Finding fare from world-away Africa is easy in the Puget Sound area where the East African population (currently around 40,000) is quickly expanding. In fact, about 55,000 East Africans and 78,000 immigrants from the African continent now call Washington state home.
Tukwila’s Spice Bridge, a food hall operated by nonprofit Global to Local, allows diners to connect with a tapestry of tastes in a light-filled space. The hall is colored by the poetry display “Stories of Arrival” created by refugee students from Foster High School. As part of the Food Innovation Network, this food business incubator helps south King County women of color and immigrants launch and develop their businesses.
Currently four vendors are serving up African tastes at this location:
Beef stew and chicken mayo are top kid hits at Taste of Congo, as are deep-fried beignets (mikate in Congolese) for dessert. Afella Jollof Catering focuses on Senegambian food — dishes from Senegal and Gambia that enjoy a shared culture and cuisine.
Blackstar Kebab offers authentic Ghanaian food on-the-go; think kebabs (chicken, beef, lamb) and vegetarian options served from a roving food truck. Kids Combo includes smaller, spiceless portions of chicken kebab with jollof rice and sweet red plantains.
More African restaurants
Further north in Seattle’s Central District, Cafe Selam (“Cafe Peace” in Amharic) prepares Ethiopian cuisine with a Middle Eastern twist in a family-friendly environment. Kids will especially love getting their hands on the housemade injera (spongy bread).
Whereas these smaller eateries offer simple decor, others create a robust visual escape, too. At Marrakesh in downtown Seattle, diners are instantly whisked away to a Moroccan-style tent.
Billowy fabric hanging from the ceiling helps create the worlds-away ambiance, as do the low-lit walls covered in red, blue and gray Moroccan rugs, goatskin poufs and lounging couches, plus short tables with intricate wood inlay. Then there are the table rituals — like the invitation to eat your five-course meal with fingers versus utensils. The belly dancer adds even more allure.
Seattle dad Curt Small found Marrakesh to be a unique parent-teen date spot, during a recent special outing with 16-year-old daughter Olivia.
“It was like a short trip away from the mundanity of the weekend, a magic door leading away from the gray streets of Seattle,” Small says. It proved a great way to introduce his daughter to another world culture, too.
“The food was amazing,” Olivia says. “The waiter poured water into our hands and had us wash them before dinner and (that) made me curious about the customs in Morocco and if that is something they do [during dinner].” A Stadium High School (Tacoma) student, Olivia says that the dramatic after-dinner tea pour and belly dancer added to the evening’s “genuine and authentic” feel. She thought it was a wonderful introduction to this north African country.
Both dad and daughter were impressed by the dinnertime dancer, but realized they have homework to do before visiting again.
“I kind of didn’t know how to show her the support for her dance,’’ says Olivia. “I wasn’t sure if it was rude to clap or to stand up while she was dancing.”
Added Curt Small, “I realized I know nothing about that tradition — something to look up later!”
More eating out with kids in Seattle’s Child