As you know, or can tell by the types of places I blog about, I like all kinds of food, so long as its good. But I gravitate towards places that seem unusual for the area. In a state like Alabama, known for its soul food and BBQ, that typically means food from other countries and cultures. Take that a step further-food served in an atmosphere that transports you to a different continent, and introduces you to new people.
I’ve spent some time in Botswana and in Vietnam. Being away from home as an American “ex-pat” and walking into an American establishment abroad always had a very homey, let’s get to know each other feel. The only way I can describe the vibe at Rafiki’s is this kind of experience here in the US. At Rafiki’s, I talked to people from different places in Africa – mostly Kenya and Zambia – and we all felt at home.
Rafiki’s Grill is, to my knowledge, the only full service African restaurant of any kind in town. (Please, prove me wrong! I would love to try another if it exists.) It is on Valley Avenue, near Gordos and some of the other small restaurants I’ve blogged about. It is Kenyan, and serves a focused menu of Kenyan food. And all of it is homemade, as the waitress bragged to us with a smile.
I’ve been there twice in two weeks and so have had the opportunity to try nearly everything on the menu, thanks to Mr Foodie and two foodie couples who helped me out (they didn’t seem to suffer too much). In fact, everyone I’ve taken there has loved it. One consistent theme in all of Rafiki’s food is quality. The menu is relatively small, but the quality of each dish is top notch. Speaking of the menu:
As you can see, Rafiki’s has some items that aren’t available anywhere else in town-with their English translations.
African turkey sausage (specially imported from a Kenyan sausage factory in Delaware we were told), flavorful and delicious; house-made ground turkey samosas with the lightest flakiest crust I’ve ever tasted on a samosa; and “African salsa,” very refreshing:
Here’s a closer look at that beautiful sausage:
And the salsa:
And served with a smoky homemade hot sauce that goes well with all of the above:
Here are our fries masala (and if you don’t believe that fries masala are a thing check this out :
The Main Course
I’m not much into meats other than chicken, beef, or pork, but I understood that Kenyan goat stew is something not to be missed. The restaurant’s owner also has a goat farm near Birmingham where the goats are raised …. I had to try it. This was my first ever experience with goat:
On my second visit, I was joined by two friends who were goat pros and had several observations. First, goat often has a gamey, bitter aftertaste. Second, goat is typically served full of bones, making it difficult to eat. Neither was the case here. The meat was tender and the stew had a deep flavor that tasted of ?bell peppers and was fantastic. The goat stew here is shown with chapati, thicker and doughier than the Indian version and great with the stew, and sakuma wiki or collard greens, which complimented the stew well.
Next up is the grilled chicken:
This was extremely juicy and delicious. Was served with pilau rice, which is a spiced rice, and ugali, or cornmeal cooked to dough consistency. Ugali doesn’t have any flavor but has a wonderful texture, and takes on the flavor of whatever you eat it with. Highly recommended with the stew.
Here is some of their delicious chicken stew-brighter flavors than the goat stew, equally as delicious. I ate it with the ugali and chapati, probably my favorite combination:
The grilled goat was also perfectly cooked, and beautiful. Goes great with the homemade hot sauce. Served with chapati and cabbage:
While we were told that the chocolate cake is also homemade, Mt Kilimanjaro is their house specialty. I will have to find out the story behind this dessert. For now, I was just glad to eat it: bananas, brown sugar, butter, vanilla ice cream:
This place is a real gem, but not a hidden one. Of all of my Greensprings and Valley Ave finds, this place gets the award for the best signage. You can’t miss it!