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Best African food in Chicago

The best spots for African food include an Evanston Ethiopian stalwart and West African stews on the South Side


Addis Abeba is one of the best Chicago restaurants for African food.


Demera Ethiopian is one of the best Chicago restaurants for African food.

Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

Ethiopian Diamond is one of the best Chicago restaurants for African food.

Photograph: Julia Stotz

Ras Dashen is one of the best Chicago restaurants for African food.


Yassa is one of the best Chicago restaurants for African food.

Chicago's African food and drink scene centers around Ethiopian cuisine, and there are numerous excellent examples—we like Addis Abeba in Evanston for its combo plates, Demera Ethiopian for flaky sambusas and doro watt (plus coffee) at Ethiopian Diamond II, among other spots. To sample West African cuisine, a Senegalese chef is cooking up stews and other specialties at Yassa. Wherever you go, you'll be at one of the best Chicago restaurants for African food.

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Best African food in Chicago

Addis Abeba

The NU crowd supporting this stalwart knows the scoop: Use spongy injera bread to sop up everything on the stellar combo plates. Best selections include yeater kik wot (yellow split peas with garlic, cloves and cinnamon), yesiga wot (a spicy beef stew) and azifa (cold lentils with tomatoes and jalapeño). Food is served on a mesob—a single, large platter symbolizing intimacy and loyalty.

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Demera Ethiopian

The long wait for food at this Ethiopian spot in Uptown can be frustrating. But keep your cool: Once you get your hands on the flaky, lentil-filled sambusa, the kik alicha (mild yellow split peas transformed into a silky ginger-and-garlic–riddled puree) and cool kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartare), you’ll understand why everybody in the restaurant is so patient.

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Ethiopian Diamond II

The menu here is similar to the original, but this locale has later hours, Friday jazz, Sunday brunch, and traditional coffee and hand-washing ceremonies. At brunch, you’ll encounter plenty of traditional dishes at a buffet, including yemisir watt (spicy, savory lentils) and doro watt (ginger-kissed chicken legs falling apart under a spicy sauce)—all surprisingly good with that potent coffee.

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Rogers Park

Ras Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant

Critics' pick

Spinach sambusas—hot, crispy dumplings—are a fine way to start your meal. When you get to the main courses, be brave and try the fiery zilzil tibs, beef strips sautéed with peppers in berbere sauce, an Ethiopian specialty made with red peppers and cumin. Or go for the doro alicha, a fragrant, tender, milder chicken dish. This stuff is likely to induce a food coma, so snag a table with big, cushy chairs.

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The Senegalese chef at this eatery uses slow methods of cooking mingled with the flavors of West African spices to make Old World, yet innovative, dishes. Signature entrées include maffé, a thick stew of lamb with ground peanuts and habanero peppers, and the succulent chicken yassa, grilled chicken that’s marinated in mustard powder, vinegar and lemon juice. But we’d move mountains for the dakhine, seared lamb shank with onions, tomato paste and peanut butter.

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South Side