The Best West African Restaurants In Houston guide image


The Best West African Restaurants In Houston

Because there isn’t a problem that jollof rice can’t fix.

With one of the largest populations of West African immigrants in the country, it’s no surprise that West African cuisine is a crucial component of Houston’s food scene. From Nigerian to Cameroonian to Senegalese (with a little Caribbean influence here and there), there’s no shortage of smoky jollof rice, fluffy fufu, or rich groundnut soup. Here are some of the best West African restaurants in the city.


Afrikiko Restaurant

We don’t fully understand how all of the magic that happens at the Westwood restaurant Afrikiko is contained by four walls. At this Ghanaian spot you’re taken care of with a bowl of warm water for hand-washing between dishes. There are few other places making meat pies that welcome you like a guest of honor and serve great jollof. The dishes here are exceptional—from rich, nutty banku served with fluffy fufu to groundnut soup with tilapia that makes us question if we’ve ever truly tasted tilapia before this. 

The glow of ChòpnBlọk’s neon sign in the Post Market food hall downtown is as noticeable as the crowd out front. All of those people are here for good food. ChopnBlok serves a casual spin on West African dishes worth braving a chaotic food hall for. Get the golden bowl, where savory-sweet kelewele, refreshing coconut curry, and smoky jollof jambalaya party together in the same dish. ChòpnBlọk might reel you in with the free samples, but stick around for the Tobe Nwigwe records and yaji spices that tickle the tongue.

Dakar Street Food is a counter-service spot in Westchase that serves Senegalese and Caribbean food that hit the spot. It's primarily a takeout operation, with people flowing in and out for quick lunches, like smoky grilled poisson braise or braised oxtail and golden plantains. But whatever time it is, this is the place to head to for a comforting meal after a long day. And with any meal, you should get the sweet passion fruit drink or tart bissap and a side of warm beignets.

Like many restaurants in the Galleria neighborhood, Aria Suya Kitchen has the energy of a semi-exclusive club. Mostly thanks to plush booths and the latest Afrobeat tunes playing throughout the restaurant. As fabulous as the decor may be, you're here for the food—like earthy egusi soup, beef-filled meat pies, and our favorite, the sizzling suya. Suya platters overflow with meat and wings, and a suya spice shaker sits on every table in case anyone needs to turn up the heat. This place is designed for you to stay awhile, so come here when you want to shoot the breeze over palm wine with a couple of friends. And if you’re at Aria Suya Kitchen Wednesday-Sunday and want to keep the party going, head to their connected lounge to hang out, smoke hookah, and have a cocktail or two.

Instead of the typical suya coated in dry spices, at Suya Hut in Alief, it's doused in a spicy suya glaze. Suya here is sold by the stick, so grab a couple of each, with special attention to the chicken and shrimp varieties. This spot is mostly a takeout operation, so come here when you need a quick bite or when you want to enjoy your meal in a quiet environment. Find a chair and get comfortable before diving into the grilled meats. 

Come to Jollof Rice King in the Galleria on a mission to stuff as much of the smoky, spiced jollof into your body as is physically possible. The spice from the suya skewers might turn your meal into mission impossible, but any of the malt drinks will help finish the job. The space is mostly just a counter with a few tables on the side. But the food here, especially the jollof and the suya, are why this place has crowned itself king.

Going to Safari, a Nigerian restaurant in Westchase, is sort of like stumbling into a dinner party, with locals hanging out and shooting the breeze over kola nuts. The most exciting part of your dinner will be the food that hits your table, so make yourself comfy and order the flaky, spiced tilapia, and make sure to get a side of smoky and spicy jollof rice. Spend enough time here, and you’ll be drinking orijin beer and picking fish bones clean like you’re a long-time regular.

The Alief restaurant Chez Michelle feels like attending an intimate concert that happens to serve stellar Cameroonian food. Loungy leather couches line the walls, facing a huge performance space on the side of the room. Even though the live Cameroonian music is a weekend-only event, the food—like smoky drum fish covered in crisp onions—is a showstopper every day of the week. And adding an Orijin beer will have you acting like a regular on your first visit. Since Chez Michelle is open until midnight daily, this makes for the perfect late-night spot when you need a bowl of warm ndole soup with fresh shrimp to finish off your night.

You might think you’re walking into a nightclub when you step into Baba Jollof in Alief, but outside of the blue mood lighting and glossy couches, this Nigerian restaurant is unpretentious and cozy. Even though the name is Baba Jollof, stick to the smoky beef suya or the goat pepper soup, which is full of habanero peppers and scotch bonnet that team up to test the strength of your spice tolerance. During the day, most folks come to Baba Jollof for a quick takeout lunch, but come during the evening if you want to make the most of the dramatic purple mood lighting, and eat a sinus-clearing soup in what feels like a secret club.

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photo credit: Liz Silva

The Best West African Restaurants In Houston guide image