Downtown Cleveland West African soul food - awesome find
Had lunch this week at what might best be described as a West African soul food place in the food court in the Arcade on Euclid across from E 6th Street, downtown.
They've got an eclectic menu--west African stews and soups and dishes plus it looks like faux meat too. I'm calling it soul food though because it really does seem to be cooked and served w. love. And to me, that's a good thing.
We tried a few things: Curried plantains over rice. Served over rice w. excellent greens and cornbread muffin. Plantains were cooked w. maybe peppers and tomatoes (maybe okra? not sure). Not spicy (though it looked like they had hot sauce on offer too) but complex flavor--not a one-note curry powder thing. Nicely cooked greens, w. extra pot likker. Corn muffin was in the cornbread mode rather than fluffy sweet corncake style.
Groundnut stew--kindof a peanutbuttery soup w. veggies (again, maybe peppers and okra?). Generous Thick, a little bit spicy, also served w. corn muffin.
The menu's a little scattered, so may have some misses, but based on what I've tried I'd say worth exploring. If you try them, report back and let us know what's worth eating or missing!
FYI, it's a vegan place. The people who run it are very nice but the operation is really not great. A lot of stuff was being microwaved and the hand-written white-board menu is very hard to read. They didn't know what to charge us for a lot of things and some of the food was good but some really was not. I wasn't intrigued enough to give them a 2nd chance, unfortunately.
Detroit 'Hound here. Noticed this topic on our shared Great Lakes board, so I thought I'd pop in and say how awesome this sounds! West African cuisine is one of my favorites, and unfortunately very tough to find anywhere in the US!
Here in Detroit, we had about 3 different West African restaurants over the past, eh, 4-5ish years. One was largely Senegalese, one largely Nigerian, and the last was rather general West African. All have closed. :-( In Windsor, ON, across the river from us, there was a Congolese restaurant, which I heard from another Chowhounder also closed.
So, I just wanted to say to please enjoy this restaurant for me! I wish I could still get this kind of food around here. FWIW, the stews you described in the OP sound a lot like the dishes that were on offer at the Detroit place I described as "rather general West African". Maybe come fall, when I'm not as busy, I'll make the trip to Cleveland to try this place out.
And regarding rockandroller1's comment about the operation... Unfortunately this very low-rent style of operation is pretty common amongst every West African restaurant I've been to. In fact, the reason I never tried the Congolese place in Windsor was because the one time I went, they were out of EVERYTHING, and I would have had to wait 1.5 hours for them to go get some ingredients and make my food (I couldn't wait that long because I had hockey tix). I suppose it doesn't bother the immigrants (presumably that's their main clientele), since that's exactly how restaurants and shops are operated in rural Africa. Unfortunately, it's a dealbreaker for most Americans, and probably prevents a lot of people from trying/discovering this cuisine.
Interesting observation jjspw. I know there is a market for it here, but people on a lunch hour cannot deal with a menu they can't read and them being out of stuff and then 15 minutes to make the food, which was the case for me when I visited this stand. I have not been in a rush to get back there.
They may be a little unpolished, but there is some great food here. My favorite is called something like the Pure Salad Platter. From the menu, it looked like a salad plus one side, but it ended up being a salad plus ALL the sides. The sides vary from day to day, but there are usually 4 of them. The salad is mixed greens with avocado and varying dressing which have all been delicious. It's sprinkled with some sort of seaweed specks that punches up the flavor a little. The sides usually include a good hummus, the plantain curry, something with kale, and something with carrots. The plantain curry is sweet and tart and really good. There have been kale chips with cashew "cheese" which was better than I expected, kale slaw, and other things. I've really liked those. The carrot supreme is my favorite carrot one. All in all, it's a great filling lunch for no meat. You get 5 varied flavors. I'm a fan.