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Feb 10, 2009 03:17 PM

African Dining Seattle

I have tickets to the Lion King come March and I am very excited. I would like to surprise my other with an evening of African delights. Any suggestions on African dining. I am expanding my culinary palate and have experienced some African (mostly Moroccan) but would also love to try food from other areas as well.

This would be a weekday dinner that would need to be fairly quick (not taking more then an hour to an hour and a half including wait.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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  1. Seattle has many good East African restaurants, mostly Ethiopian and Eritrean but also Somali.

    My favorites are Meskel, Dahlak and Ras Dashen; the first two are general board favorites as well. Habesha, in the Denny Triangle area, has much more atmosphere than many other Ethiopian restuarants, and the food is quite good, if slightly modified to appeal to gringos. The heaviest concentration of Ethiopian restaurants is in the Central District, which includes Meskel and Ras Dashen. Dahlak is on Rainier near I-90.

    I enjoy the Somali restaurants Salaama and Marwa, though both of these are in Tukwila near the airport and leave something to be desired in terms of ambiance. Alot of the other Somali places are sort of bare-bones and serve more gyros, hamburgers and other american fast food instead of more authentic items.

    Many on the board enjoy Pan-Africa market, on 1st near Pike Place., which serves a bit of West African cuisine in addition to Ethiopian/Eritrean items. I am generally a bit leery of places that attempt to cover more than two cuisines. But I'll reserve comment since I haven't been. Same thing for the handful of Moroccan restaurants in town.

    Seattle's West African scene is very weak. I am aware of only aware of one restaurant, a recently opened Senegalese called Afrikando Afrikando, which is on Rainier in Hillman City. I had a decent meal there (esp. the black-eyed pea fritters), though I have heard that if the wrong person is cooking on a given night it can be bad.

    None of the above meals should take more than an hour once seated. Most of these places don't usually have a wait.

    14 Replies
    1. re: equinoise

      Other Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in town do a better job than Pan Africa Market at your wats and tibs, and you won't find kitfo there - but Pan Africa does have my favorite injera in town.

      Afrikando is pretty decent, but to my taste not in the same league as the better East African places in town.

      1. re: terrier

        If I can get njera from Pan Africa, where shall I take it to eat with great wats and tibs?

        1. re: terrier

          Now I'm confused---I thought equinoise said that Afrikando was WEST african--you refer to it as EAST african.

          In my experience, theres a world of difference.

          1. re: jenn

            Terrier was saying that Afrikando, which is west african, is not as good as the east african restaurants.

            1. re: dagrassroots

              Okay. I see what you mean but I'm afraid I'm still scratching my head a bit. From tasting both types of food and from having a few African cookbooks hanging around the house, I'm not sure how I could compare the two in that sense. West African food and East African food is pretty different spice and stylewize----seems more like saying you like German food over Spanish food....if that makes sense.

              Is the OP saying in general he prefers East African food to West African or that Afrikando isn't that good based on his experience of Senegalize food?

              1. re: jenn

                Cannot speak for terrier ( I guess I already did) but in my opinion the quality of the east african places are better than the quality of Afrikando ( I actually like afrikando just not as much as Dahlak and others). It would be like me saying the quality of the vietnamese restaurants in seattle is better than the quality of chinese restaurants in seattle.

                1. re: dagrassroots

                  That's it, exactly. Bearing in mind the cultural relativities of taste, to my mind Dahlak and Meskel (to name two) are better *restaurants* than Afrikando (which is still pretty good.)

                  I just miss A Taste Of Africa, a Camerounaise restaurant in Berkeley CA - hands down my favorite "West African" restaurant anywhere. Of course, I again demonstrate my cultural myopia - Cameroon is really central Africa, ~3400km from Senegal, about the distance from Seattle to Atlanta, New Orleans, or Guadalajara. Africa is a big place.

                  1. re: terrier

                    I guess Cameroon is more West than East, and its on the Atlantic Ocean. Its somewhat analogous to referring to Colorado as part of "the American West".

                    How does Camerounaise food compare with Senegalese or Ghanian (the two West African cusines I've had).

                    1. re: equinoise

                      Some starches are similar - jolof rice, cassava (boiled or as fufu) - but Senegal seems to have more North African influence (couscous, olives.)

                      I'm pretty sure 'A Taste of Africa' serves food more typical of southern Cameroon - plantains and especially ndole which is made from peanuts and a plant also called ndole or "bitterleaf" which is a green that requires a complicated washing process to be edible. Back when 'A Taste of Africa' was in its old location at Ashby and Adeline, I saw big bags of it being brought into the kitchen by the restaurateur's mother. No idea where they could possibly have sourced it as it is not commercially available in the US.

                      I understand that travel being quite difficult in Cameroon, that cuisines are particularly localized & that what you'd get in the north of the country is more millet-based, different preparations, etc.

                      Wish I knew more, but having been a regular at one restaurant doesn't make me an expert on the cuisine. :)

                      1. re: terrier

                        Hey guys, I am Cameroonian, I live in Seattle, if I can recommand you a food from Cameroon, its will probably " Ndole " with " Miondo (complement)" its taste realy good, All foreign traveller to Cameroon, like it. But I dont know if you can find this in Seattle, but keet looking, Cameroon its locate at, " Central Africa " but on the map its on the middle of Africa and more West Africa.

                      2. re: dagrassroots

                        thats what I wanted to know---thanks!

              2. re: equinoise

                I just tried Habesha for the first time a couple weeks back...we went at 2pm after the lunch rush and were immediately apprehensive about the server who seemed too shy to interact with us and the nearly empty buffet. But once we got them to put out more food, we chowed down hard. Quite quite tasty.

                Thanks for the tip, Equinoise, on the Somali places. I've been helping out with a computer literacy program with a couple of women from Somalia. Have been wanting to try some food from that country, but we're always so busy during the time I have with them that I don't get the chance to ask them for their recommendations! I'm going to make a trip down to Tukwila sometime to check it out. Do you have any ordering recommendations? I'm not a huge meat eater, can you get lentil-based dishes as with Ethiopian?

                1. re: FreshPickedSeattle

                  Somali food is actually quite different from Ethiopian, more rustic and not nearly as richly seasoned. I've never noticed any lentils. I believe that, like Eritrea, Somalia had an Italian colonial presence, and so one finds the unexpected presence of spaghetti served as a side. Instead of injera, chappattis are the staple bread. Often you can get sambusas (pretty much the same as samosas in indian cuisine). Below is a link including my reports on Marwa and Salaama.


                1. re: mrnelso

                  I agree...Pan-Africa is my favorite. They take great care with their authentic AND tasty preparation of Ethiopian food.