Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dakar Guide: Restaurants, Part I

Anyone who knows me in real life is well aware that I l-o-v-e food... and good food! So it goes without saying that finding good food in Dakar has been a huge part of my survival and dare I say, ability to thrive, in this often overwhelming city. The food is good. Now, I certainly have my fair share of venting to do about certain quirks (swiss cheese on pizza, mayonnaise on everything!) and things lacking (real Italian food, any Mexican food at all!)... but there are some very viable culinary options, and I am excited to share my favorites with those of you who may one day visit Dakar or find yourself living here. Miam-miam :P

Restaurants in Dakar, Part I

1. Sao Bresil, Ngor, behind the Shell Station in Ngor (closed on Wednesdays)

This restaurant has the best pizza in all of Dakar, in my opinion. They still use emmental cheese instead of mozzarella (grrrr!), but the toppings are interesting and tasty, and the crust is thin and perfectly crisp. My favorite pizza is the "N'Goroise," which features chorizo, fresh goat cheese, tomatoes, and basil. De-li-cious. The other food options are also really good--salads, meat dishes, and a great drink selection. Prices are relatively reasonable, but definitely expat range ($8-$15 for an entrée, $10 for a drink). The atmosphere is pleasant; the seating is outdoors, set under an awning of sorts, along with the bar. There is also a (dangerous) playground for kids to play on, and strung lights.... The one downside is there are often LOTS of mosquitoes; come prepared with bug spray or pants and be sure to ask your waiter for a coil.

2. Cabane du Surfeur, Almadies, turn left right before rue des Almadies coming from downtown, past Prière Beach but before Chez Fatou Kim on the left (the shack is blue)
2010: Sunset at Cabane du Surfeur with my former roommate (oh em geeeeeee... feels like a lifetime ago, I was a [skinny] baby!)
There is quite a strip of restaurants on this street running along the beach in Almadies; Cabine du Surfeur is my favorite beachside destination. The menu is simple (I recommend the chicken skewers, cheap and yummy!) and they serve soda, juice, or beer, all on a terraced and sandy space  directly on the water. There is no beach entryway, just rocks, but some people still meander down and make their way into the ocean. This is a great place to catch the sunset, wiggle your toes in the sand, and enjoy a cold beverage (and you can bring your own if you prefer something different).

3. Praïnha Creperie Grill, Almadies, across the street from Cabane du Surfeur

For more food options on this same strip, I recommend Praïnha Crêperie Grill across the street from Cabane du Surfeur. You don't have the ocean view, but this Moroccan-owned restaurant (which is a small open air shack on the side of the road) offers a delicious and affordable selection of sweet and savory crepes, sandwiches, salads, Moroccan tea, and delectable fresh juices depending on the fruit in season. I prefer the food here to many fancier options throughout the city; its simple and delicious, and includes interesting choices like guacamole, watermelon juice, goat cheese and honey crepes, Nutella and coconut crepes, and the list goes on. One time I went for dinner and they had a special tapas menu with a live band... I don't know if this is a regular feature, but it was lovely. PS. Bring mosquito spray!

4. La Braise, Mamelles, turn right into Mamelles right after the roundabout and the restaurant is on your left after the first side street, across from a bakery (closed on Tuesdays)

The three previous restaurants are admittedly expat hotspots; you are pretty much bound to run into someone you know at these locations. But La Braise is still kind of a well-kept secret. My roommate and I lived across the street from this restaurant for several months before we wandered in out of curiosity and discovered a quaint and romantic restaurant, also semi-outdoors, with dim and romantic lighting. La Braise specializes in grilled meats and fish, and sports an outdoor brick oven. You must order the "Pommes Argentés" as your side: potatoes baked in foil with cream sauce. They are to DIE FOR! The prices are amazing, the meat and fish are fresh and delectable. The only downside is the menu is a bit limited for those who go often ;) But the service is great, ambience charming, and food dependable and tasty. We used to order from La Braise at least once a week (you can also order to pick-up)... and now I really want to go back!

5. La Corée III, or The Pork Shack, Karackwalking distance from the Karack mosque but ask for directions from a local!

This place is hard to find and I have no idea why its called Korea III, but the experience is totally worth the trek! The pork shack is a run by an Ivoirian and Christian family (I think)... so it is one of the few African restaurants in Dakar where you can find pork. They grill it up for you and serve the ribs with spicy sauce and African side dishes, and a cold beer if you so desire. Its a messy business--you will definitely eat with your hands--but the outdoors atmosphere is convivial and the restaurant is popular with the African immigrant population in Dakar and Christian Senegalese patrons. It is a fun scene and a great place for a group of friends to eat out on a weekend night, but be warned that the service can be very, very slow depending on how busy they are (I presume grilling capacity is small).

6. Le Djolof, Fann Hock, across the corniche from Souboujdeune (sp?!) market, go 2 minutes down the the street with what looks like a temple at the end of it and it is a colonial building with a lit terrace (hope you appreciate these directions!)

Via their hotel website
I've only ever eaten here once, but the romantic atmosphere and excellent view from this rooftop boutique hotel restaurant is enough to bring me back and recommend the spot to others. We ate tapas and celebrated a friend's birthday, admiring the hotel's decor as we made our way upstairs. Based on the look of things, I think this would be an excellent place to stay in the city if you are looking for a charming boutique hotel.

Bon appetit!

In my next installment, I'll share some of my favorite places to eat downtown (not to say I've tried them all, and I am always looking to discover new destinations for a food-fix).

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