With 54 countries, Africa is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse continent in the world, and its cuisine also varies drastically from region to region. North African food draws in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, while South African dishes are a hodge-podge of world cultures. In West Africa, each country has its own version of jollof rice, a popular tomato-based one-pot dish.
Atlanta is home to restaurants from nearly every region of the vast continent. (Unfortunately, some of our favorite Central African restaurants have closed in recent years.) Let this primer, not in the least intended to be exhaustive, serve as a road map to learning more about African food right here in the metro area.
Often referred to as Maghreb and includes the culinary traditions of Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania
Flavors and spices: ras el hanout, baharat, harissa, peppermint, parsley, coriander
Typical dishes: couscous, tajine (slow-cooked stew named after the dish it’s cooked in), shakshuka (poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce)
Marrakesh Mediterranean Kitchen | Midtown
A North African touch is visible on the menu of this Mediterranean restaurant, located in Ponce City Market’s food hall. Try the meat cigars (pictured above—seasoned beef rolled, tucked, and baked inside phyllo dough), cooked carrot salad sauteed with garlic and cumin, and merguez (grilled Moroccan beef sausage).
Includes the culinary traditions of more than a dozen countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ghana, Cape Verde, and Nigeria
Flavors and spices: ginger, cayenne, garlic, Scotch bonnet peppers, palm oil, Maggi seasoning
Typical dishes: stew, jollof rice, pounded yam, egusi soup (soup thickened with ground melon seeds and bitter leaf, which are fried in palm oil), moi moi (steamed black-eyed pea pudding), puff puff (deep-fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar)
Fad Fine Dining | Marietta
In the heart of Cobb County, Fad Fine dishes out a varied blend of West African flavors but mostly features Nigerian food. Try suya, a cut of sirloin typically served on a stick and sprinkled with a blend of roasted peanuts, cloves, allspice, ground ginger, garlic, cayenne, and Maggi seasoning. Or sample the spicy jollof rice; sweet fried plantains; the slightly bitter yet fiery egusi soup; or pounded white yam, which is mashed in a mortar and pestle into something that resembles a cross between bread dough and mashed potatoes. Fad Fine also features live jazz on the weekends.
Oasis Cafe & Grill | Sandy Springs
At this restaurant, tucked in the corner of a strip mall on Northridge Road, you can feast on Senegalese dishes such as lamb dibi (grilled lamb topped with a mustard onion sauce); vibrant red jollof; and thieboudienne, a grilled fish and vegetable dish served over red or white jollof rice.
Toyin Takeout | Marietta
Toyin Takeout serves many of the same Nigerian dishes you’ll find at Fad Fine but, as the name suggests, is more of a casual carryout shop. Highlights include the fish and goat pepper soup (which typically has a hearty broth made with either habanero or chili peppers) and ogbono (bitter leaf) soup. The asaro (yam porridge) is also a must-eat, comforting and perfect for a rainy day.
Comprised of the culinary traditions of two distinct regions: East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) and the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti)
Flavors and spices: berbere, cumin, fresh tamarind, coriander, cardamom
Typical dishes: doro wat (spicy chicken stew), tibs (meat of choice in a caramelized onion and berbere sauce), injera (spongy, fermented sourdough flatbread), spicy pilau rice, ga’at (porridge)
Desta Ethiopian Kitchen | North Druid Hills
Owners Ash Nega and Titi Demissie, both born and raised in Ethiopia, opened this local favorite in 2006. Popular picks include tibs, kitfo (steak tartare marinated in a chili sauce and spiced butter), and fir fir—injera flatbread soaked in berbere sauce and paired with a choice of meat, with plenty of extra injera on the side. To drink, try an Ethiopian wine or beer, including Sheba Tej honey wine and Harar lager. Also, unlike many African restaurants in Atlanta, Desta offers breakfast and brunch.
South African food is a fusion of culinary traditions and flavors from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and India. With all these influences, there are too many spices and flavor profiles to list.
Typical dishes: bunny chow (a hollowed-out bread bowl filled with curry), boerewors (South African sausage), Mozambican prawns peri peri (prawns in a spicy chili pepper sauce), biltong (salty and spicy dried cured meat)
In Atlanta, to talk about South African food means to talk about restaurateur Justin Anthony, who owns multiple establishments featuring eats from his homeland.
10 Degrees South | Buckhead
Located in Buckhead off Roswell Road, Anthony’s first restaurant opened in 1998. Menu favorites include the tender lamb chop lollipops served alongside a savory yogurt sauce, mashed potatoes, and vegetables; ostrich medallions; bobotie, a sweet beef curry served with rice; or traditional boerewors sausage. Order the “safari platter” for a broad sampling—it comes loaded with an assortment of meats including rumpsteak, boerewors, sosaties (beef filet), and lamb chops, and it’s large enough to easily share with friends.
Yebo Beach Haus | Buckhead
With its nautical-inspired decor, Yebo Beach Haus in Buckhead has a laid-back coastal vibe, but in the winter, the space transforms to something reminiscent of a ski lodge, complete with fire pits. Here you’ll find small plates like bobotie bunny chow (beef curry with apples, raisins, onions, and a fried egg), ostrich sliders, and coconut ceviche.
Biltong Bar | Midtown
It’s no surprise that South African biltong is the thing to to pick up at this Ponce City Market stall. The organic, air-dried meat is similar to jerky (but don’t expect the smoky taste of the American version) and is served up in three different spice variations: traditional, peri peri (spicy chili pepper), or garlic.