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A smattering of Ethiopian food on a table with white bowls and plates.
Demera is among the choices for African cuisine in Chicago.
Demera/Facebook

Where to Find Tantalizing African Cuisine in Chicago

A Chicago guide to restaurants serving food from the world’s largest continent

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Demera is among the choices for African cuisine in Chicago.
| Demera/Facebook

Those less familiar with African cuisine have sometimes assigned an unfair stigma to it, claiming it’s too intimidating, or that its restaurants don’t welcome outsiders. This could not be further from the truth. Step inside one of the many West African or Ethiopian eateries in Chicago, and you’ll find someone who’ll eagerly introduce you to their interpretation of egusi soup, jollof rice, berbere-spiced chicken, or other dishes from their native country. Many have been around for more than 20 years, and while they’re primarily on the North Side, diners will find a few on the South Side as well. Here, we’ve gathered some of the city’s most notable offerings as well as newcomers like Dozzy’s Grill.

As of March 2, Chicago restaurants are permitted to serve customers indoors with a 50 percent maximum capacity per room, or 50 people — whichever is fewer. At the same time, despite winter weather, a number of Chicago restaurants continue to offer outdoor seating. Regardless, the state requires reservations for indoor and outdoor dining. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as an endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Badou Senegalese Cuisine

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Badara “Badou” Diakhate is the owner/chef behind this Rogers Park restaurant specializing in Senegalese fare with a few soul food dishes, too. His specialty is a jambalaya of okra cooked in a thick tomato sauce with onion, shrimp, and smoked turkey. There’s also boulette, a Senegalese beef patty accompanied by braised collard greens, and bissap, a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage of hibiscus, anis, vanilla, and mint.

Qaato Halal Restaurant - Nigerian cuisine

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Oxtail is the hot protein of the moment, and at most establishments there’s an upcharge. In Rogers Park, however, you can get it for $5 at the West African-centered Qaato when you order the pepper soup, which comes with tender pieces of oxtail in it. If you need more sustenance, there’s also coconut rice with chicken or fish, plus yam porridge served with tomatoes and spinach for vegetarians.

Denden Restaurant

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Those craving authentic Eritrean cuisine may get it early morning or late at night at this cheery Rogers Park storefront that’s awash in soothing, muted colors. For breakfast, there’s sheh’an full (diced beans cooked in spicy butter and seasoned with ricotta, onions, tomatoes, jalapeno), and the regular menu consists of signature dishes like zighni begi’e (lamb chops in spicy butter) and zighni derho (diced chicken with onion, jalapeno, flavored butter), both served with red hot pepper sauce. 

Vee-Vee's African Restaurant

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Long before Chicago had a food truck scene, Vee Vee’s was on the road with traditional West African fare that was snapped up by hungry taxi drivers during lunchtime. The Rogers Park restaurant has also been a long-time staple at the Taste of Chicago, making it one of the most recognized African restaurants in the city. There you’ll find jerk chicken and red beans and rice, but the more exciting fare is available only at the restaurant. That’s where you’ll find nkwobi (a cow’s foot prepared with special seasonings and cooked in palm oil) and ishi ewu (spicy, slow-cooked goat head).

Dynamic African Cuisine Inc

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A popular caterer for special occasions such as Nigerian weddings and naming ceremonies, Dynamic is in the Edgewater neighborhood. The dining room is no frills and casual, with all the fireworks going into food. Here, you’ll find the all-stars of West African cuisine: egusi soup with leafy vegetables and palm oil; jollof rice with a choice of various meats; and pounded yams with fish stock.

Demera Restaurant

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A great way to experience what Tigist Rada’s award-winning Uptown restaurant has to offer is to order the chef’s selection messob, or family style. The chef picks out eight dishes – which includes one beef, one chicken, one lamb, one seafood, and four vegetarian offerings – and everyone shares over an oversized table. Cross your fingers that you’ll get doro wat, or bone-in Amish chicken in spicy berbere sauce served with a hard-boiled egg and ayib, or farmer’s cheese.

Mogadishu Restaurant

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This vibrant River North spot is named in honor of the capital city of Somalia. Mogadishu is known for its hearty portions, and happy hour deals, so bargain hunters should be thrilled. Of note is the lamb shank, which is seasoned in special spices and accompanied by fresh vegetables and rice or pasta. It’s only served between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Dozzy’s Grill

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Nigerian restaurateur Dozzy Ibekwe believes the “timing is right” for modern West African fare, which is why he introduced the “Jorrito” at his namesake establishment in late 2020. It’s a flour tortilla stuffed with jollof rice, black-eyed peas, scrambled egg, avocado, shredded mozzarella, and a choice of chicken, rib-eye steak, or grilled shrimp. Now located in the West Loop, Dozzy’s additional dishes include the Afrobeet salad, customized jollof rice bowls, and a spicy suya kabob sampler of rib-eye, shrimp, chicken, and vegetables in a peanut paste. In its new home, Dozzy’s shares space with Demera’s second location.

Yassa African Restaurant

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This Senegalese-focused restaurant is from Madieye and Awa Gueye, a husband-and-wife team originally from the Wolof Tribe. After a fire destroyed their Chatham restaurant in 2014, they quickly rebuilt a welcoming, energetic destination one year later in Bronzeville. Under a massive, yet striking painting of Africa, diners nosh on dishes like thiebou ganaar (chicken fried rice and stewed vegetables with or without tomato sauce), whole grilled fish, and stews made with curry chicken, lamb, or seafood.

Gorée Cuisine

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The all-day café atmosphere of this festive Senegalese restaurant is owned by Adama Ba, whose menu is influenced by North African, French, and Portuguese cuisines. Menu highlights include dibi lamb (grilled lamb chops); Senegalese-style shish kabobs in a secret sauce; and c’est bon, or a whole smoked fish paired with shrimp. Each entrée arrives with a side of the diner’s choice, from couscous to steamed cabbage with carrots.

Southside African Restaurant

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There is a small cluster of Nigerians concentrated on the Southeast Side of the city, and for many, this quaint little restaurant is like a home away from home. Southside is owned by Mariam and Ade Lala, whose goat meat pepper soup, golden fried chin chin pastries, and efo riro (spinach stew with seafood, palm oil, and red peppers), are said to wipe away any strains of homesickness. On warmer days, the Lalas are known to fire up the grill and throw a Nigerian-style cookout that’s complete with traditional beats.

Badou Senegalese Cuisine

Badara “Badou” Diakhate is the owner/chef behind this Rogers Park restaurant specializing in Senegalese fare with a few soul food dishes, too. His specialty is a jambalaya of okra cooked in a thick tomato sauce with onion, shrimp, and smoked turkey. There’s also boulette, a Senegalese beef patty accompanied by braised collard greens, and bissap, a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage of hibiscus, anis, vanilla, and mint.

Qaato Halal Restaurant - Nigerian cuisine

Oxtail is the hot protein of the moment, and at most establishments there’s an upcharge. In Rogers Park, however, you can get it for $5 at the West African-centered Qaato when you order the pepper soup, which comes with tender pieces of oxtail in it. If you need more sustenance, there’s also coconut rice with chicken or fish, plus yam porridge served with tomatoes and spinach for vegetarians.

Denden Restaurant

Those craving authentic Eritrean cuisine may get it early morning or late at night at this cheery Rogers Park storefront that’s awash in soothing, muted colors. For breakfast, there’s sheh’an full (diced beans cooked in spicy butter and seasoned with ricotta, onions, tomatoes, jalapeno), and the regular menu consists of signature dishes like zighni begi’e (lamb chops in spicy butter) and zighni derho (diced chicken with onion, jalapeno, flavored butter), both served with red hot pepper sauce. 

Vee-Vee's African Restaurant

Long before Chicago had a food truck scene, Vee Vee’s was on the road with traditional West African fare that was snapped up by hungry taxi drivers during lunchtime. The Rogers Park restaurant has also been a long-time staple at the Taste of Chicago, making it one of the most recognized African restaurants in the city. There you’ll find jerk chicken and red beans and rice, but the more exciting fare is available only at the restaurant. That’s where you’ll find nkwobi (a cow’s foot prepared with special seasonings and cooked in palm oil) and ishi ewu (spicy, slow-cooked goat head).

Dynamic African Cuisine Inc

A popular caterer for special occasions such as Nigerian weddings and naming ceremonies, Dynamic is in the Edgewater neighborhood. The dining room is no frills and casual, with all the fireworks going into food. Here, you’ll find the all-stars of West African cuisine: egusi soup with leafy vegetables and palm oil; jollof rice with a choice of various meats; and pounded yams with fish stock.

Demera Restaurant

A great way to experience what Tigist Rada’s award-winning Uptown restaurant has to offer is to order the chef’s selection messob, or family style. The chef picks out eight dishes – which includes one beef, one chicken, one lamb, one seafood, and four vegetarian offerings – and everyone shares over an oversized table. Cross your fingers that you’ll get doro wat, or bone-in Amish chicken in spicy berbere sauce served with a hard-boiled egg and ayib, or farmer’s cheese.

Mogadishu Restaurant

This vibrant River North spot is named in honor of the capital city of Somalia. Mogadishu is known for its hearty portions, and happy hour deals, so bargain hunters should be thrilled. Of note is the lamb shank, which is seasoned in special spices and accompanied by fresh vegetables and rice or pasta. It’s only served between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Dozzy’s Grill

Nigerian restaurateur Dozzy Ibekwe believes the “timing is right” for modern West African fare, which is why he introduced the “Jorrito” at his namesake establishment in late 2020. It’s a flour tortilla stuffed with jollof rice, black-eyed peas, scrambled egg, avocado, shredded mozzarella, and a choice of chicken, rib-eye steak, or grilled shrimp. Now located in the West Loop, Dozzy’s additional dishes include the Afrobeet salad, customized jollof rice bowls, and a spicy suya kabob sampler of rib-eye, shrimp, chicken, and vegetables in a peanut paste. In its new home, Dozzy’s shares space with Demera’s second location.

Yassa African Restaurant

This Senegalese-focused restaurant is from Madieye and Awa Gueye, a husband-and-wife team originally from the Wolof Tribe. After a fire destroyed their Chatham restaurant in 2014, they quickly rebuilt a welcoming, energetic destination one year later in Bronzeville. Under a massive, yet striking painting of Africa, diners nosh on dishes like thiebou ganaar (chicken fried rice and stewed vegetables with or without tomato sauce), whole grilled fish, and stews made with curry chicken, lamb, or seafood.

Gorée Cuisine

The all-day café atmosphere of this festive Senegalese restaurant is owned by Adama Ba, whose menu is influenced by North African, French, and Portuguese cuisines. Menu highlights include dibi lamb (grilled lamb chops); Senegalese-style shish kabobs in a secret sauce; and c’est bon, or a whole smoked fish paired with shrimp. Each entrée arrives with a side of the diner’s choice, from couscous to steamed cabbage with carrots.

Southside African Restaurant

There is a small cluster of Nigerians concentrated on the Southeast Side of the city, and for many, this quaint little restaurant is like a home away from home. Southside is owned by Mariam and Ade Lala, whose goat meat pepper soup, golden fried chin chin pastries, and efo riro (spinach stew with seafood, palm oil, and red peppers), are said to wipe away any strains of homesickness. On warmer days, the Lalas are known to fire up the grill and throw a Nigerian-style cookout that’s complete with traditional beats.

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