Six great African spots to catch World Cup fever
B and Q Afro Root Cuisine The primarily meat-based menu is pretty idiot-proof at this no-frills Nigerian restaurant; you simply point to one of the color pictures. Carnivores won’t be disappointed with the tender-to-the-bone beef and chicken, or the wintertime pepper soup with goat. Hard-core vegetarians, however, will have a tough time here, though they can count on the sassy owner to help construct a meal out of entrée sides like black-eyed peas with white rice and überspicy chile sauce, dodo (fried plantains) and soft yam porridge. 4701 N Kenmore Ave (773-878-7489). El: Red to Lawrence. Bus: 22, 36, 81. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $10.
Ethiopian Diamond II The menu at this location is basically the same as at the original Ethiopian Diamond in Edgewater. But this locale has later hours, jazz every Friday, traditional coffee and hand-washing ceremonies, and brunch on Sundays. At the brunch you’ll encounter thick, strong coffee, steeping in cauldronlike pots at the table. And you’ll find plenty of traditional Ethiopian dishes at a buffet. Servers will offer to bring anything you want from the kitchen (for no extra charge beyond the $13.95-per-person price). But since you’ll have access to unlimited yesimir wat (spicy, savory lentils), doro wat (ginger-kissed chicken legs falling apart under a spicy sauce) and foul (mashed fava beans, a Middle Eastern staple that here gets punched up with bits of chile), you probably won’t want for anything more. 7537 N Clark St (773-764-2200). El: Purple (rush hrs), Red, Yellow to Howard. Bus: 22, 97, 147, 151, 201, 205, Pace 215, Pace 290. Brunch (Sun), lunch (Fri, Sat), dinner. Average main course: $13.
Iyanze African restaurants are well known for their leisurely pace, but here the mother-and-son team behind Bolat go the exact opposite route: Customers place their orders at a counter, get in line at a buffet and watch as their food goes from steam table to plate in minutes. But the flavors are clearly the result of slow cooking. Goat meat has seemingly endless layers of hot and mild peppers; peanut soup has that nut’s savory edge but also a peppery bite; and jerk chicken is cloaked in a sauce redolent of cardamom and cloves. The through line is the heat, which can sometimes be absolutely tongue-scorching. Order a soft, starchy yam fufu to give your tongue a break. 4623 N Broadway (773-944-1417). El: Red to Wilson. Bus: 36, 78, 145. Mon–Sat 7am–9pm; Sun 11am–7pm. Average main course: $5.
Lalibela This Ethiopian restaurant distinguishes itself from similar spots nearby with its small menu: What’s usually a pages-long tome of various stews is here whittled down to a handful of options. Don’t skip the shuro, a delectable chickpea dish with a complex, gradual heat; the yemisir azifah, a cold lentil dish with a great piquant tang; or the “Lalibela special tibs,” sumptuous bites of sautéed lamb. 5633 N Ashland Ave (773-944-0585). El: Red to Bryn Mawr. Bus: 22, 50. Lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $10.
Sikia Washburne Culinary Institute students hone their skills here, but it doesn’t look, feel or taste like a student project. Just as the slick, contemporary dining room is accented with African touches, so too is the brunch menu: A nuanced African ambrosia salad has mango, red onion and yams; black-eyed-pea fritters arrive with a fiery red pepper sauce; and cornmeal pie has sticky, addictive caramel notes. There’s plenty for those not interested in African food, too, like a juicy (if mild) jerk chicken, and grits that are so decadently infused with butter and cheese that you’ll almost ignore the shrimp scattered over them. 740 W 63rd St (773-602-5200). El: Green to Halsted. Bus: 8, 63. Brunch (Sun) (Dinner service will resume in the fall.). Average main course: $12.
Yassa Slow methods of cooking and West African spices merge to make Old World, yet innovative, dishes at this Chatham gem. Signature entrées include mafe, a thick stew of lamb with ground peanuts and habanero peppers, and the succulent chicken yassa, grilled chicken marinated in mustard powder, vinegar and lemon juice. Accompanying the giant portions of meat, poultry and fish are fluffy servings of jollof rice and slivers of chewy fried plantains. 716 E 79th St (773-488-5599). El: Red to 79th St. Bus: 3, 4, 79. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $10.