Category Archives: African

Wycliff’s Kitchen

kenyan food in Columbus
Cuisine: Kenyan
2492 Home Acre Drive
Columbus 43231
614.772.3461
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Your first decision, should you choose to dine at Wycliff’s, is this – Kenyan menu or Indian? It’ll likely be your second hint that this isn’t your typical restaurant. The exterior signage primarily promotes Indian offerings, with Wycliff’s identity relegated to a small window banner, and to the best of our ability to discern the restaurant contains two businesses offering distinct cuisines but operating out of the same kitchen and dining room.
We chose the Kenyan menu. I suspect that to do so is to talk with Wycliff, and this is a good thing – he’s gregarious, warm, and informative, and though the truth is over a decade dearer, he doesn’t look a day over 19 years old.
As they say, I’ll have what he’s having.
As it turns out, that’s often Karanga Mbuzi, or goat stew. It never fails to amaze me how much of the world has some variation on this dish, and while spicing varies, the basic concept is surprisingly consistent – bone-in goat, cut into silver dollar sized pieces, in a thick, rich, and flavorful base. Of course, stewing meat tenderizes it, explaining the popularity of the concept, and few are tenderer than Wycliff’s rendition. The goat’s flavor is pleasantly mild and the saucing is perfectly balanced. When we return, we’ll try new dishes (more on that later), but I suspect we’ll make a point of getting second helping of this.
kenyan goat stew karanga mbuzi
We also tried the Karanga Ng’ombe, a similarly prepared, but bone-free, beef stew. The only problem with this perfectly enjoyable dish was the inevitable comparison with the excellence of the goat. If goat’s just not your thing, then this’ll be a sure bet.
karanga ngombe kenyan beef stew
Less enjoyable to our group of 4 was the Chapati Madodo. Comprised of peruano beans cooked in coconut milk and served with a flatbread known as chapati, it wanted for at minimum a pinch more salt, at least in comparison to the more memorable version served by the late Taste of Zanzibar.
kenyan restaurant columbus ohio
Each of the above entrees comes with your choice of two sides, and standouts included the pilau (seasoned rice with meat), kabeji (cabbage with onions), spinach, and the conspicuously fresh green beans. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – African cuisines know how to do vegetables. Among the apps, we’d go for the beef samosa. We also sampled some mango mousse cake even though we didn’t really have room. It was light in texture and very mangoey.
Prices are reasonable (entrees with 2 sides cost between $10-$13 for dinner), service is pleasant and attentive, and portions are generous. Wycliff also offers some bargain lunch specials ranging from $6.49-$7.99. Grilled meats and an intriguing mashed potato dish known as mukimo are served on Saturdays. We’ll be back to try them.
And to get more goat.

Addis Restaurant

IMG_3447Addis Restaurant
Cuisine: Ethiopian
3750 Cleveland Ave
614.269.8680
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Open lunch and dinner every day. Until 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

With the closing of Blue Nile in the north campus area, Ethiopian food had become an east side affair. And, while we like Ethiopian food, we haven’t craved it enough to schlepp out to Hamilton Rd. with any regularity.

The owner Niman knew that a larger proportion of the Ethiopian and Eritrean population were on the North side, unserved by a restaurant offering their national cuisine, and with the opening of his Cleveland Avenue restaurant, Addis, he has made the cuisine far more geographically accessible for them, and for us.

The dining room is clean and pleasant, in an orderly no-frills kind of way, and service is unwaveringly pleasant and eager to answer questions. The menu is tightly focused, with less than 10 dishes, though 10 more are understood to be on their way in the next couple of weeks.

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While we’re eager to see what the menu expansion may bring, we were more than happy with what exists. We tried the mahbarawi platter with tibs, and added the zillzill tibs, a beef short rib dish. The mahbarawi platter also included 4 vegetable dishes and salad. All of the dishes are served together on a larger sharing platter with some hot sauce.

ethiopian food in Columbus

The tibs, a beef stew was, to us, the best rendition we’ve tried so far – spicy, complex, and delicious. The platter can also be ordered with chicken.

The zillzill tibs, on the other hand, was entirely new to us, and amounted to a tasty curiosity. It consisted of chunks of beef short rib meat, and the menu listed it as seasoned with garlic, black pepper, onion, and green chili. True though this may be, the flavor struck us as faintly teriyaki-esque… which was not bad, by any means, but more than a bit surprising.

Accompaniments included lentils, cabbage, and spinach, and all were up to snuff. The injera bread as good as any we’ve had, and was conspicuously fresh. Portions, as always with Ethiopian food are plentiful. Dishes are cooked to order and Niman was keen to point out that dishes like kitfo can be cooked to your taste – anywhere from rare to well done. We were also asked what level of spice we wanted. As is traditional with Ethiopian food be prepared to eat with your hands.

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We also enjoyed Ethiopian tea and coffee and Niman told us that on Friday they prepare traditionally prepared Ethiopian coffee and offer samples to customers.

L’Appat Patisserie Cafe

L’Appat Patisserie Café
1159 Oak St.
(614) 252-6822
Website

L’Appat Patisserie in Olde Towne East is best known for its sweet treats, but owner Didier Alapini, has started offering a Pan-African day menu every Thursday. Didier is from Benin in West Africa but his weekly Pan-African menus span the continent from Morocco to South Africa and include all kinds of dishes. Here’s the menu from last week’s inaugural Pan-African day.

african food in columbus ohio

The menu will change every Thursday. Each week’s menu is posted in advance on their Facebook page.

“Panafrican Day” Menu (Thursday, October 3rd 2013)

Soupe du jour
Sweet Potato Soup (Zambia) $4.00
Creamy sweet potatoes, rice, fresh herbs, and spice soup

Sandwich du jour

N’Djamena Chicken Sandwich (Chad) $10.00
Sautéed chicken and bacon, in gruyère spinach sauce on ciabatta loaf, served with roasted potatoes

Entrees: (The first price is lunch and the second is dinner).

Black Olive Salad (Sudan) $9.00 $11.00 (with soup)
Mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and black olives with citrus vinaigrette.

Moussaka á la mauricienne (Mauritus Island) $13.00 $15.00
Lamb, beef and eggplant lasagna in eggplant sauce with salad and garlic bread

Dakouin (Benin) $11.00 $13.00
Grilled leg quarter with fresh tomato, green pepper and onion sauce served with Gari porridge

Fish Boulettes (Morocco) $13.00 $15.00
Fish meatballs in sweet peppers and onion sauce, served over vegetable rice

Here are a couple of the dishes that we enjoyed last week. Pavlova beef with a spicy peanut and spinach sauce, served with sweet potatoes and plantain. This Ghanaian dish was available hot or mild and the hot version definitely had a kick.

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Beef steak du nomade from niger – a panini style sandwich with suya beef steak and cheese. This was served with a large plate of roasted vegetables and potatoes.

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L’Appat is also offering a seafood night on Fridays.

Seafood Night Menu
September – October Special

(Every Friday Night only: 6:00pm -8:30pm)

Soupe du jour $5.50

*Salade Seychelloise $16.00
Shrimp, sweet corn, bell pepper and spring mix tossed in spicy vinaigrette
*Dish served with Seafood Barquettes and soupe du jour

Seafood Brik $22.00
Shrimp, sword fish, crab and vegetable in filo dough served with salad

Frites au poisson $18.00
Whole grilled Tilapia served with oven fried potatoes and salad

If you haven’t been to L’Appat we definitely encourage you to check it out. They have a really interesting (and good) assortment of pastries, cookies and cakes. The cafe is a nice light space, open for breakfast and lunch and their regular lunch menu includes soups, sandwiches and salads.

Dukem

ethiopian restaurants columbus

Cuisine: Ethiopian/Eritrean
4720 East Main St
Columbus, OH 43213

Click here to map it!

With eye-poppingly large dishes lined with injera bread and a finger food approach to eating, Ethiopian restaurants are an experience. Among the Ethiopian restaurants we’ve tried in town, Dukem is an experience.

This is, in no small part, due to its multi-functional nature – it’s a restaurant, a bar, a music venue, and a pool hall of sorts. In short, it’s an Ethiopian hang-out, and if our last visit is any indication, a popular one.

A quick digression on the pool hall element, as it’ll no doubt capture your attention upon visiting: there are two tables, neither of which have adequate space around them for what might be considered traditional pool playing (no stick room!). No worries, though – they tables were being used to play a game that appeared to be somewhat like bocce, and required only the use of the hands to launch balls close to others on the table. We’ve been told it’s called ‘billiardo’.

Another thing I’ve never felt compelled to mention before in a restaurant write-up is anything about anything related to the restrooms, but, as an interesting cultural observation, here I go: since Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands, you might find yourself waiting for awhile for the sink. As in, waiting while observing ‘the doctor is now fully prepped for surgery’ levels of hand hygiene from the people in front of you. As everyone tends to eat from one plate, it’s certainly the respectful thing to do for the group you’re eating with.

Having now dutifully washed my own hands, lets talk food.

“What are they having over there?” is one of our go-to questions of a server when trying a new place. In is instance, it was the Dukem Special – a mix of beef (we’d guess pieces of flank steak), peppers, onions and tomatoes served over tangy injera bread with sides of iceberg lettuce, hot sauce, and mustard. The injera-lined plate came out separate from the beef mix, which was sizzling in a pan and scooped atop the injera at the table.

ethiopian food columbus ohio

When ours came, all we could think was ‘fajitas’ – replace the injera with tortillas and the dish would be a dead ringer. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, as the beef was flavorful and had a nice char (though was cooked to the somewhat expected African level of ‘well done’) and the injera flavor is pleasant with the beef.

eritrean food columbus

We also tried the Awaze Kulwa/Tibs, which was another beef dish cooked in a spicy red sauce. While the last dish vibed Latino, this was pure Ethiopian/Eritrean through and through. Awaze is a paste based on Berbere chili/ spice mix. Very enjoyable, and consistent with what we’ve had at other Ethiopian restaurants around town.

A recommended dish to start with is the mahberawi combination plate which comes with a sample of several of vegetarian dishes, your choice of Kulwa/Tibs or Awaze/Kulwa Tibs and the usual ample supply of injera.

mahberawi

Final thought – while Dukem was very friendly and accommodating, it seems to exist as something of a refuge for it’s Ethiopian customer base from their day-to-day life of immersion in American culture. To go there is to be welcomed, but it felt, to me, as though we were ever-so-slightly disrupting an almost sweetly pure by-Ethiopian-for-Ethiopian environment. I wouldn’t let this dissuade you from going, but I’m tempted to suggest you proceed with some additional degree of sensitivity to your surroundings.

Ginevra Cafe

mediterranean restaurants columbus Somali

2285 Morse Road
614.475.4880

Click here to map it!

At the end of last year we wrote “In the short time it has been open, Ginevra has had an interesting evolution. It started as a Somali coffee shop offering coffee, tea, snacks and desserts but has recently expanded to offer a full lunch and dinner menu. Rather than providing a strictly Somali menu, they opted for mix of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Somali dishes”.  At that time the kitchen was being run by Mo, the nephew of one of Columbus’ well known Middle Eastern chefs – Nasir of Lavash (and formerly of Firdous).

Now Ginevra has transitioned again and they are serving a more Somali focused menu. Based on our recent visit and reports from Somali friends this change is proving very popular with their customers. On the night we visited the restaurant was almost full with large groups of Somali men animatedly discussing politics and soccer.

The menu is small with six entrees and four sandwiches. Entree options are lamb shank, beef or chicken steak, beef or chicken suqaar or fish steak. Each can be served with either rice or pasta. We would recommend the rice. The pasta was linguine in what tasted like jar-sauce.

somali restaurants columbus

The lamb shank was tender and was served with sauteed onions and a mountain of Somali rice and salad. Optional hot sauce is available. We also tried the chicken steak, suqaar and the fish steak. All were well cooked and seasoned.

somali restaurants ohio

As is common in Somali restaurants each entree is preceded by a complimentary bowl of soup. This is usually a mildly spiced meat based broth with vegetables. The soup at Ginevra was very good.

ginevra cafe columbus

I don’t think a visit to Ginevra would be complete without the Somali chai which has a wonderful mix of ginger and cardamon. Our tea came in a teapot to share. I would also recommend the Ginevra special juice, an intriguing mix of dates and milk but quite delicious.

somali tea shop

Service is friendly and Ginevra also has free wifi. Somali desserts and snacks (such as Sambusa) are available from the counter.

Kulan

somali restaurants columbus

CLOSED (as of Sept 2013)

Cuisine: Somali

727 Georgesville Rd, Columbus, OH 43228
(614) 308-7950

Click here to map it!

Most of Columbus’ Somali restaurants are found in the NE section of town – in particular around the Morse Road/Cleveland Avenue area – but there are also a small cluster of Somali restaurants on the West side. One of these is Kulan, situated next to Super Torta restaurant. It’s a small restaurant with a spare but clean dining room, and is worth a visit if you are looking for Somali food on the West side.

somali restaurants west side columbus

As with many Somali restaurants there are strong Ethiopian influences. We tried the Sporty dish (Ethiopian) with canjeero (anjera). It was not quite as described on the menu but came with Ethiopian style spicy beef and a bowl of mild yellow dal. $18 perhaps seemed a little steep for this meal, but it was part of a 5-person feast in which we all ended up paying $10 per person and had plenty of food as well as Somali tea and bottled water and the obligatory bananas.

kulan restaurant

The roasted goat was fine, but not up to the level of Solay‘s. The chicken suqaar (chicken stew with small cubes of chicken) was very good. Our suqaar came with a side of the more-or-less typical Somali rice (long grain cooked with some fragrant spices and served with a few sauteed vegetables).

somali food columbus ohio

We also tried and enjoyed the fool (pinto beans cooked with tomato, onion, peppers and spices) which is most commonly eaten as a breakfast dish.

somali food in ohio

Tropical Spice

sierra leone food columbus, west african restaurants ohio

Cuisine: West African and American

6140 Cleveland Avenue (Atrium Center)
614.948.2874/ 614.984.8281

Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner

Click here to map it!

Adding to the increasing diversity of West African restaurants in Columbus is this Sierra Leonean inspired spot, serving an intriguing mix of West African and American dishes.

west african food columbus

Tropical Spice is owned by Isatu “Florence” Gbaya and her mother, Zainab.  Their primary business is catering, though dining walk-ins are welcome for lunch and dinner.

While we mostly sampled the West African specialties, we did try the wings – which were nicely crispy and surprisingly well cooked.

Of the West African dishes, we were particularly taken by the lamb dibi, which comes with a mountain of either rice, couscous or salad. It is pictured below with the jollof rice which was flavorful but perhaps a bit greasier here than at some of the other West African restaurants.

tropical spice restaurant columbus

The pepper chicken (pictured below) was also very tasty and well prepared.  Just beware of the heat! It looks innocent enough on the menu, but the pepper in question is habanero, not black pepper as one might expect. Also made from habanero is the excellent house hot sauce, a seductive mix of onion, bell pepper and habanero that has a considerable after-burn.

west african cuisine ohio

We also enjoyed the much milder spinach stew with contains chunks of chicken and was fragrant with ginger.

A couple of items on the menu that might need translation are attieke, fufu, and egusi. Both the attieke and fufu are made from cassava (a starchy, tuberous root) but fufu has a heavy dough-like texture and attieke has more of a couscous like texture. Egusi sauce is made with ground up melon seeds and has a distinctive and sometimes polarizing flavor.