Where to Get a Taste of West African Cuisine in New York City
It should come as no surprise that the bustling metropolis of New York City is home to almost every cuisine on earth. The famously multicultural city has a thriving and ever-growing West African dining scene, thanks to the influence of the African diaspora from Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco and more. Offering their own twists on their home-grown dishes, these restaurants aim to create an immersive cultural experience that encourages New Yorkers to engage with the motherland through food while providing culinary nostalgia for natives.
Here, we’ve rounded up five restaurants that serve up some of the best West African cuisine in NYC, from the places that aim to bring back the kind of cooking that predates colonization and the spots that are offering new twists on classic dishes such as jollof rice, attieke and grilled chicken.
Located in East Harlem, Teranga is the brainchild of Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam and co-founder Noah Levine. The word for “hospitality” in the Wolof language, Teranga is an informal space in the African Center building where you can gather with friends for a communal meal. The signature dish is the West African staple of jollof, but with the usual rice replaced with fonio, an ancient grain native to Africa. Also on the gluten- and dairy-free menu are an array of dishes from around the continent including attieke, a cassava side from the Ivory Coast, Liberian ruby rice and grilled chicken doused in lime juice, garlic and thyme.
Teranga, 1280 Fifth Avenue
What began as a pop-up in the summer of 2018 has evolved into a permanent spot in Crown Heights. Founded by friends Folusho Adeyemo and Hema Agwu, fast-casual spot Brooklyn Suya specializes in the Nigerian street-food staple: strips of beef steak marinated with a specific blend of spices and onions that’s skewered and grilled on a coal fire. The heat is the main component of suya and Brooklyn Suya offers three spice levels so choose wisely. The dishes are served, untraditionally, in customizable bowls accompanied with vegetables, rice, shrimp or plantain, packed with plenty of flavor.
Brooklyn Suya, 717 Franklin Ave
Café Rue Dix
Also in Crown Heights is Senegalese bistro Café Rue Dix, owned by husband-and-wife duo Lamine Diagne and Nilea Alexander. The restaurant’s geometric interior decor is inspired by traditional textiles of Diagne’s native Senegal, and features other African design aesthetics such as decorative gourds fashioned into light fixtures. The eatery serves up a fusion of Senegalese eats and French fare for a range of diners, from natives and novices, using fresh ingredients and bold spices. Begin proceedings with starters such as fataya meat pie with a scotch bonnet sauce, fried calamari or Senegalese spring rolls before moving on to dishes of Yassa guinar, mafe, red snapper or lamb chops, along with classic favourites such as burgers, beignets and coffee.
Café Rue Dix, 1451 Bedford Avenue
Peri Peri Grill House
If you are familiar with the Johannesburg chain of restaurants known as Nando’s, then you know that grilled chicken is serious business. Originally produced by explorers in Portugal’s former African territories, particularly Mozambique and South Africa, before spreading to other Portuguese domains such as Brazil, peri peri is a chilli pepper sauce blended with citrus and spices. Opened in 2018 on Malcom X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Peri Peri Grill House specializes in its namesake dish, flame-grilled chicken that you can get in quarters, halves, or in strips. There are also chicken wings, season French fries, lamb chops, salads, veggie burgers and cool milkshakes to wash them all down. Owned by Pakistan-born Sohaib Malik and his South African wife Ruschke Malik, the duo combines their Asian and African backgrounds to produce a diverse and eclectic menu that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Peri Peri Grill House, 235 Malcolm X Boulevard, Bed-Stuy
Berber Street Food
The West Village is home to counter-service restaurant Berber Street Food, with a menu is inspired by various African countries and the diaspora. Chef and owner Diana Tandia brings a multicultural background to the spot: she was born in Mauritania, lived in Paris and studied in New York. A veteran of the hospitality industry, Tandia worked at fine dining restaurants Per Se, Gramercy Tavern and Daniel before branching out on her own to create Berber. Aided by just one other chef in the small kitchen, Tandia makes everything herself from Moroccan tagine and Senegalese empanadas to Calypso jerk chicken to Caribbean accra fritters.
Berber Street Food, 35 Carmine Street