This Sh*t's Delicious

Exploring the world through cocktails, shit hole restaurants, and UrbanAg

Review of Africana Eatery & Cheers Pub

Summary: While we purely checked out this place for its quirky name, it quickly became apparent to TSD that Africana Eatery is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. 


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Seriously, the only reason we checked this place out was cause of the hilarious name. That’s it. After the disastrous Calgary vs. Pittsburgh game, I suggested to Kent that we check out this place for early dinner. He didn’t even hesitate when he said yes.

Located outside the central Indian district of Falconridge, Africana is actually two steps from the massive Canada Post facility in the NE, off of Airport Blvd NE. It looked pretty ghetto/industrial from the outside, just like a good hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant should. The mystery of the “& Cheers Pub” became clear once we got there: it was a pub attached to the restaurant by the same owner. It served the same food, in a pub-type setting…kinda similar to the whole Wicked Chilli situation.

The restaurant interior was a pleasant surprise – less hole-in-the-wall, more family-type restaurant. It wasn’t anything too memorable, except that it was actually quite nice and pleasant. Unfortunately, I seemed to have forgotten/neglected to take photos…The current owner is of Indian descent, but originally hailing from Tanzania. Apparently, he first moved to Toronto and then eventually to yyc, where he drove buses for Calgary Transit for a year. Didn’t like it too much, so he got into the restaurant business.

What Africana lacked in decor and ambiance, it made up in its menu, which was quite extensive, and covered not only East African, but North Indian and Hakka cuisines as well. The first thing the server did after she took our orders was to drop off a thali with all kinds of delicious Indian chutneys like yogurt, coconut, tamarind, and some special hot sauce from hell that even I was scared to try (honestly, chilli powder in water anyone?).

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Unfortunately for me, most of the East African dishes were non-vegetarian, so I couldn’t try any of the main courses. However, the appetizers looked pretty mouth-watering and I ended up ordering the Nairobi Bhajia (potatoes coated with flour and fried until crispy, golden brown) and Mogo (cassava fries) with Pili-Pili sauce.

Both the bhajia and the mogo looked delicious, but they tasted even better. I was floored by how delicious the appetizers were. The bhajia were perfectly spiced and battered. I tried them with almost all of the chutney’s but my favourite combination was probably with the tamarind chutney. The mogo fries also turned out to be delicious with a magnificent and satisfying crunch that was complimented by the spicy/tangy paprika sauce – they reminded Richard & I of the sweet chilli potato fries at Singh & I. So good.

Surprised to see a hakka component to their offerings, I couldn’t help but order the vegetarian Hakka noodles. I love this shit…I don’t know why. I guess it’s probably the years of eating Indian Maggi noodles that marry the concept of Chinese noodle dishes with distinctly Indian spices. Anyways, regular readers might remember the Wicked Chilli review where I pretty much trashed their version of the hakka noodles.

 Africana’s version was a 100x better. There was a right proportion of noodles to veggies; it wasn’t overly salty or greasy and you generally taste both Chinese and Indian flavours in the dish. Although I was already pretty full, I couldn’t stop shoving this sh*t into my mouth!

Richard’s Ruminations

I arrived a bit later than the other two, but was just in time to dig in to “Chuma’s World Famous Beef Ribs,” which are short ribs that you can get in a variety of wing flavours (eg. mild/medium/hot/suicide, honey garlic, teriyaki, etc.).  We got sweet-chilli flavoured ones, which fit pretty well – they were nice and tender and the serving size seemed reasonably generous.  As Kiran mentioned, the pili pili mogo was pretty kickass – and also reminded me that I still need to check out Nando’s (perhaps the most prolific purveyor of piri-piri chicken known to man).  I’m guessing pili-pili and piri-piri refer to the same pepper, but maybe that’s just because I’m Asian.

The menu appears to be mostly Indian-based (including the hakka dishes – I don’t understand why these seem to be all the rage these days), but reminding me of the way that “Chifa” restaurants in Peru are Chinese-based – where Peru seemed to have a decent amount of Chinese immigrants, east Africa had Indians.  The immigrants kept their style of cooking but utilized local ingredients – in this case, using things like cassava and pili pili chillies.  It’s a pretty successful melding, I’d say.  As their sign out front says, they do also serve several “western” dishes such as cheeseburgers and Philly cheesesteaks – handy in case there’s a picky eater in your group of friends (though I have no idea how good their burgers are).

Kent and I split a mixed thali, which had both meat and veg curries, along with tandoori chicken – it was a hell of a lot of food for one person, so I think we made the right choice by splitting.  Surprisingly the server asked us how spicy we wanted it – I wonder if they you ask for spicier whether they just grind in some more piri piri chillies into your curries?  It was pretty solid overall, though the roti was hardly a substitute for proper Indian naan.  On the plus side, the roti and rice came standard with the meal – none of that BS where you think prices look good until you realize that rice is $4.  On the downside, if you’re on the Atkin’s diet the carbs might go to waste.

Kent’s Two Cents

For an appy, I ordered a plate of beef ribs. I had to: they claimed they were world famous. They weren’t the spare ribs you would expect at a pub, but were larger beef short ribs. And you definitely get bang for your buck, not only are the ribs big and meaty (that’s what she said?), but you get a big plate of it. It could have been a full meal if I wanted it to, but I was leaving some room for an actual entree. Oh and they tasted great. Might not be the best I have had, but you get awesome value and a big selection of flavours to choose from. Some of the cuts are slightly fatty though. Oh well they are ribs.

Also an appy, the mogo fries. Also delicious. Crispy and dipped in Indian spices with tomato sauce. If you have been to Safari Grill, they are pretty much the same. I would get this stuff all the time if they served it in pubs and other watering holes.

The mix thali was made of a beef curry, chicken curry, 2 veggie curries, BBQ chicken, samosa, rice, roti, and gulab jamun as dessert. So yeah, its a lot of food for what you’re paying. Since I already scarfed down most of the beef ribs, Richard and I decided to split this one in half. Though for a single person, the mix thali alone would make you quite full. Everything was satisfying, and I wouldn’t hesitate to come again if someone asked, but I was less impressed with the main than the ribs and mogo fries. I was probably oversaturated by all the different tastes and got tired, haha.

Summary

What’s interesting is that the current owner used to co-own/run Safari Grill with his brother before they decided to part ways. Kent mentioned how similar the dishes were between the two restaurants..I guess it wasn’t creative differences that caused them to part ways…family problems?

At the end of the day though, I was blown-away. Africana is definitely a hidden gem in Calgary that must be on your “to check-out” list.

If you want to know more about East African/Indian inspired restaurants, check out the Safari Grill vs. Tiffin Curry eat-off organized by Chow down in Cow Town!

Ranking

Kiran Kent Richard
Ambiance 4/6 4/6 4/6
Service 4/6 4.5/6 3/6
Plating 4/6 4/6 4/6
Taste 6/6 5.5/6 5/6
Originality Authenticity 6/6 6/6 5/6
Value 5/6 5/6 4.5/6
Overall 29/36 = 81% 30/36 = 83% 25.5/36 = 71%

Africana Eatery & Cheers Pub on Urbanspoon

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2 responses to “Review of Africana Eatery & Cheers Pub

  1. Vincci November 29, 2011 at 15:35

    Looks delicious! I didn’t organize the Eat-Off, btw, it was my friend Anh aka http://www.icameforthefood.com – but thanks for the support!

    • kiransomanchi December 4, 2011 at 01:00

      Yeah, I guess I should have clarified that in the post. Anh seems to have heard about Africana as well, so hopefully she will check it out soon. It would be interesting to see her thoughts on it.

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