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The Chicago Traveler

International Chicago: Africa

by Matt B on November 10th, 2007

Our International Tour takes us to Africa. A large African population can be found in the northern parts of the city, including Uptown, Edgewater, and Rogers Park. There is no one type of African food. From Nigerian to Ghanaian, from Ethiopian to Moroccan, this huge continent has something for everyone.

AlgeriaOur first stop is on Clark St in Wicker Park for some Algerian food. The Crepe & Coffee Palace, down the block from Pocket Puppies, specializes in North African and Mediterranean cuisine, made with fresh organic ingredients. If you sense a Parisian vibe from the place, that’s because several African nations are former French colonies. Algeria earned its independence only recently, during the 1960s. The small space is painted with warm colors and is filled with authentic music and artifacts. There are more than 30 crepes on the menu, including the Crepe Labella (filled with bananas, Belgian dark chocolate, toasted almonds, and coconuts), the Palace Crepe (roasted bell peppers, goat cheese, arugula, caramelized onions, fresh Roma tomatoes, pine nuts, roasted garlic, and baby spinach), and the Chicago Crepe (avocados, muenster cheese, sundried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, sunflower seeds, fresh cilantro, scallions, and organic mixed greens). The breakfast crepes are especially popular, as are the fruit salads and freshly squeezed juices.

MoroccoJust a few blocks north on Clark St (next to Platiyo) is Andalous in Lakeview. This seven-year-old neighborhood staple offers a varied menu of Moroccan dishes with Spanish and Middle Eastern influences. The ambience sets a perfect mood. Between the artifacts—pottery, musical instruments, and textiles—and the regional music playing over the speakers, you will feel thousands of miles away. The kitchen dishes out full-flavored Moroccan cuisine served in generous portions. Pita bread accompanies spreadable appetizers like bakoula (chopped fresh spinach sautéed with herbal blend and lemon confi) and zaalouk (fresh eggplant grilled and mashed with tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and spices). The menu is dominated by tagine dishes, which are slow-cooked at low temperatures, resulting in tender, falling-off-the-bone meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. (Just remember: “slow-cooked” means long waiting time.) Other menu options include pastilla (layers of chicken carefully seasoned with spices, rolled in dough, and baked until crispy) and merguez (sausage stuffed with ground beef, vegetables, and herbs, served with rice or couscous).

EthiopiaEthiopian Diamond in Edgewater celebrated their 10-year anniversary not too long ago. The extensive menu is full of entrees which range from vegetarian dishes (like spinach simmered in garlic and onions) to meat dishes (like seasoned steak tartare, marinated chicken, and lamb dishes.) The flavorful food is served with bread called injera. This spongy, pancake-like bread has a great sourdough taste, and it isn’t only an accompaniment; it’s also your silverware. Patrons use the bread to pick up and eat from the big communal platters. (Ethiopian custom dictates using your right hand to eat and leaving the left hand below the table.) Recommended dishes include anything cooked “watt” style, simmered in a homemade spicy sauce. Wash it all down with buna (Ethiopian coffee served in clay pots) or a generous bottle of Kenyan Tusker beer.

Crepe & Coffee Palace ($): 2433 N Clark St; 773-404-1300
Mon – Thurs: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Fri: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sat: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sun: 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Street parking difficult
Public trans: Bus # 22, 36

Andalous ($): 3307 N Clark St; 773-281-6885
Mon – Thurs: 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri: 4:00 p.m. – 12 midnight
Sat: 11:00 a.m. – 12 midnight
Sun: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Street parking difficult; valet available.
Public trans: Bus # 8, 22, 77 or Brown/Purple/Red Line train (Belmont)

Ethiopian Diamond ($): 6120 N Broadway St; 773-338-6100
Sun – Thurs: 12 noon – 10:30 p.m.
Fri – Sat: 12 noon – 11:00 p.m.
Street parking
Public trans: Bus # 36 or Red Line (Granville)
http://www.ethiopiandiamond.com/ (View with Internet Explorer)

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