Chicago serves up tasty African dishes

By Bertha Serrano

To outsiders, Chicago might be known for its brutal winters, stunning skyline and being home to President Barack Obama. But to longtime locals, the city’s rich cultural history is what they love best. While some ethnic areas are better known than others, many cultural restaurants still remain under the radar.

Just in time for Fat Tuesday and to wrap up this year’s celebration of Black History Month, The Chronicle talked to employees and owners at four authentic African restaurants in the city. Here’s what they had to say about their authentic cuisines, what their specialties are and how they are different from other places.

African Harambee

7537 N. Clark St.

(773) 764-2200

Located in Rogers Park and open since July 2007, owner Sisay Abebe said this is one-of-a-kind with its single location. Specializing in authentic dishes including meat, vegetarian and seafood, Harambee means “Let us pull together; a call for unity.”

“This is the only African restaurant where you can find Ethiopian and East African, South African and West African dishes,” Abebe said. “This is the only one in town.”

Abebe said there’s no need to do anything special for this month, because to him, every day is Black History Month.

To view their menu, visit

Blue Line Moroccan Grill & Bakery

4027 W. Irving Park Road

(773) 427-9130

Chicago’s Northwest Side welcomed this spot eight months ago to the Irving Park area. The restaurant serves up Moroccan dishes and is also the only location of its kind in the city. Waitress Laura Happert has been working there for more than a month.

“People love to eat the kabob and the grilled meat,” she said. “Since Morocco is in North Africa, our dishes are very different from the rest of the continents.”

Le Conakry

2049 W. Howard St.

(773) 262-6955

Aside from being one of the only Guinean restaurants in Rogers Park, Le Conakry has a conference hall where restaurant patrons can watch West African soccer games.

Owner Al Balde said his restaurant specializes in West African dishes, like yassa chicken. Since France colonized some  West African countries, a lot of dishes found here are also found in France. Since its opening in December 2008, Balde said it’s too soon to figure out how the clientele feels about their food.

“I came up with the idea of a French African restaurant in Chicago,” Balde said. “I want to wait and see the reaction of the customers.”

Yassa African Restaurant

716 E. 79th St.

(773) 488-5599

After being open for more than five years on Chicago’s South Side, Yassa offers authentic African cuisine with a twist in flavor. Co-owner Awa Gueye said they mix African cuisine with Asian and Jamaican spices to give their dishes a distinct taste.

“We’re not doing anything special for this month, but we have seen a great increase in customers so far,” Gueye said. “We have a lot of outside orders where people want us to cater for their gatherings, and this always happens during this month.”

Yassa’s menu can be seen at