And Other African Cuisine
Africa, although many people think otherwise, is not a monolithic culture. It is a massive continent with puzzle-piece countries packed into its borders — a beautiful tapestry of nations, cultures and histories. Out of this magnificent land have come some of the most delicious culinary techniques in the world.
It’s amazing, when you think about it, that this style has made its way to the Midwest. There are several African restaurants in Kansas City, each displaying the unique food of a certain nation for the pleasure of hungry Kansas Citians. From pepper soup at a Nigerian restaurant to baklava at Ethiopian restaurants in Kansas City, there are many delicious and diverse options to enjoy.
Some of these restaurants have popped up in Kansas City’s Nigerian and Ethiopian neighborhoods. Other spots are in entertainment hubs like Westport and the River Market. With this guide to African restaurants in Kansas City, you’ll be able to find them all and get a delicious meal.
What is African Food?
African cuisine contains multitudes. It’s impossible to find one box big enough to put it all in. It eludes categorization. Instead, it’s better to look at some of the most popular types of African food, especially here in the U.S.
Ethiopian cuisine is near the top of any list. Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas have the largest population of Ethiopians in the world outside of Ethiopia. This community, while staying centralized on the east coast, has spread to other parts of the country. They have brought Ethiopian cuisine with them. This type of cooking is made up of vegetables and spicy meats. The foundational piece of an Ethiopian meal is “injera,” which is a thin flatbread that is spread out across a plate. Food is piled on top of the injera, and you use it as a sort of edible spoon.
Ethiopian cooking has a rich history. It is widely believed that Ethiopia and the surrounding areas are the original homeland of humankind. We’ve been cooking there for quite some time. When you go to Ethiopian restaurants in Kansas City, you are connecting to that human heritage.
Another popular type of African restaurant in Kansas City is the Nigerian restaurant. Kansas City has several of these, and the culinary techniques are different from Ethiopian cooking. Nigeria is a large nation with an eastern border that touches the Atlantic Ocean. Many Nigerian dishes are what Americans might call “surf-n-turf,” combining natural ingredients from the sea and land. Stews and porridges are common in Nigerian meals, and meats are often dried or smoked.
There are many more popular types of African cuisine outside of Ethiopian and Nigerian restaurants. South African food is known for its fruits, nuts and fresh leaves. Senegalese seafood is world-renowned, and Ghanaian soups and stews are delicious.
African Restaurants in Kansas City
You can find Ethiopian, Nigerian and other African restaurants in Kansas City. Here are some places to try:
- Juballand Grill: A hole-in-the-wall East-African grill on the northeast side of downtown KC. You can find Juballand serving halal meat and other delicious meals on Independence Avenue just east of I-35.
- Fannie’s African Cuisine: Fannie’s serves food inspired by Africa’s many different culinary cultures. They pride themselves on making food from scratch with organic ingredients.
- Blue Nile Café: The City Market is one of the most international neighborhoods in KC. You can find Brazilian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Chinese and African food in one area. Blue Nile Café is tucked into the market and serves delicious Ethiopian food in Kansas City. It is the oldest Ethiopian restaurant in Kansas City.
- Mesob: Midtown is another hub of international food in Kansas City. That’s where you can find Mesob, a café serving Ethiopian, Eritrean and Caribbean cuisine. Their wide-ranging menu has something for everyone, from meat lovers to vegans.
- Awaze: Right next door to Mesob, you can find Awaze. Awaze serves Ethiopian food in Kansas City and has live reggae music on the weekend.
- Taste of Africa: You can find this African restaurant in Overland Park, just off 135th Street and Nieman Road. You can sit down for a meal or order carry out to enjoy at home.
- Elsa’s: This is another Overland Park spot and one of the highest rated Ethiopian restaurants in Kansas City. Elsa’s is only open for dinner Tuesday – Thursday, serves lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday, and is closed Monday and Tuesday.
- Yasmeen Café: This northeast KC spot features East African dishes.
- Wah Gwan: Tan, the restaurant’s owner, notes that she uses a combination of “cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences” from Jamaica and Nigeria in her dishes.
Popular Dishes at African Restaurants in Kansas City
The menus at African restaurants in Kansas City will likely be full of dishes you’ve never tried before, especially if this is your first foray into African cuisine. Here are a few classic meals to look for:
- Pepper Soup: This dish is a specialty of Nigerian cuisine. It is similar to chicken soup in appearance and flavor, but it packs more of a punch. The broth is a mix of herbs and spice, and the meet is typically beef, goat or chicken.
- Suya: A meat eater’s meal: thin strips of steak, grilled and covered with yaji, a Nigerian spice. The strips are served individually on small skewers.
- Sambusa: Hand-made, fried dough filled with beef or vegetables, herbs and spices. Try this at Blue Nile Café with the Blue Nile Special Sauce if you want to delight your taste buds.
- Baklava: Ethiopian cuisine shares this dessert with Middle Eastern and Asian restaurants. Baklava is a layered pastry filled with sweet nuts and held together with some sort of cream, honey or syrup.
There are plenty of other options to try at any of the African restaurants in Kansas City, Mo., and surrounding areas, but this short list should give you a good place to start.