lunch for two with sodas was $21.00. Maybe this is a good price, I don't know. Our plates were full and the food was stick-to-your-ribs. I thought the total was high for lunch but then I'm more of a cheap-eats person so it's hard for me to assess how good a deal this is.

Setting: Very spacious and clean. Not crowded. There is a large, flat-panel TV that was playing great moments in NFL history which my son liked. I would have preferred some music from East Africa.

Location: We didn't see it at first but found it on our second walk-by. If you're coming from Main St and turn on Moody, Make a right onto Crescent St. On your left there will be a side of a brick building, a gap between the buildings, and Cronin's Convenience Store. In the gap, set back, is Karibu. Metered parking is in a lot down the street on the left.

My son and I had a great time and I appreciate the suggestions we received to my earlier post.

And here is my son's review:

You have to try the meat pies! The rice was supreme-o. The peanut sauce was nice and peanuty but the beef was hard to chew. On a scale from 1 to 10, it was a 7. Good luck trying it.

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  1. cool. appreciate the write up, thanks.

    1. Asante sana. Too bad about the lack of greens. Sukuma wiki (different kales) really is an important part of East African dishes. Did they give you or your son the chicken gizzard? It is reserved for the most esteemed guest. Did they serve ugali?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Bummer! No chicken gizzard and I most certainly would have eaten it. While welcomed warmly I guess we're not quite up to "esteemed guest".

        When the mother brought the chili paste to our table, she mentioned there was a starch like maize that is sometimes served but I didn't notice it at the serving table when we got our lunch.

        It is after 7:00 p.m. and I am still full from lunch. My son and I had such a lovely time trying something so different for him. I have renewed hope his palate will expand beyond pizza and chicken fingers.

      2. I have to chime in - what a cool kid! Kudos for trying something other than the usual. Karibu sounds intriguing! Many thanks to you both for the report.

        1. Nice writeup! (and cool kid). I had tried to spot the place when passing by and couldn't see it. Must have walked by it twice. Thanks for the detail on location.

          It sounds like you had main-meal portions so the price seems reasonable to me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Aromatherapy

            I thought so too. If the drinks were $1.50 each, that means $8.50 per lunch which isn't bad for lots of different food. (Assuming $21 is before tip.)

          2. I got very excited when I first heard about a Ugandan restaurant in Waltham as I had spent three years in Uganda as a teacher in the Peace Corps in the late '60s and cooked and ate mostly local food and needed a "fix" of it. Today I went there for lunch and it was very authentic and very good. I had been dying for matooke (steamed bananas) and the restaurant satisfied me. The big problem is that one can't get the same exact type of vegetables as are found in Uganda. For example, in Uganda they have a fabulous huge white sweet potato (lumonde in the Luganda language) that just isn't found on these shores. The lumonde there was good, but not as tasty as the real thing. The tilapia was excellent, bones and all. The peanut/groundnut sauce was excellent although thicker than I used to have in Uganda. I loved hearing the Luganda language again as there were at least a dozen Baganda there while I dined. I joined a couple of guys at a table and enjoyed chatting with them about the food and the "Pearl of Africa", Uganda. The greens weren't spinach but more like collard greens, or what the Kenyans would call "sukuma wiki" (Swahili for "push the week", or, as we would say in English, "stretch the food to make it last all week".) I will return! Keep the matooke hot!

            Kwaherini/Weraba/Ciao/AdiĆ³s, Rafiki