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Jan 12, 2009 08:46 AM

Current faves for African in Harlem?

What's the state of African food in Harlem these days? Most of my old favorites seem to have closed down. I've been to Keur Sokhna a number of times, and I love their cheb, but the rest of the food was never as good as La Marmite IMHO.

Can anyone recommend any of the newer joints ,such as Dibiterie Cheikh or South Beach Cafe? Others?

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  1. My current preference in Manhattan is for South Beach Cafe, followed by La Marmite (La Marmite is still open -- 2269 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd between 133rd & 134th Sts).

    Treichville often turns out pretty good food, but the public space of the restaurant is so cluttered and dirty that I am always afraid to wonder what might be happening back in the kitchen.

    If you are willing to venture to Brooklyn, there's good eating to be had at several places, such as Dakar restaurant on Grand Ave.

    2 Replies
    1. re: racer x

      Oh - good news about La Marmite - I dream of their chicken yassa. I haven't been out for Senegalese in Fort Green / Clinton Hill since the place on Fulton down near Franklin closed (forget the name, but the chef - Pierre - was amazing) and Joloff got - well - crappy. (Used to have a good cheb, last I had it two years ago it was fried rice with a funky piece of fish.)

      1. re: racer x

        A friend and I went to South Beach Cafe recently and had an epic chicken yassa. We also had thiebou yap, which was good, but the chicken yassa was pure bliss. BLISS! Also, we asked if they had anything spicy, and they said no, but they brought us a little dish of really brilliant hot sauce, which went really well with the yap.

        There were only a couple of other people in there on a Monday evening, so I hope they are getting enough business.

        Admittedly I have not eaten much West African food recently, so I can't compare it against anything else, but that chicken yassa, oh, man, wow, that was spectacular. If La Marmite is still open, then I'll have to check out their yassa sometime.

      2. I believe Keur Sokhna on 116th is closed. There is a whole section of the block that is being renovated. (If anyone knows otherwise, do speak up.)

        There is a Keur Sokhna restaurant on the east side of Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in the vicinity of 132nd st (just a bit south of La Marmite), but the windows are all papered up. I don't know if that means they've closed for good or are just renovating. (The only sign on the door is a message to delivery services on where to leave packages.)

        La Marmite has been closed the past couple of times I went by, but I don't know whether that was just a function of when I went by (Sunday night around 9:00 and Tues afternoon just before 3:00). The sign over window announcing the name of the restaurant also lists their website address (, but that address has never been functional when I've tried to access it.

        I went to South Beach Cafe the other night since Marmite was closed. It was late, and they were out of stews, so I ordered debe. Unfortunately, it was some of the worst debe I've had in a long while -- very greasy and dried out to the point of being as tough as Slim Jim beef jerky. Won't make that mistake again. (I'd rather the cook just say that they're out then serve tough, old debe.) I still like SBC's stews though. I do wish they would serve the various stews on a more reliable schedule (eg sauce feuille on Fri's) so I could plan my visits better.

        1. I just noticed a new(?) name on menupages today: Medina on 1st avenue between 119th and 120th. I swung by there today around 2:00 and couldn't find any such place. (However, there were a few businesses with their shutters down, so it's possible that Medina was one of those places that wasn't open when I went by.)

          1. I mentioned a few months back that I had come across a West African restaurant that I hadn't seen anything written about over by where Florence's used to be on Frederick Douglass Blvd. I went back there today and ordered souppa kandja (okra stew) and sauce feuille (cassava leaves stew), both over white rice, to go. I noticed that most of the customers eating in the restaurant were chowing on cheb. Both of the dishes I ordered were good, although not as good as what I've had at a number of other restaurants around the city. I'm also not in love with the grain of rice they use for for their boiled white rice or the way they prepare it. However, given the slim pickings there are these days in Manhattan, this is a reasonable option if you are looking for decent West African food. And each serving of stew and rice can easily feed two (maybe even three) adults -- for just $9. The restaurant is small and very tired, but has been hopping with customers both times I've stopped by (even after 3pm on a weekday afternoon, when some of the other restaurants are closed for the afternoon).

            I believe it is a Guinean restaurant, but the menu reads like those at the Senegalese restaurants.

            Salimata Restaurant
            Halal food
            2132 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Blvd) Store 3, between 115th and 116th Sts
            (212) 280-6980 (?)
            on the east side of the street, just a few steps south of the Masjid Aqsa

            1. Salimata (I've never been) is a sister to the Guinean restaurant Mariam's in Clinton Hill. I'm fairly sure that the Keur Sokhna on ACP is the successor to the shuttered location on 116th, and that they simply haven't completed the move. La Marmite took quite some time to make their own move from Frederick Douglas; since a government notice of some sort was posted on their door several months ago, they've been shut up tight. Thanks to Treichville, though ( ), I already had a new go-to place for thiebou djeun; I've never had an issue with their housekeeping.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DaveCook

                I went back to Salimata the other night (full of patrons again), when Africa Kine had run out of the dishes I wanted (and seriously, how can an African restaurant run out of plantains? That's like McDonald's running out of french fries!).

                I just asked for what one of the other groups of diners were enjoying (I don't think the dish was listed on the dinner menu): turned out to be a goat stew in a tomato-based sauce. Delicious -- I mean the kind of delicious where you find yourself barely able to keep from licking the last dregs of sauce from your plate. Meat was so tender, and umami quotient very high. I had been afraid the sauce would be tomato-y, yet that turned out to hardly be the case. I'm starting to really like this place.

                Oh, and the service is so much better than at Africa Kine, where the wait to be seated, the wait to pay the bill, etc can be painfully long.