Africatown Restaurant Week opens in Southwest Philadelphia
African cuisine is the highlight of the Woodland Avenue commercial corridor, where most of the residents are from Africa and the Caribbean.Listen 1:02
Southwest Philadelphia has launched its own restaurant week, in an effort to show itself off as a destination for African food.
Africatown Restaurant Week spotlights 12 restaurants, 10 of which are on Woodland Avenue, a commercial corridor that has attracted many African immigrants and a high density of African grocery stores and restaurants.
Polling done by the nearby African Cultural Alliance of North America found 74% of its neighborhood residents are immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean. ACANA is actively developing the neighborhood as “Africatown.”
“When you look at African cuisine, we are new in this country. A lot of people didn’t get the chance to test African cuisine,” said Youma Ba, owner of Youma African Cuisine on Baltimore Avenue, which specializes in West African dishes like jollof rice and grilled lamb dibi.
“A lot of Americans eating Chinese food. They already eat Indian food. It’s not the same, but it’s kind of similar. Sometimes more spicy than other food,” she said.
The announcement of Africatown Restaurant Week took place at African Small Pot, a restaurant on Woodland Avenue, where owner and chef Abdarahmane Diop made sample platters of egusi, spiced potato greens with chicken, a thick peanut soup, and spiced cassava. All could be ladled onto a plate and eaten with a wad of pounded yam between your fingers.
Diop is originally from Mauritania of Fulani descent, and spent some time cooking in Milan, Italy. He also made a pan of lasagna, which he made certain a reporter taste.
“African food is healthy,” he said. “Whatever we cook today is gone today. Tomorrow we cook ago, we cook fresh.”
Diners can get a 15% discount on participating restaurants through Sunday, April 16. Diop made samples of what diners can expect if they go visit the participating restaurants:
- Le Baobab (5353 Woodland Ave.)
- Ecowas (6421 Woodland Ave.)
- Africa Small Pot (6133 Woodland Ave.)
- Jam Rock Jamaican (6155 Woodland Ave.)
- Sahara Restaurant (6528 Woodland Ave.)
- Le Mandinque (6620 Woodland Ave.)
- Taste is Yours (5411 Woodland Ave.)
- Ackee Tree (6631 Woodland Ave.)
- 4 Seasons Cafe (6643 Woodland Ave.)
- Pete’s Pizza (6047 Woodland Ave.)
- Abyssinia (229 S. 45th St.)
- Youma (4519 Baltimore Ave.)
While taking advantage of African Restaurant Week, visitors will also notice flags of 54 African countries are hung from light poles along the Woodland Avenue corridor.
Stanely Straughter, chair of the African Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, said Africantown Restuarant Week is designed to provide an opportunity people in Philadelphia “to know about Africa, Africatown, and the opportunity for them to see this wonderful, diverse, rich cultural activity we have in this part of the city.”
“Africatown Restaurant Week is part of the whole Africatown vision,” he said.
Over the last 10 years, Woodland Avenue has seen more than 30 new stores open, according to Musa Barry, president of the Woodland Avenue Business Association. Barry himself owns five grocery stories featuring African foods.
“Any time we need something from Africa, we come to him,” said Diop, a longtime customer of Barry’s. “If he not have it, in the next one or two weeks he going to order them to come from Africa.”
The Africatown initiative is not just food. Straughter said ground is expected to break in the next several weeks on the African Center, a six-story building at 55th and Chester that will house business offices, a healthcare clinic, immigration services. The capital project has been helped with a $9 million state grant.
ACANA has plans to develop more buildings as part of Africatown, including a technology and innovation center, a performing arts center, and a trade center.
Straughter is also looking forward to 2026, when Philadelphia will celebrate the nation’s 250 anniversary, and the World Cup will bring soccer fans from around the world to the nearby Lincoln Financial Field.
“There’s at least 10 African teams going to be in the World Cup,” he said. “We have Black people coming from all over the world to visit with us and they’ll go to other places, but they will also come to Africatown.”
ACANA and the Woodland Avenue Business Association intend to make Africatown Restaurant Week a regular event, perhaps two or three times a year.
Saturdays just got more interesting.
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