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Deep South

Twenty-four restaurants south of 52nd Street

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Army & Lou's422 E. 75th | 773-483-3100

$Southern/Soul Food | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: Sunday-Monday, Wednesday-Saturday | Closed Tuesday

A favorite of Mayor Harold Washington back in the day, Army & Lou's has been dishing up well-executed southern and soul food for more than 60 years. For starters there's Louisiana gumbo; in the bread basket are yeasty homemade biscuits, fresh, flaky, and warm. Steak, chicken, and chops come smothered with gravy and served with corn bread: quintessential comfort food. The fried chicken has light, deliciously crispy breading; pieces are so meaty that half a chicken makes a very filling entree. It's worth ordering a few extra sides, though: greens are tender but not overcooked, sweet potatoes carry a hint of clove, and pickled beets and onions provide a tart contrast (there are also chitterlings, butter-boiled pig intestines best with plenty of hot sauce). Sweet potato pie and peach cobbler are made, our waitress told us, by a "little old lady from the neighborhood"—which is pretty much how they taste. —David Hammond

Barbara Ann's BBQ7617 S. Cottage Grove | 773-651-5300

$American, Barbecue/Ribs | Lunch, dinner: Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Sunday, Monday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 3, Monday-Thursday till midnight | Cash only

Along with Lem's and the Rib Joint, Barbara Ann's forms one corner of an inverted triangle of south-side barbecue that the rest of the city would do well to study. Ribs and tips are quite good, maybe second only to Lem's or Honey 1, but Barbara Ann's turns out particularly excellent hot links. Fat and complexly spiced with hints of sage and hot pepper, they have a coarse grind that proves an unmistakably direct relationship to pork, something not actually all that common in your garden-variety sausage. The business model of a rib joint and an affiliated neighboring motel (Motel Two) is oddly perfect. Mike Sula

Bobak's Sausage Company5275 S. Archer | 773-735-5334

$Polish/Russian/Eastern European | Lunch, dinner: seven days

Sausage maker to the nation since 1967, this southwest-side establishment also serves up a full homemade buffet seven days a week, including salads, sides, desserts, and lots of meat: stews, sausages, shish kebabs, ham, chicken. It's $9-$13 to eat in, depending on the meal and the day, or you can take out buffet items for $5 a pound ($5.95 on Sundays). Holly Greenhagen

Cafe Trinidad557 E. 75th | 773-846-8081

$$Caribbean | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Reservations not accepted | BYO

This superfriendly family-run enterprise traffics in the flavors of Trinidad, which have been influenced over the centuries by African, East Indian, Creole, Syrian, Lebanese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese cooks. "Brown down" stews—begun with a caramelized sugar base—and rich, spicy curries dress slow-cooked meats like jerk chicken, goat, beef, and oxtails and are accompanied by rice and pigeon peas. Alternatively, most of these can be ordered wrapped in a fresh fried roti, a circle of soft flatbread that can withstand a considerable portion bulked up with a mild potato-and-chickpea curry. Fat, snappy shrimp popped under the tooth, and curry crab and dumplings were similarly fresh. These all came with a choice of filling sides—sweet potatoes, callaloo, red beans and rice, collards, macaroni pie, plantains. The bright, sparkling space adorned with Trinidadian flags and lively with island tunes has a lot of nice house-made touches like the sweet and deadly Scotch-bonnet hot sauce and drinks like mauby, an unforgiving, bitter, and debatably restorative cold infusion made from the steeped bark of the carob tree. I had more appreciation for the sweet, bracing, and uncontroversially refreshing ginger beer, or sorrel, a fruity purple punch brewed from the hibiscus blossom. Mike Sula

Calumet Fisheries3259 E. 95th | 773-933-9855

$Seafood | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Cash only

In a 1998 Reader story, Calumet Fisheries' Hector Morales lamented the decline in business that came with the death of the steel industry on the southeast side. But the tiny shack at the foot of the 95th Street Bridge is still smoking its own chubs, trout, and salmon steaks, heads, and collars over oak logs. These creatures remain moist after smoking, having been brined overnight. The vulnerable constitution of shrimp is the best endorsement of this process, remaining juicy and intensely smoky—though the monsters come dear at $19.95 a pound. Polyglot sailors still weigh in for fried catfish when they dock, and the fresh, crispy breaded aquatic life—frog's legs, shrimp, scallops, and smelts—are expressions of maritime rhapsody, like the sea spray that escapes the breaded crust of a juicy fried oyster. The dramatic location—it's where Elwood jumped the drawbridge in the Bluesmobile—is an ideal spot to clamber down to the river's edge with an order of deep-fried ocean critters and watch ships chug by. Mike Sula

Daley's Restaurant809 E. 63rd | 773-643-6670

$Southern/Soul Food | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

Daley's is one of the oldest existing restaurants in the city, if not the oldest, though ask any waitress exactly how old and you'll get a different answer every time—usually something like "A long time, baby." The previous owner, Nick Kyros, says an Irishman opened the place in 1892 and ran it until his father took over in 1918; now he's turned it over to his son Michael and co-owner Nick Zar, though he still hangs around some, he says. Today the majority of his employees and customers are neighborhood folks who pack in for massive portions of mostly solid, sometimes-from-scratch soul food at practically historical prices. It's not hard to eat incredibly well, though you have to be selective. The biscuits are light and fluffy, but the mashed potatoes are instant. The chicken gumbo is tangy and thick but mined with canned green beans. One serving of smothered chicken can look like it was fed on steroids while another looks starved. The beefy, cheesy patty melt is a sure thing, as is a side of cabbage with bits of ham, and just about anything can be livened up with the bottle of spicy red pepper vinegar on each table. Nobody stays alive for more than a century without doing something right. Mike Sula

Dat Donut8251 S. Cottage Grove | 773-723-1002

$American, Breakfast | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours Sunday-Friday | Cash only

Darryl Townson, owner of Chatham's refuge for the rare and endangered handmade doughnut, is hip to the transparent approach to production that makes a stop at Krispy Kreme seem like an exciting field trip. But Townson's doughnuts reach a level of excellence far exceeding the klonenuts churned out by the korporation's assembly lines. Housed in the same building as a Leon's Bar-B-Q, Dat Donut's bakers knead, roll, and cut masses of dough with grace and nonchalance, at all hours, behind a broad glass window. Townson boasts about 45 varieties—mostly based on different frostings, though many are only seasonally available. The standard glazed is a scarfable pillow with just a shine of sugar that feels about as heavy as a cloud (though it's available in supersize). The buttermilk cake doughnut has an almost imperceptible crunch that gives way to a moist interior. Frostings run the gamut from fruity pastels to chocolaty browns, peanut, and coconut, though in most cases they don't obscure the subtleties of the fine pastry. Nonstop 24-hour production of "a couple-hundred dozen daily" ensures a fresh doughnut anytime, but by day two leftovers require just a quick blast in the microwave to refresh. Service can be gruff but might be excused for the indignity of having to trade art for money through a bulletproof lazy Susan. —Mike Sula

Harold's Chicken Shack #597247 S. Racine | 773-783-9499

$American | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 5, other nights till 3 | Reservations not accepted

Among the older, more classically ornamented outposts in the great Harold's Chicken Shack empire, #59 is a prime example of a dark, forbidding little hole in a grim neighborhood from which great fried chicken emerges. It also shows evidence of the maverick spirit of various HCS proprietors, who sometimes veer from the template of a uniform chain with interesting and positive results. The chickens fried here are large, with stout, meaty wings and breasts that remain juicy, tender, and unpunished by the hot fresh-tasting oil. Other little touches make all the difference: a highly seasoned peppery crust, an unusually thick hot sauce, and thin batter-fried french fries. Conveniently, #59 adjoins Lee's E.T. Lounge, where "all parties will be catered by Harold's Chicken Shack." Mike Sula

I-57 Rib House1524 W. 115th | 773-429-1111

$American, Barbecue/Ribs | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2, Monday-Thursday till midnight | Cash only

This worthy barbecue shack has an enviable location overlooking the Dan Ryan on Ashland, smack in between two exits. A leering, tarted-up, anthropomorphic pig and chicken beckon from each side of the door into a small ordering/waiting area. Conventional wisdom that real barbecue should be able to stand on its own is not tested here. Like it or not, chewy, crispy tips and links will be sauced with a thick, sweet glaze—unnecessary, but not bad in moderation. It makes no sense that higher-profile operations to the north, trafficking in gelatinous boil-b-cue, are consistently recommended to tourists and neophytes seeking the local stuff of legend, when this place stands prominently at the city gates. Mike Sula

Lagniappe—A Creole Cajun Joynt1525 W. 79th | 773-994-6375

$$Cajun | Lunch, dinner: Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Sunday, Monday | Cash only | BYO

This Creole-Cajun place in Auburn-Gresham started out as a catering and carryout joint only, but it now seats about 20 for dishes such as chicken or shrimp creole, an etouffee of the day, jambalaya, and (on Fridays only) shrimp, oyster, or catfish po'boys. Red beans and rice are available with or without a hunk of andouille, brought up from Louisiana; side dishes range from dirty rice (made in what owner Mary Madison calls the authentic way, with chicken spleen) to "candy sweets," candied sweet potatoes. Madison offers a few more generally southern dishes as well—fried green tomatoes, Cajun grilled chicken, chicken wings and waffles, and pulled pork sandwiches. Banana pudding is the most popular dessert, but there's also sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, and "cake in a jar" (which is pretty much what it sounds like). Service is slow but courteous, and Lagniappe is BYOB. —Anne Ford

Lem's311 E. 75th | 773-994-2428

$American, Barbecue/Ribs | Dinner: Sunday- Monday, Wednesday-Saturday | Closed Tuesday| Open late: Friday & Saturday till 4; Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Thursday till 2 | Cash only

A civic treasure among the city's honest smoke shacks, Lem's has long upheld the standard against which all Chicago barbecue should be measured. The rib tips, with a higher ratio of meat to gristle than you'll find at most joints, and the center-cut and small-end slabs are finished relatively fast over a relatively hot fire, bucking slow-smoke convention. They're deliciously tender and caramelized, lined with the telltale pink smoke ring. When they run out, long lines form. Excellence is extended to the incomparable, complex sauce and coarsely textured hot links, which are too frequently served as mealy sacks of sawdust elsewhere. While disciples were saddened by the mysterious shuttering of the Lem's on State Street in 2003, the mother ship, with its unmistakable neon beacon, endures. Mike Sula

Miss Lee's Good Food203-05 E. 55th | 773-752-5253

$American, Southern/Soul Food | Lunch, dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday

A 31-year veteran of the late, great Gladys' Luncheonette, Miss Lee is the Florence Nightingale of home-style granny food without a bit of fanciness or fuss. But if cooking like hers were really that simple, everybody would be doing it. She's justifiably proud of her desserts: her bread pudding and fruit cobblers are La Brea Tar Pits of sweetness—covered with a delicate layer of sugary, caramelized crust but soft and heavy underneath. She rotates a daily menu of nine high-density, low-gravity comforters like baked turkey and dressing, stewed chicken and noodles, smothered pork chops, oxtails and boiled potatoes, and roast beef and dressing. Each comes packed with a pair of corn muffins and two sides (the creamy black-eyed peas and spicy collard greens are capital). And the a la carte options are great too: there's mac 'n' cheese and a spicy rubbed bird of her own invention that she calls "herbal chicken" (add 50¢ for white meat). It's a good thing food like this travels, because Miss Lee's is carryout only. All the better—it's the type of eating that goes down best with a sofa nearby. Mike Sula

Old Fashioned Donuts11248 S. Michigan | 773-995-7420

$American, Breakfast, Burgers | Breakfast, Lunch: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Cash only

This Roseland shop gives the magical Dat Donut a run for its dough, with artisanal classics sold in a less fortresslike atmosphere more amenable to the appreciation of fine fried cake. Here the bulletproof barriers are almost an afterthought—you can reach over and shake hands with the baker, who will alert you to a new batch of fresh, shiny glazeds about to be unspooled in the display case. The blueberry is riddled with bright constellations of something that tastes suspiciously of real fruit. The doughnuts also come in pineapple and caramel frosted, buttermilk and honey wheat, coconut and toasted coconut, but the crown jewel is the apple fritter—not a doughnut, per se, but a six-inch discus of crispy, chewy, soft, sweet, spicy, fruity synergy. These dunkers, lovingly hand cut in the window and "Fried in Pure Vegetable Oil," as the sign says, eclipse a perfunctory protein menu of hamburgers, hot dogs, Polishes, and fried fish. Mike Sula

The Parrot Cage7059 S. South Shore | 773-602-5333

$$$American, American Contemporary/Regional |Dinner: Wednesday-Saturday | Sunday brunch | Closed Monday, Tuesday | BYO

I was pleasantly surprised by the Parrot Cage, the teaching restaurant affiliated with Washburne Culinary Institute. Housed in the South Shore Cultural Center, the restaurant offers a superb view of the lake, and the morning I went, sunlight flooded the room, giving it an alfresco feel. Sunday brunch is offered just once a month for now, but it's a notable spread, with dishes such as omelets, country ham with apricot-mustard glaze, baked salmon, fried chicken, pasta salad, and pastries. At dinner on a Saturday night the green walls and smooth jazz had a calming effect. I started with a flavorful butternut squash soup; my friend, a stickler, enjoyed his fritto misto of fried tilapia, shrimp, and calamari. His duck, a breast alongside a leg of confit, arrived crispy outside and tender within, with pomegranate sauce and a panzanella salad; I had a simple but satisfying dish of swordfish and capers in brown butter sauce, served with potato puree and sauteed spinach. For dessert there was moist, warm pear-cranberry bread pudding topped with a rosemary custard sauce and whipped cream, and a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis. Service was friendly and prompt but never intrusive. In fact, we couldn't tell which staffers were students. Michael Marsh

The Rib Joint432 E. 87th | 773-651-4108

$American, Barbecue/Ribs | Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2:45, Tuesday-Thursday till 1:45, Sunday & Monday till 11:45

Lem's reigns only 12 blocks to the north, so this Chatham smoke shack is often unjustly overlooked. Center-cut and small-end ribs are lean and meaty marvels of anatomical design. Conversely, the tips are fatty (not a criticism) and don't frequently maintain their structural integrity. The meat in general evidences a deep pink smoke ring and has a slightly bacony flavor that wouldn't be bad with some eggs and toast. Don't be discouraged by the orangey and somewhat glutinous sauce—it's not overly sweet, and if ordered hot it really packs heat. For those who require a healthy balance with their barbecue, the Rib Joint is conveniently situated a short distance from Dat Donut, shackled as it is to the inferior and mystifyingly lauded Leon's Bar-B-Q. Mike Sula

Soul Queen9031 S. Stony Island | 773-731-3366

$Southern/Soul Food | Lunch, dinner: seven days| Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight | Reservations accepted for large groups only | Cash only

In 1971, when Helen Maybell Anglin opened Soul Queen, it became a buzzing hive of black celebrities and politicians and those that would curry their favor. Today the walls are adorned with photographs of her highness receiving tribute from other African-American royals such as MLK, Ali, Cosby, Harold Washington, Joe Louis, Jimmie Walker, Bill Clinton, and Henry Kissinger (?!)—which is why it feels seditious to say that the Queen's best days may be behind her. On a recent visit there was a distinctly dispiriting vibe as jukebox slow jams echoed over the dim dining room, empty but for a pair of bejeweled and extremely well-fed young ladies who grazed the buffet while their older male escort remained in his booth conspicuously counting a large stack of bills through his sunglasses. The dishes that once attracted the Queen's subjects don't now taste of the carefully prepared home-style you've come for: turkey legs, stuffing, fried catfish, mac 'n' cheese, greens, stewed cabbage, okra, and legumes all seemed born of a loveless assembly-line production. Surprisingly, the lightly fried chicken, typically an item with a short half-life, bore up well under the heat lamps and was probably the only redeeming thing on the steam tables. The staff in their plastic tiaras couldn't have been more cheerful and attentive, but there are much better soul food buffets and cafeterias around town. Nevertheless the fading 70s swank of the place still inspires a certain reverence. It certainly made a positive impression on the seven-year-old at my table, who pronounced the atmosphere "fancy" and refused to eat her mushy, blandly sauced ribs without knife and fork. —Mike Sula

Soul Vegetarian East205 E. 75th | 773-224-0104

F 8 | S 6.3 | A 6.3 | $ (6 reports)Southern/Soul Food, Vegetarian/Healthy | Breakfast, Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | Vegetarian friendly

rrr While the ambience is strictly functional, Raters agree that this unique restaurant—in business more than 25 years—is worth the trip. The menu offers vegan and vegetarian soul food—barbecued wheat gluten, stir-fried meatless "steak," tofu tidbits, and many other unusual, reasonably priced dishes. Raters point out that while it is all vegetarian, it's not the best place for the health conscious, as much of the menu is fried. —LauraLevy Shatkin

Sunugal Restaurant2051 E. 79th | 773-721-5600

$African | Dinner: seven days | BYO | Vegetarian friendly

Sunugal's menu sparks a double take with selections like fettuccine Alfredo and paella listed side by side with Jamaican ackee and salt fish. Best to put your dining fate in the hands of Senegalese owner Tidiane "TJohn" Soumare; just say, "Please bring me whatever is lookin' good." With that request, TJohn quickly laid out some crusty-charred chunks of lamb on a mound of white rice and shrimp in a light tomato-based sauce—flavorful and well priced though not terrifically distinctive. We had better luck with jerk chicken: apparently butchered at random, these savory morsels delivered good chile burn with bursts of sweetness from golden bits of caramelized onion. Our grilled tilapia, moist and gently smoky, was complemented by cassava couscous (typical of southwestern Africa), and there were a number of traditional Senegalese platters coming out of the kitchen, including chicken Yassa (the bird simply marinated in lemon and onion) and jollof rice. Though TJohn was cool with the beers we brought, you'd do well to order his homemade drinks of ginger and sorrel, or perhaps milky bissap jus de bouye, derived from baobab. This friendly restaurant is an excellent place to practice your French (and how many places in Chicago offer that opportunity?). —David Hammond

Szalas5214 S. Archer | 773-582-0300

$$$Polish/Russian/Eastern European | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 11 | Vegetarian friendly

The Gorale, a sheepherding people of the Polish highlands, have a substantial community on the south side—which explains the presence of not one but two fantasy European hunting lodges straight out of the Brothers Grimm on an otherwise mundane stretch of Archer Avenue northeast of Midway. (The other is the Polish Highlanders Association.) The wealth of rustic detail at Szalas includes a working waterwheel, stuffed animal heads, and staff in billowy peasant dress—you can even dine in a sleigh if your party can fit. The most interesting among the appetizers is moskul, a flatbread that looks like pita but is made of flour, potato, and eggs; it's accompanied by a sheep's cream cheese called bryndza and a schmear made of lard studded with bits of smalec, Polish bacon. The lard is delicious, though non-Gorale may find it hard to eat more than a bite or two without health qualms. Entrees don't do anything to reverse the reputation of Polish food as hearty, though the Highlander's Special—veal goulash inside a large potato pancake and dotted with sheep's sour cream—is almost delicate for its kind. So too with dessert: fluffy orange-scented cheese blintzes that came with loads of fruit and vanilla ice cream. Service was a bit blase at an early seating but weekends, when there's live Gorale music and the bar stays open till 2, are reportedly quite lively. Michael Gebert

Tropic Island Jerk Chicken Restaurant419 E. 79th | 773-978-5375

$Caribbean | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Vegetarian friendly

Hacked to order, Tropic Island's yard birds are generously steeped in the manifold spices that typify the island style, their flesh moist and soft, tinged with the rosy blush of a good smoke. They're served on rice and peas with sidekicks of plantains and mushy cabbage; these bland starches act as a kind of protective barrier against the tiny tubs of dark, nuclear sauce you might apply to the bird if you have something to prove. The standard repertoire of homey and often bony Jamaican eats is in effect: oxtails, brown stew chicken, yard salad, beef patties, callaloo, and something called reggae stir-fry corn. But the pinnacle of long-cooked fatty comfort is the goat, which requires a small amount of dental work to appreciate. MikeSula

Uncle John's Barbecue337 E. 69th | 773-892-1233

$Barbecue/Ribs | Lunch, dinner: Monday-Saturday| Closed Sunday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight | Cash only | Vegetarian friendly

When Mack Sevier, former pit man at Barbara Ann's BBQ, opened his own BBQ joint, lovers of his unique style let out a collective smoky sigh. There's only one place to get these heavenly hot links—lightly charred smoky pork sausage aggressively spiced with sage and perfect topped with a drizzle of hot sauce—and that's from Uncle John's wood-fired smoker. Meaty spareribs are smoked directly over wood, resulting in a crisp, fat-in-the-fire outer layer that yields to a moist and toothsome interior. Rib tips, luscious with juicy pork fat and crisp bits of char, are the perfect complement to hot links. Chicken comes smoked, fried, or in a tasty house special of fried boneless dark meat served with pickled jalapenos. Nondescript coleslaw, white bread, and a terrific house-made BBQ sauce round out each order. There's no seating at Uncle John's, and I suggest dining auto alfresco, as the tantalizing aroma will otherwise have you reaching for a rib before you've driven a few blocks. Gary Wiviott

Veggie Bite3031 W. 111th | 773-239-4367

$Vegetarian/Healthy | Lunch, dinner: seven days

Veggie Bite looks like your basic flesh-and-dairy operation—the fiesta-bright yellow-and-blue color scheme, the backlit menu sign with pictures of burgers and nuggets, the stainless-steel shake machine, the piles of ketchup packets. But there's a stack of "Why Vegan?" brochures on the counter, the Italian "beef" is made out of wheat gluten, and the "cheese" fries are covered in something called golden sauce. The menu has doubled as customers requested vegan versions of more and more meat dishes, including buffalo wings, gyros, meatball subs, and Philly cheesesteaks. (The owners won't reveal their recipes, but they will say that most of the meat substitutes are made of seasoned, texturized wheat gluten.) Prices run just a bit higher than McDonald's—a veggie burger combo with fries and an all-natural bottled soda is $6.89. Vegan lemon meringue pie, coconut cake, and other baked goods, sweetened only with brown or turbinado sugar or maple syrup, are available by the slice. —Anne Ford

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria8433 S. Pulaski | 773-735-2050

$Pizza, Italian | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 1 | Cash only|Vegetarian friendly

Despite hints of balkanization in the Barraco family—there's an unaffiliated suburban location—the original Vito & Nick's has reigned as the thin-crust pizza of the south side since 1945. Its squadron of white-shirted dough boys is well trained, and great care is taken to ensure that pies emerge from the oven as nothing less than paragons of pie maker's art. A bit thicker than the advertised cracker thin, the crust is toasty bottomed and only lightly cornmealy, and there's nary a hint of glueyness topside—the perfect canvas for the ballsy sauce and bubbling cheese, baked to the very brink of browning. There's a perfunctory selection of red-sauce and bar food, the most unusual example being the Big Nicky, a fat patty of spicy fried Italian sausage on pizza bread, thinly blanketed by melted provolone, served with waffle fries and a dipping cup of marinara sauce. This location packs families in, serves very large and inexpensive cocktails, and seems unaltered since its 1965 opening, with brown shag-carpeted walls, an enshrined portrait of the very late Vito, and weary waitresses whose dogs may have been barking here since day one. Mike Sula

Yassa African Caribbean Restaurant716 E. 79th | 773-488-5599

$$African, Caribbean | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Cash only | Vegetarian friendly

Yassa is run by a family from Senegal, a former French colony whose cuisine, apart from fresh-baked pain francaise, bears little resemblance to anything European. We started with thiebu djen, a fish stewed in tomato with onion, cabbage, and jollof rice; the last is typically "broken" by soaking and pounding with the hands or the butt end of a bottle. Yassa is grilled marinated chicken covered with a sauce of mustard, onion, carrot, and palm oil and served on a bed of rice. Senegalese couscous is made from millet, which gives it a deep flavor that stands up to lamb and vegetables in a thick and creamy peanut sauce. Fish grilled whole over charcoal had a golden red, deliciously chewy crust and white, firm flesh; debe, grilled lamb chops, were also very flavorful. Be sure to try one of the marvelous homemade African beverages: gingembre is fresh ginger root, pounded and sugared in Yassa's kitchen, bouye is the creamy sweet juice of baobab fruit, and bissap is a gorgeous rich red liquor made from the hibiscus flower. There's also jerk and other Caribbean favorites on the menu. David Hammond

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