Although many of the sweetest spots are hidden in plain sight, Portland’s African food scene is alive, well and growing bigger each day. From a 30-year-old Moroccan restaurant to up-and-coming West African eateries, these African restaurants in Portland are serving up some of the city’s most flavorful dishes.
Inside an eye-catching yellow building on Northeast MLK Boulevard, Akadi, Chef Fatou Ouattara cooks up flavorful West African dishes she learned to cook as a child in Cote d’Ivoire. The mural-lined walls and kente cloth-covered tables provide a warm welcome into Ouattara’s homey West African dining spot.
If you’re a meat-eater, check out Akadi’s beef suya or the true West African specialty of slow-cooked goat meat in a spiced tomato stew. Vegan and vegetarian options are just as packed with flavor (the tofu suya plate features grilled tofu marinated in a housemade kankankan spice, along with a sweet fried plantain that could have you ordering seconds within the first bite). Stews come with rice or fufu, a soft dough made from pounded yams (the fufu is the way to go).
Black Star Grill
Named after Ghana’s national soccer team, Black Star Grill is one of just a few Portland spots where you can find one of the greatest culinary gifts of West African cuisine: jollof rice. This spiced tomato and rice dish is a highly revered West African specialty, and it’s also the base for Black Star’s build-your-own bowls.
Add your choice of meat or veggies, carrot cabbage slaw, black-eyed pea stew or sweet fried plantain to any dish. If spice is not your friend, start with the simple brown rice option and pile on the flavor with added toppings. This Southwest Fourth Avenue food cart is the perfect lunch stop during a walk around downtown’s Portland State University campus.
Any night of the week, you can enjoy a delicious, flavor-packed meal at E’Njoni, a cozy Ethiopian spot in North Portland. For the full experience, visit E’Njoni’s all-day, all-you-can-eat brunch buffet, offered only on weekends. Boasting a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options — including their unrivaled timtimo (red lentils in berbere sauce) — this buffet is equally satisfying and affordable. Plates run at $15 for all the food you could possibly want to consume on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
In an intimate bungalow just off Southeast Clinton Street, Abyssinian Kitchen serves up a full menu of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Vegans and vegetarians, try the beyaynetu: a sampler of stewed yellow split peas, spicy red lentils and tangy collard greens.
Don’t expect the massive table-sized sampler platters common to most Ethiopian eateries. Instead, Abyssinian serves modestly sized plates, with satisfying portions and truly impeccable flavor. Good news for those with gluten allergies who might normally miss out on the joys of injera: Abyssinian Kitchen makes a version with 100% gluten-free teff flour.
Horn of Africa
Looking for variety? Horn of Africa showcases a wide array of menu items from Ethiopia, Somalia, Djbouti and the Middle East. Visit their weekday lunch buffet to pile your plate high with curried goat, oxtail cooked in a medley of East African herbs and spices, and butter chicken: flavorful chicken breast cooked in an Ethiopian spiced and clarified butter. End on a high note with plantain and pineapple ice cream or mandazi, a Somali sweet fried pumpkin beignet.
Opened in 1989, Marrakesh is the go-to spot for a traditional Moroccan tagine in Portland. Tapestry-adorned walls and elaborate decor set the stage for a multi-course prix fixe menu. Start with b’stilla royale (puff pastry stuffed with beef or chicken, scrambled egg and crushed almonds), yellow lentil soup and fresh salad with homemade bread. That’s followed by a flavorful tagine of your choice, such as lamb m’rouzia stewed in honey, nutmeg, and roasted almonds.
Round off the meal with hot tea and a decadent dessert, like homemade baklava, fresh fruit salad or milk pudding. If the five-course Marrakesh Royal Feast Dinner feels like too much, you can also order a la carte. Try the tagine of chicken, honey and prunes or the spicy lamb with peas and roasted potatoes in tomato cumin garlic sauce.
A few blocks east of E’Njoni, Enat Kitchen is an Ethiopian spot distinguished by its wide variety of meat, fish and vegetarian and vegan options. For the flavor-curious, vegetable and meat combo platters provide a taste of everything. Veggie combos include crowd-pleasing favorites like the kik key wot (split peas cooked with onion, ginger, and garlic in a berbere sauce) and buticha (ground chickpeas mixed with lemon juice, diced onions and jalapeño).
If you’re in the mood for a single entree, try the Enat special: a plate of minced beef with jalapeño, butter, mitmita spice, ayib (cheese curd) and stewed collard greens. Enat offers a modest selection of Ethiopian beers, such as the acclaimed Hakim Stout and the sweet and malty Bedele.