Several years ago when a friend and I had gone through the alphabets down to S, another friend had told us about a Senegalese restaurant on Chicago’s South Side named Yassa. That restaurant was getting a lot of positive press then and after going, we understood why. The service was fantastic and the food was incredible. There were no other Senegalese restaurants that I knew of in the metropolitan Chicago area and I was glad that Yassa was a location I could frequent.
Fast forward to 2015 and only a few weeks ago, while riding through Chicago’s Rogers Park on the way from the suburb of Skokie, I saw Badou Senegalese Cuisine at 2055 W. Howard Street. Imagine how happy I was to spot the restaurant. To see if I would experience culinary bliss, I made an appointment to return and followed through. And from the initial entry into the restaurant, with the owner thinking I was Senegalese, I knew that it was going to be a winner.
I was in the mood for something with a kick to it. Curry vegetable soup jumped off the menu. This was not just a bowl of broth with a few vegetables swimming around in it, but it was chocked full of potatoes, green beans, carrots, celery, and lentils. When I say that it was spicy, I don’t mean in a mild sense. I was in love and having a glassful of bissap made it that more satisfying. This hibiscus drink is a must.
Having brought a hearty appetite with me, I ordered an appetizer of fataya. These delectable pastries came stuffed with ground beef in a tomato based sauce. These, too, were spicy and served with the tomato and onion sauce of kaani, I remembered how much I enjoyed these from street vendors when I went to Dakar with a friend during undergraduate school for a brief visit. I must admit that the fataya were addictive, enough that I ordered extra for takeaway.
After letting some time pass, I then ordered a main dish of cebu djen. This entree set my addiction to full bloom. Red snapper, fileted and seasoned very spicy, the meat was plump. The texture was silky like that of skate and Atlantic char. It was the succulent pop in each bite that I appreciated. The djolof rice, reminiscent of couscous, came with a whole carrot, cabbage, and eggplant. The portions were large so, I was completed sated.
The food is authentically Senegalese. One thing to note is there will be a wait before your dishes come from the kitchen to the table. And I am beginning to see that this seems to be customary at the cultural restaurants I have been going to as of late. Everything is prepared after you order it, not warmed up and definitely not microwaved. I highly recommend that when you go, take your time ordering various dishes and enjoy them slowly. Good food is meant to be savoured and Badou Senegalese Cuisine wins with putting something in front of you that you can take your time devouring.