On a Friday night not too long ago my wife and I were once again looking for a place to go for dinner. It has kind of become a weekly tradition to visit one our fabulous neighborhood spots each and every Friday. After short a discussion with friends we decided to show them Afrique Bistro.
Afrique Bistro is a “Pan African” restaurant serving cuisine representing the entire continent. This is Alem Gebrehiwot’s, owner of Afrique as well as Queen of Sheba, second restaurant in the neighborhood. It’s located on the same corner as the old Dad’s Oil office, but the building has changed dramatically in the last few years. What was once a small office on a large lot has become a restaurant with housing above.
Inside, the restaurant is nicely decorated with an African inspired design, but not overboard. Subtle art like carvings, baskets, and masks stick to the motif but do not make you feel like you are in a theme park. It is an open space with plenty of table seating and room for 6 – 8 at the bar.
When we visit Afrique we usually sit at the bar. The first time, several months ago, I could not decide what to order. The bartender suggested I give him some “inspiration” – a mood, color, word, etc, and he would make a drink to match. I don’t recall the inspiration or the drink, but since then, every visit starts with inspiration and a great drink appears shortly thereafter.
On this particular visit my wife and I, along with our newbie friends, sat at a table. The inspirational words were “neutral colors”, “success”, “TGIF” and “water”. Water was easy – she got water flavored with cucumber. “Neutral colors” resulted in Bulliet on the rocks with an African Amber chaser. “Success” was a Serengeti Sipper with a perfect orange twist while “TGIF” turned into bubbly with a hint of mango.
We started dinner with appetizers. Afrique offers several choices of spicy house made sauces to flavor the appetizers and many of the entrees. We ordered Afrique Chicken Wings with Harrisa sauce and Afrique Prawns with Piri-Piri. The wings were flavorful and spicy, coated in seasoning made from red chilies and spices. The Piri-Piri, a hot and spicy green chili sauce, was especially spicy and flavored the prawns perfectly.
For dinner we had Fish Stew with Spinach Cheese on the side, Vegetable Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce, Lamb Stir Fry with Harrisa Sauce, more Afrique Prawns along with a Cucumber Salad. My meal, the Fish Stew, was a white fish stewed in a warm Afrique spice over a bed of white rice. To balance the meal I added a side of Spinach Cheese – a “blob” of spinach mixed with small bits of cheese served with a hint of spice. Yummy! My wife had her favorite – the Stir Fry Vegetables with Peanut sauce. The vegetables change through the seasons, but it is always good. I was able to sample the Stir Fry Lamb with Harrisa – which was a nice pairing of the meat and sauce. We should have ate family style so we all could have had a little of everything. Maybe next time.
It was a great night of good, interesting and unique food, matched with good company and good drinks. Afrique is the type of place you go to if seeking something a little different than the norm. Take your time, admire the décor, talk with Alem, have an inspirational drink and enjoy a unique experience.
Afrique Bistro is located on the corner of Russell and Rodney at 102 NE Russell. If you can’t decide what to order from the creative drink menu, considering giving Bobby the bartender some “inspiration” – odds are you’ll like the results.