Cooking, Culture, Food and Drink

Restaurant Review: African Cuisine in Pittsburgh, PA

Well, that was fun.

I’ve just returned from a day in Pittsburgh with friends, and lunch at the African Cuisine Restaurant in the Squirrel Hill section of the city.

It’s a small, informal, place featuring Nigerian food, the first of its kind in the Steel City, and which opened in March 2021, when things were still pretty much in Covid lockdown.  Things have eased up since then, and the place was busy.

The menu is quite extensive, and–as a person who grew up in Nigeria myself–many of the items were quite familiar to me.  But I’d gone there with only one thing on my mind and–I found it!

Jollof rice (see photo at top of post), the spicy combination of white rice, tomatoes, and spices, with plenty of heat (I asked for extra heat) which was a beloved staple of my childhood.  The serving didn’t disappoint, although I think the jollof rice of my youth had a few more “bits” of tomato, pepper, and–perhaps–onion in it.  But the seasoning and the flavor was spot on.

Another blast from the past was the “fufu,” cassava root cut into pieces and pounded to smithereens (today, we use a blender, or a food processor, or buy it already ground into something like a coarse flour; in my memory banks it was walloped in a big wooden mortar and pestle by the women of the household) and then cooked into a doughy, pasty,  mass from which fist-sized pieces are plucked off and rolled into smooth. almost shiny, balls.  It serves as the starchy accompaniment to soups and stews–pull a piece off with your fingers, dip it in the dish’s liquid, and slurp it up.  Because fufu has no discernable taste of its own, it picks that of whatever you mix it with, and helps you get every drop of goodness off the plate!  Yum.

I didn’t try the “Dodo Stir Fry.” I’m very fond of fried plantain on its own, but I’m not sure about the peppers.  Maybe next time.

We also had (in addition to a ball of fufu) an assortment of meat pies (beef and chicken), the little doughnuts (dense and delicious), a meat stew, and some fried rice.

Nice food and a cheerful and helpful server. (Albeit a bit of a language barrier.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t a Hausa speaker, otherwise we might have been able to solve the problem that way.) But a very nice fellow and I appreciate the fact that the food is prepared and served by actual Nigerians.

All in all, a lovely interlude of good fellowship and story-telling, that of my own childhood in Nigeria, and my companions’ growing up deep in the American South.

How lucky I am, in my life, and in my friends.

Abinci dai kyau!
(This might be how Julia Child would have ended this post were she a Hausa speaker.)

2 thoughts on “Restaurant Review: African Cuisine in Pittsburgh, PA”

  1. Interested to know if the subject of the debate about Ghanaian vs Nigerian jollof might have come up in discussion.

    Your food and friends sound excellent.

    Looking forward to dining together soon and further comparing notes about our experiences the world over.

    Honored to count myself among your many friends. We’re the lucky ones.

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