Just moved here from Africa? The center of Philadelphia’s Ethiopian, Senegalese, Malian and many other African communities, West Philly boasts a plethora of African restaurants that will have you feeling right at home.
4317 Chestnut St.
Price Range: $$
Order: Coktail, Chicken or Lamb Dibi, Poulet Senegal
Info: Does not accept credit/debit cards, All meat is Halal.
Tucked next to a failing porn shop in a crumbling strip mall, Kilimanjaro Restaurant may at first put off the typical well–groomed Penn student. But its authentic, mind–blowing Senegalese and West African homestyle cooking makes up for any of its cosmetic shortcomings.
The interior of Kilimanjaro is a drastic contrast from the outside — every wall, including the ceiling, is painted a vibrant red and decorated with traditional wooden masks and textiles. The restaurant is a family–run affair, and the proprietress immediately greeted my friends and I warmly, though we arrived just thirty minutes before closing time.
The menu she handed us was sparse, though diverse. For the daring, there is the “coktail” ($2.50) – a mixture of ginger juice, bissap (hibiscus tea), and Senegalese sweet tea, though you can also BYO.
We began with fatayas ($1.50 each), which, though pretty much like generic samosas, were fried to crunchy perfection and stuffed generously with slightly spicy ground beef. The true shining point of Kilimanjaro, however, was the main entree. I ordered the Dibi Chicken ($10), and the serving was so enormous it seemed like the entire chicken had arrived on the plate. There was a mix of dark and white meat, grilled with a crisp, seasoned skin and juicy, tender interior. The creamy onion salsa that topped it had a spicy bite that enhanced the chicken’s richness. The kitchen had run out of fried plantains, so the chicken was accompanied by a heaping bowl of couscous soaking up a savory onion gravy.
Although the food was amazing, some aspects of the service could have been improved. For some reason, half of our party was not provided with knives, so we tore apart the chicken with our fingers (yes, it was that good). In addition, the service was not consistent — not only was it a tad slow, but also not everyone’s dishes arrived at the same time, and other customers, who had ordered significantly after us, received their entrees first. A very emotional (and graphic) season finale of Fringe was also playing on the large–screen TV, which was a jarring juxtaposition with the rest of the atmosphere. However, these inconsistencies are minor in comparison to the quality and quantity of the food being offered.
For anyone willing to take the road less traveled, or any gourmand on a budget, Kilimanjaro is a great introduction to Senegalese food. And after your meal, make sure to check out the neighboring porn shop, Risqué, where all DVD’s are on sale for the low, low price of $10.
For a longer list of African Restaurants nearby, click here.