[Courtesy of Addis NOLA]

Experiencing Authentic African Food in New Orleans

07:00 March 11, 2024
By: Cynthea Corfah

A Taste of the Motherland

Growing up in a Liberian-American family, I have vivid memories of expanding my palate with African cuisine. My family members made the best rice dishes, a staple of the Liberian diet.

Some of my favorites were my grandma Soleil's Liberian-style greens and rice; my grandpa's chicken, rice, and greens; and my uncle's spicy fish and rice. I watched my grandma soak the greens and prepare them for hours in the kitchen. Making these dishes was a labor of love, much like most of New Orleans' popular dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. These signature meals may be famous Creole dishes now, but they all have roots in Africa.

To truly understand where New Orleans cuisine originated, you have to go back to where many of the region's people came from—Africa. Get a taste of the Mother Continent right here in the city at some of these local brick and mortar restaurants.

1. Addis NOLA

2514 Bayou Rd., (504) 218-5321, addisnola.com

Addis NOLA [Courtesy of Addis NOLA]

Get the true Ethiopian experience at this Ethiopian-owned restaurant in Tremé. Customers can order large family-style plates, including vibrant colored foods including mushroom tibs (sauteed onion, tomato, jalapeño, spices, and kibbeh butter), sweet potato wot (24-hour caramelized onion stew), Ethiopian salad, shiro (chickpea stew), lamb tibs, mari shrimp, red snapper, veggies, and injera (fermented flatbread). To drink, request the traditional coffee ceremony, which includes a hand-roasted coffee bean presentation at your table and comes with shared ice cream and coffee.

Even if you're unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine, you are guaranteed to learn about the culture after one visit to this intentionally-designed restaurant. The menu includes definitions for some of the signature Ethiopian dishes and has Amharic words and their translations to practice Ethiopia's official language.

2. Bennachin Restaurant

1212 Royal St., (504) 522-1230, bennachinrestaurant.com

Bennachin [Photo by Burke Bischoff]

Dive into a world of African dishes from The Gambia and Cameroon at this local African restaurant in the French Quarter. Its generous menu includes a variety of African staples such as jollof rice, fried plantains, sauteed spinach, fish stew, and akara (black eyed pea fritters).

The restaurant offers beef, lamb, chicken, and fish dishes, and also has flavor-packed vegetarian meals. Stand-out plant-based options include the nsouki jakatu, made with stir fried eggplant and vegetables served with couscous or rice, and the jama jama ni makondo, made with sauteed spinach, fried ripe plantains, and coconut rice. Escape the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter and step into a piece of Africa at this local favorite.

3. Café Abyssinia

3511 Magazine St., (504) 894-6238, cafeabyssinia.com

Café Abyssinia [Photo by Burke Bischoff]

Enjoy all of the Ethiopian classics at this homestyle Ethiopian restaurant in Uptown. Start your meal off with sambusas, hand-wrapped pastries stuffed with your choice of lentils, beef, collard greens, potatoes, and carrots, or an injera fish roll, an injera wrap filled with tilapia, potatoes, carrots, and jalapeños.

For the main course, you can choose from lamb, beef, chicken, seafood, or vegan dishes. Some must-try dishes include the doro wat, made with red pepper sauce cooked with spices, chicken breast, kebbeh (Ethiopian spiced butter), a hardboiled egg, and ayeb (traditional Ethiopian cheese). Another popular dish is the awaze tibs, which comes with beef bathing in awaze (spicy red pepper) sauce, onion, tomatoes, and kebbeh.

4. Dakar NOLA

3814 Magazine St., dakarnola.com

Dakar NOLA [Courtesy of Dakar NOLA]

Take your tastebuds on a culinary adventure at this modern fine-dining Senegalese restaurant. Inspired by his childhood in Senegal, Chef Serigne Mbaye offers a unique pescatarian tasting menu that weaves together traditional West African flavors with locally sourced seafood and produce from farmers in South Louisiana. The stylish dishes are like gourmet paintings—visually pleasing and each backed with its own story.

One of the menu offerings, entitled "The Last Meal," was created in remembrance of the last meal that enslaved Africans ate in Goree, an island near Dakar, before being shipped away into the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The heartfelt dish includes black eyed peas and palm oil, two ingredients mentioned to Chef Mbaye by a tour guide as ingredients that Africans were fed while unknowingly awaiting slavery. Special dishes such as this one are available in the seven course tasting menu, available by reservation only.

5. Jamila's Café

7808 Maple St., (504) 866-4366, jamilascafe.com

Jamila's Café [Courtesy of Jamila's Café]

Head Uptown to savor a blend of North African and Mediterranean cooking. This cozy restaurant offers Tunisian and Mediterranean cuisine that showcases an assortment of fresh seafood, meats, vegetables, and chef-made desserts.

The dinner menu includes unique appetizers including ojja (shakshuka) merguez, made with sautéed lamb sausage, chef's seasoning, tomatoes, bell pepper, and spicy sauce mixed with eggs. Another unique entree is the brik aux crevettes, made with phyllo dough stuffed with shrimp, potatoes, parsley, and onions. For the main entree, try the tajine of lamb, made with braised boneless lamb in a terracotta pot with marinated lemon, served with basmati saffron rice.

6. Ndindy African Cuisine

2600 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., (504) 478-2353, instagram.com/ndindyafricancuisine

Ndindy African Cuisine [Courtesy of Ndindy African Cuisine's Instagram]

Rest and recharge with a hot plate of African soul food at this Senegalese restaurant in Central City. It has all of the African essentials including jollof rice, okra soup, lamb, fish, peanut butter stew, chicken, Senegalese rice and beans, and plantains. It also offers Southern favorites such as chicken wings, shrimp po-boys, and beignets.

Treat yourself to a delicious Senegalese entree such as the ndindy poisson braise, which comes with a grilled tilapia soaked in a citrus marinade and a side like jollof rice, plantains, or white rice. The restaurant also features tasty Caribbean dishes including oxtail and jerk chicken. Enjoy copious amounts of spices and flavors at this hidden gem that takes you on a journey through the African diaspora.

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