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Diaspora Eats: 9 of Chicago's Best African Restaurants

Here are some African spots to check out the next time you're in the Windy City!

The diaspora is brimming with a variety of restaurants that offer savory dishes that'll remind you of mom's cooking.


In our Diaspora Eats series, we highlight these many eateries, and offer recommendations for the best African food in whichever major city you might find yourself in.

Whether you're looking for options to fit your dietary restrictions or you're simply looking to stuff your face with quality eats, there's a spot in the city that will cater to your palette. Below are 7 African restaurants to check out while you're in Chicago.Check out some of the best African food in L.A, Houston, London, New York, Paris, and Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Toronto and Madrid and Los Angeles and Lisbon.

When it comes to African restaurants, Chicago is no Paris or London, where fancy eateries and humble spots coexist. Chicago's African restaurants are all still family-run businesses that to tend cater to Africans seeking an affordable taste of home.

The variety may be limited but Chicagoans take care of their most cherished spots. Most of the restaurants below have been open for 10 years or more and will surely see at least another decade or two.

Below we give you nine of the best African restaurants in Chicago. Enjoy!

1. Yassa African Restaurant

When I returned to Chicago in 2004, I spotted a Senegalese food stand dishing out yassa poulet (onion chicken) and Thieboudine (tomato, fish and vegetable stew) at the annual African Festival of the Arts. Senegalese food had finally arrived in Chicago. For the next decade I often trekked to the far South Side to Yassa's standalone restaurant. The neighborhood had seen better days but this didn't prevent people from seeking out the best African restaurant in Chicago. A couple of years ago, Yassa moved to a more gentrified black neighborhood. The dining is more refined but the food still tastes the same—damn good. Check out the live entertainment every 2nd Sunday.

2. Gorée Cuisine

Senegalese entrepreneur Adama Ba launched Chicago's third Senegalese restaurant right next door to his first African clothing shop. In the morning, locals come for pastries, coffee, and tea. By lunchtime, Senegalese dishes like maffé (peanut stew), thiou boulette (fish meatball), and yassa poulet (onion chicken) take center stage. His grandmother also runs a restaurant on the Gorée island.

3. Ethiopian Diamond

Ethiopian cuisine is plentiful in Chicago and Ethiopian Diamond is one of the best. The menu includes meat and vegetarian stews, all served on a platter of injera. The menu is naturally gluten-free, reflecting a cuisine noted as one of the world's most ancient and healthiest. The restaurant is able to cater to gluten-free folks, vegetarians, and vegans. Communal dining makes the restaurant a great date spot too.

4.Vee-Vee's African Restaurant

Vee-Vee's African Restaurant is often the first African restaurant that many Chicagoans come to know— it has been the only African restaurant at the Taste of Chicago culinary festival for the last 20 years. The jollof rice, sautéed goat and egusi are the best in Chicago. Like many African restaurants in Chicago, this one also serves Caribbean food, often jerk chicken and plantains. Sunday's all-you-can-eat-buffet draws a big crowd.

5. Denden Eritrean Restaurant

Chicago's lone Eritrean restaurant serves dishes that would be recognizable to fans of Ethiopian cuisine alongside Italian pasta dishes—as influenced by the country's Italian colonization. One of the most unique dishes is a chicken stew served with boiled eggs—derho. Diners say that Eritrean food has more herbs than Ethiopian food, making it taste fresher. Check this spot out and decide for yourself!

6. Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

Demera and Diamond Ethiopian restaurants compete with each for the title of best Ethiopian restaurant in Chicago and Demera appears to be winning. Visitors often claim that it's the best Ethiopian food that they have EVER had. Even the Michelin Guide recommends the restaurant. One of their best dishes is Ye-Shrip Wot, which comes with a whole, pan-fried fish seasoned with onion, garlic, jalapeño, awaze and a special Ethiopian spice. The owners recently opened up a nightspot called Safari Lounge on N. Clark St.

7. Grace's African Restaurant

A condensed menu of Goat, pounded yam, spinach stew, jollof rice, and plantains allow diners go travel to Ghana without the visa. This is Chicago's only Ghanaian restaurant and it's still a family affair.

8. Mogadishu Restaurant

Mogadishu Restaurant is a leftover from the pre-gentrification era of Near North Chicago. What is this hole in the wall restaurant doing in the middle of a street with designer clothes shops and whole foods? The restaurant originally catered to Somali taxi drivers looking to fill up on the cheap between shifts. But now well-heed locals often wander in. For $13, you can get a plate of Somali rice lentils, sauteed chicken, fried fish fillets, cabbage and salted carrots. Don't forget the banana.

9. Barwaqo Kabob

Barwaqo Kabob is located in a strip mall and offers a global menu that spans east African and the middle east. The menu includes flatbread, basmati rice, spicy chicken, lamb, canjeero (pancake-style bread that is similar to a crêpe), nafaqo (seasoned potato stuffed with hard boiled egg) and sambuusa (fried or baked pastry with a spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils). The watermelon juice is another delectable treat.

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Listen to 10 Great Songs From Johnny Clegg

Here are some of the best songs to remember South Africa's son of the soil.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that South African musician, Johnny Clegg, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Understandably, heartfelt tributes have been pouring in ever since. Long before it was cool (or even legal) to be in close proximity to blackness and anything attached to it in South Africa, Clegg, a white man, was doing just that. That is exactly why he was given the endearing title of South Africa's "son of the soil."

Growing up during Apartheid, Clegg was taught how to speak the Zulu language by a domestic worker named Charlie Mzila. In his teenage years, his appreciation for the Zulu culture continued and he soon learnt the traditional dance styles known as isishameni and also learnt how to play the Maskandi guitar. Clegg's music was a beacon of light during a very dark time in South Africa's history and his songs about Nelson Mandela (at a time where songs were banned for merely mentioning the name of the late statesman and other key struggle activists) brought the country together.

It is irrefutable that a music giant has fallen. However, Clegg leaves behind a wealth of music featuring other great South African artists and groups such as Zakwe, Brenda Fassie, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Juluka/Suvuka, among several others. His music undeniably brought South Africans and people all around the world together.

We've picked ten of our favorite songs from the late musician's discography in honor of a life that was lived to the fullest.

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Stonebwoy in "Tuff Seed"

The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Stonebwoy, Mahmoud Ahmed, Tiwa Savage x Zlatan, Africa Express, Juls x Mr Eazi and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Beyoncé Wore These 2 African Designers in Her Music Video for 'Spirit'

Queen Bey continues to include and give a nod to African talent in her visuals.

As we draw even closer to Disney's The Lion King opening in theaters this week, Beyoncé continues to lead the way with her new music video for "Spirit"—the first single off of the film's album she produced and curated, The Lion King: The Gift.

Shot in the Havasu Falls in Arizona's Grand Canyon, Beyoncé and her legion of beautiful dancers are one with nature and its various elements as she beckons us to be brave and hear the calling of spirit. As we noted when she announced the album, the track opens with a call and response in Swahili that translates to "Long live the king": Uishi kwa mda mrefu mfalme—uishi kwa.

Keeping our eyes peeled for African influences in the music video, it's evident that is seen in the choreography. We even spotted our extended fam with the afrobeats moves—the AVO Boys: Stephen Ojo and Caleb Bonney—as two of her dancers in the video.

Beyoncé continues to also give a nod to African talent through the looks she donned in "Spirit" styled by her mainstay, Zerina Akers.

Take a look at the two African designers she wore in the video below.

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