Dakar Eats: The Interview

Jenn: Thank you so much for letting me interview you. And meeting somewhere with an ocean view and crêpes was a fabulous idea!

Dakar Eats is this mysterious, well-used resource for the Dakar food scene, and I think a lot of people are wondering, “Who is behind Dakar Eats? Is it a person, a business, a foodie who loves to blog? So I’d like to start by asking the obvious question, who is ‘Dakar Eats’?

Well, it’s just me. My name is Kari and I’m an American expat coming up on six years in Dakar.

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Café au lait at Noflaye Beach

Why did you decide to start a food blog?
Well, they say ‘write what you know’.

And you know food?
I certainly like food and enjoy preparing and eating it, but I don’t have any formal training beyond my 33 years of experience eating. I did wait tables in high school and college and was a restaurant reviewer for my college newspaper. Don’t ask me which college – you’ve never heard of it.

Is Dakar Eats your first food blog?
Actually no. I have a long-neglected blog called Toubab Recipes with over 500 recipes, most of which are what you’d expect a young couple in love and on a budget to eat.

So how long has Dakar Eats been around?
I guess really since about 2011.

Dakar Eats actually started in France, believe it or not. We lived in Lyon for six years and I started Lyon Eats blog to help American expats find foods they missed from back home. When we moved to Senegal in 2011, I pulled all the relevant info from Lyon Eats (how to use lait caillé as a buttermilk substitute and petit beurre cookies for graham cracker crust…) and Senegal-ified it.

Do you have a “target audience”: foodies, expats, locals?
You know, I started off writing for Americans because that’s who I know – being one and all. But over time it broadened to Anglophone expats in general. And now there are actually a lot of Senegalese followers. But I do still tend to focus on topics that I think Americans are interested in and probably have pretty American standards for things like customer service.

What questions are you asked most often?
Um, let’s see… If the American Food Store is open on X day, how to find Presse Café and the phone number for La Maison de Celine because they don’t have a Facebook page.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Dakar?
I knew you were going to ask that… But I really can’t say. There are so many good ones! But I will say this: the greatest addition to Dakar’s food scene is Sen Express. They can bring me food from any restaurant or groceries from any store with just a text message and 3000cfa. Seriously, how awesome is that?

It is pretty awesome. Okay, how about this. Which 5 restaurants do you want to go back to ASAP?
That works. Bayekou, Adis Abeba, Le Cozy, La Parilla and Le Jardin in Almadies.

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Valentine’s Day dinner, complete with blurry photo by our server

What are some of Dakar’s underrated restaurants?
La Piazzola in Mermoz and La Maison de Celine in Almadies. Both are really, really good. And I’m a pizza-holic.

What’s the single worst meal you’ve ever had in Dakar?
Ha! I’m not answering that.

I have noticed the blog has an overall positive tone. Is that something you do on purpose? Would you post a negative review?
I do try to keep it positive, but that’s because there really is so much positive material to work with that I figure why bother with the negative? That said, bad customer service is really inexcusable. I’m talking to you, Casino at Dakar City and City Dia Mermoz, with your generously rounding the total in your own favor because you don’t have coin change. Come on, my buutik guy does better than that.

What does Dakar do well, what are its food strengths?
We have some pretty amazing Italian, French, Ethiopian and Indian places, and also good brick-oven pizzas. Fresh seafood is great, especially when you can have it delivered to your door. Ooh, and I love Marché Kermel.

In your opinion, what needs to change on the Dakar food scene?
Tex-Mex. Seriously. Why is there no real Tex-Mex yet? And by ‘real’ I mean must include refills of chips and salsa while you wait for your food smothered in queso.

I’d love to see more American-style hamburger places. I love eggs and chawarma spices, but not on my burger.

Overall though, customer service needs to come up a notch. Maybe two. Or five. I’ll tell you what though, Yum-Yum has got it figured out. Delivery on time or it’s free? Love it.

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The Churrascaria Brasil in Fann Hock, one of my longtime favorites

How do you get your scoop on new menu items, food items available in Dakar, etc.?
Sometimes I hear directly from the restaurant or store if there’s a special or a new menu, but for discovering new spots and info, I rely on readers letting me know what they see around town. Which reminds me, I’ve just updated the 2015 List, but does anyone have a tip or review to share? Always looking for guest contributions and posts!

How can restaurants and stores get their info on your blog?
I’ve actually just added a contact form. Just shoot me a message with your restaurant or store’s info and if it seems like a good fit for Dakar Eats readers, I’ll check it out.

Do you charge for posting about restaurants on Dakar Eats, or do you get free food?
Ha! People ask me that a lot. I don’t charge a fee and I don’t have plans to.

In general when a restaurant invites me to come review them, I don’t let them know when I’m coming (or we’ll set a date and I actually go earlier when they aren’t expecting me – so sneaky!). That way I get an authentic experience. But yes, I have gotten some very delicious thank-you gifts from restaurants and shops or some pre-release menu samples. Perks, baby!

Where do you see Dakar Eats going from here?
Right now I’m not thinking much further than next week… the review I want to write for Le Cozy and how soon I can work in another lunch at Addis-Abeba. But I love seeing people interact on the Facebook page and answer each other’s questions or give recommendations. That’s how I learn stuff too!

Thanks for talking with us, Madame Dakar Eats. Now, what are our plans for dinner? :)

REVIEW: Addis-Abeba

Addis Beyenatu

It’s certainly not shocking that a restaurant called Addis-Abeba would serve Ethiopian food. But there were two surprises for me when we tried it recently:

1. I really like Ethiopian food!

2. Contrary to what I’d been told, this place was not hard to find. And I am really bad with directions…

Addis inside - Rez de Chaussée

The restaurant is located in a converted home and the dining area is very clean, bright and well decorated. The owner is very kind (and very patient for those who are clueless in the ways of Ethiopian cuisine) and we took her advice to order a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes with injeera bread, which was like a sourdough crepe. The meals were served in the traditional style on a round platter and we ate, ate, ate and ate.

Addis Injeera

For about 5000cfa/person there was more than enough – and yet a week later I’m still wishing I could have eaten more! Soon though, soon. I’m going back ASAP. And I’m taking as many friends as I can!

Addis Coffee

Addis Rez-de Chaussée

Addis Rezde Chaussée

Addis Terrasse

Addis-Abeba
Tel: 33 827 81 68
Open Tuesday thru Sunday from noon to 3pm for lunch and 7pm to 10pm for dinner.

Find it on Google Maps here. (I came from the rondpoint Liberté 6 and it was super easy. Just pass the Brioche Dorée and keep going around the curve and look for the sign.)

Addis Outside

Thank you, La Bulle de T, for introducing us to the restaurant and for your help with photos!

NEW: Yum-Yum salads, Tartiflette pizza and earlier hours!

If all the restaurants in Dakar were as good as Yum-Yum when it comes to trying to new menu items and communicating with their customers, well… there would be no need for Dakar Eats!

Yum-Yum is currently testing fresh salads at 2000cfa. The salads have fresh lettuce and diced tomatoes along with roasted chicken and homemade croutons, vinaigrette dressing on the side. Give ‘em a try and let us know what you think!

Fresh salad

Also new on the menu is Pizza Tartiflette, inspired by a famous mountain dish from the Savoy region of France. Skiers in the French Alps enjoy eating Tartiflette after a long day on the slopes. Although we are far away from snowy hills here in Dakar, the weather is pretty chilly these days and comforting, cheesy food is very welcome! The Tartiflette Pizza starts with fresh homemade pizza dough, then a creme fraiche base, mozzarella, reblochon cheese, sliced potatoes, fresh onions and beef bacon.

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And finally, since Yum-Yum has strengthened their breakfast menu recently, they will now open two hours earlier on Sundays. Donuts, fresh orange juice, hot beverages, breakfast baguettes will all be available either dine-in, takeaway or delivery starting at 9am!

Yum-Yum Pizza and Donuts
Located just off route de Ouakam, across from Le Régal restaurant.
Tel: 33 865 62 62

Maharaja Restaurant

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This is a story of second chances. And of yummy Indian food.

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After a long, cold winter of no Indian restaurants in Dakar, not just one but TWO such restos opened over in the Ngor area. The first, Annapurna Indian, was welcomed with open arms and people left with full bellies and great reports. When the second one, the Maharaja opened, the reviews were a bit more mixed. However, I observed that my friends who had actually lived in India much preferred the Maharaja. So my friends and I decided to give it a try a while back.

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First impression: there was no doubt that the atmosphere at the Maharaja was much nicer and more enjoyable. The food came and we were a bit less impressed than what we’d experienced and drooled over at Annapurna. But it was still pretty good for the most part and had it been the only Indian restaurant in Dakar, I would have been quite happy with it. But the customer service was just not good. (And those that read this blog regularly know that I don’t say negative things often!) But really – it was quite unpleasant and I walked out thinking, “Well, I guess Annapurna is the one for me!”

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But then the Maharaja management asked me to come review their restaurant. I explained that I’d actually been before, etc… but that I’d be happy to give it a second chance.

Sometimes I do really smart things. :)

On my second visit, I became a fan. (And just for info, they did not know it was me so I was not treated or served any differently.) The service was still not stellar, but it was much better and they were attentive. One notable different this time was that we were asked if we wanted the food ‘spicy’ or not. Choose spicy, y’all. It was so, so good. Maybe that’s what was lacking in some of the dishes we tried on our first visit? In any case, we loved the food on our second visit and it was ‘spicy-ed’ just right.

I spoke with the manager on the way out and asked him to thank the owner for encouraging me to give the Maharaja a second chance. If any of you are in the same boat, I’d encourage you to do the same. Just be sure to ask for it ‘spicy’!

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The Maharaja is located in Ngor Virage, between the airport and the ocean. They serve lunch and dinner and have a large and varied Sunday lunch buffet for 9000cfa.

Maharaja Restaurant
Tel: 33 860 6163

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Recipe: Frappuccino Dakarois

Recipe from a Dakar Eats reader. I’ve got to try this!

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1. Buy the Vitalait café au lait packets you find here at the boutique.
2. Dissolve it in a tiny bit of hot water.
3. Add a glass of skim milk and ice and blend!! Voila. Delilsh!

It already has sugar in it, but you can always add more sweetener if you’d like.

Thanks for the recipe, LL!

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Ironically, some of my favorite dining experiences in Dakar are the hardest to write posts about simply because I was so into the meal that I forgot to take pictures or ask for a menu to upload.

This has happened twice recently, but hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. For now though, two big photo-less thumbs up for these two restaurants:

Le Cozy in Plateau (next to marché Kermel and Classic Burger): Delicious three-course lunch menu for 7500cfa. I mean really delicious. And go for the unconventional French toast dessert (1000cfa extra). It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

Their dinner menu looked great too and my friends recommend ordering the chef’s special at around 15,000cfa. I have smart friends with good taste so will do that myself!

Le Jardin (at the very tip of La Pointe des Almadies in the same entrance as restaurants La Mezze and La Pointe): “Oh. Wow. That. Steak.” And that’s not something you say often in Dakar!

We arrived at about 8:15pm and at first were told they were booked solid for a soirée that night, but then a very friendly Philippe (owner, I think) asked us to wait just a minute to see if they could work us in, which they did. And an hour later we understood that when they said booked solid, they meant it! Even so, the service was good and tables were taken care of and guests seemed to all be having a great time eating and dancing.

The fixed menu for the night was 15,000cfa and you could choose from a fish or steak main course. All four of us chose the steak. All four were thoroughly impressed. (Thank you, Philippe!)

Sidenote: Le Jardin is a semi-enclosed outdoor restaurant that we’ve enjoyed for date-nights in the past and has never disappointed us. Definitely add it to your must-try list if you’ve not yet been. And get a steak.

Morning Lover’s Breakfast at Yum-Yum

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As of today, YUM★YUM is enlarging their breakfast menu by adding three new items:

– Breakfast Baguette: homemade baguette, scrambled eggs, freshly diced tomatoes, turkey ham, emmental cheese (1500 cfa)

– Freshly squeezed orange juice (1000 cfa)

– Hash browns (500 cfa)

The breakfast menu is available from 7am Monday to Friday (from 9am on Saturdays, from 11am on Sundays). And you can still find their long-time breakfast favourites, such as donuts and hot beverages (brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino, tea and hot chocolate).

Good morning!