Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on February 28, 2023.
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African Cuisine is an aptly named restaurant in Squirrel Hill that serves up a huge menu of dishes from West Africa and, more specifically, the country of Nigeria.
While we could go on a long tangent about how the city needs a much better representation of international cuisine in our restaurant scene (it is a prominent theme in our things we want in Pittsburgh article), we're just going to say that this particular spot checks a lot of boxes for us in this regard.
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African Cuisine's Menu is Huge – So Plan Your Visit in Advance
If you've never had Western African food before, you may want to take a bit of time to read a bit more about Nigerian cuisine and the restaurant's menu at large before visiting. The reason for this is that West African cuisine is incredibly vast (Nigeria is indeed a huge country with many, many regional cuisines) and African Cuisine's menu is reflective of that.
To put it bluntly, the menu is huge.
While our server was incredibly excited to share with us all the information we needed to make an order, knowing a bit ahead of time really helped us plan our first visit. So, what can you expect? There are an array of spiced meat dishes, hand pies, rice-based dishes with meat or seafood, stews with various doughs for dipping, and so much more. The menu is so large that simply attempting to summarize it in a single sentence is doing it a disservice- they truly have a lot going on.
But beyond simply learning about a new-to-us cuisine in advance, we loved how African Cuisine's online menu included pictures of every dish as this allowed us to get an idea of what the items were like and for portion planning as well (the in-restaurant menu is much more limited in this regard).
During our first visit, we crafted a meal with a meat pie, joll of rice (spelling as listed on the menu- jollof rice is the typical name), chicken wings in red sauce, amala (yam flour roll), and gbegiri (bean stew) as a means to try a bit from the various sections of the menu.
The meat pie was a solidly sized hand pie full of ground beef, potato, vegetables, and spices with a nicely baked exterior. We appreciated the rich spices in this one and it really set the stage for the spices that were to follow in our following dishes. While you could easily order one pie per person and be happy (two would be a solid lunch outright), it was also big enough that we could split one for a few bites each.
The amala and gbegiri were two dishes that we decided to pair together as yam roll was a perfect vehicle for dipping into the stew. The flour roll was quite chewy, sticky even, and somewhat neutral in flavor (lighter hints of yam than we expected) but allowed for the richly flavored stew to shine through with every bite. This one was richly spiced, had a lot of complexity going on, and was perhaps our favorite item of the meal.
As these two dishes are served for more communal style dining (and since the roll is quite sticky), the restaurant also served a big bowl of cold water to rinse your hands off in between bites. Finger food at its finest and a practice we can truly get behind as our hands were simply covered in the sticky yam roll with every bite.
The joll of rice felt more like an entree with two modest pieces of beef in a spicy red sauce served with a heaping serving of rice. Really if there was any slight letdown in our meal it was just how disproportionately sized this one was- it was virtually all rice with just a few bites of beef. We really just wanted a whole lot more meat despite enjoying the flavor overall.
Finally, we ended the meal with an order of chicken drum sticks served in red sauce. This one did not have the same problem as the joll of rice. It was a monster plate of fried chicken drumsticks covered in a similarly tasting tangy and slightly spicy red sauce. While we quite enjoyed the red sauce coating, the real winner of this dish was the fried exterior. If you like crunchy chicken, well, you certainly won't be disappointed with this one in the slightest.
Overall, African Cuisine in Squirrel Hill checks a number of boxes for us as a restaurant. A cuisine style from a part of the world that is woefully underrepresented, delicious dishes, and a huge menu are just a few of them. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately depending on how you look at it), African Cuisine's menu is also so large that we really would need three or four visits to even start doing this one justice and we look at our first visit as more like a teaser getting us into the world of Nigerian cuisine.
We consider this a good problem and cannot wait to eat our way through the menu on our next visit!
African Cuisine is located at 2032 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
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