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.
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.
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.
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? :)