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African / Soul Food

Lexington

okra 01.jpg
Sav's African Grill
House of Soul

Lexington has one purely African restaurant, and one claiming to serve Soul Food. With bright sun and a year round hot, humid climate, Africa is full of plants producing a rich mix of foods, and its natives have evolved their unique cuisine over several thousand years. African cuisine makes heavy use of rice and plantain. Plaintain is a large green vegetable much like a banana, which can be mashed or dried. Cassava is a favorite plant native to the Ivory Coast but now raised domestically all over Africa. It is dried and pulverized to produce Attieke, used in salads or as an additive to meats. Goat is an easily raised domestic animal which can graze on less grass than cattle or sheep and produces a meat low in cholesterol and high in protein, very lean, tender and tasty. Conchs are found along the coast and their meat is used in soups, salads or as an entree. "Pulling" meat is a favorite African technique. It involves cooking over low heat for a long time so it becomes tender enough to tease apart into shreds. Often the heat involves smoking and in the process some sort of flavoring is rubbed in. Africa offers exotic coffees, ginger beers, and pineapple and lime drinks. If you're into something more alcoholic, they have those, too. African food is not expensive; in that regard it is much like Mexican.

shrimpgrits
Atomic Grille

Sav's Grill offers a West African menu. You order at one counter, move down to the pickup counter, take your tray and find a table. There are only a dozen tables but owner manager Mamadou Savane has drawn quite a following, so lunch hour can get very crowded. Sav himself serves up the food from a dozen large bowls along the wall. The Lamb Ragout, Cornish Hen and, on weekends, Ribs, are excellent. We really like the Attie'ke' ("Kay Kay") Salad. We highly recommend the Fried Plantains. They're delicious, but you get a dozen and they're filling enough to be a lunch all by themselves. The bowls are wonderful. The most spectacular is the Peanut Goat with Fufu, but there are various beef, chicken and vegetarian bowls, all made with palm oil. You can choose rice, couscous or fufu as the base of any bowl. Cups of Piment (Habanero) Sauce are always optional. Beverages are part of the adventure. The coffee is interesting and there are fruit sodas and Jamaican ginger beer. African art hangs on the walls. Sav's is a very serious, authentic African restaurant, the best example of this cuisine in the state.

 

There's not a true Soul Food restaurant anywhere in Kentucky. Soul Food means Porgies, Fatback, Ham Hocks, Hog Jowls, Giblets, Chitlins, Pork Ribs, Shrimp & Grits, Catfish, Hoppin John, Black Eyed Peas, Collards, Mustard Greens, Okra, Sweet Potatoes, Turnip Greens, Cornbread, Grits, Hoecakes, Hush Puppies, Peach Cobbler, Chicken Fried Steak and Sweet Potato Pie. From that foundation, Soul Food may differ regionally. Plantation cabins in Kentucky, South Carolina and Louisiana added their own local specialties, and in the 150 years since slavery, families may have continued to add to the menu. But the Soul Food Core remains the same. Sharecroppers was a wildly popular Soul Food restaurant, with loyal customers driving in from two hours in every direction, but the owners retired after a long run and no other restaurant has since opened to serve that market. There are five restaurants in the state claiming to serve Soul Food but Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Mac n Cheese and Green Beans are White Comfort Food, not Black Soul Food.
We're not sure what to make of House of Soul, on South Limestone a block and a half from Vine Street. We were hoping it would be the city's long awaited new Soul Food restaurant. It's not. It has only one entree, four sides and a dessert from a classic Soul Food kitchen. What it serves is Comfort Food. It does a very good job with Comfort Food, but if you go hoping for Hoppin John, Collards, Okra and Sweet Potato Pie you'll be disappointed. However, the Cheese Potato Soup, Beef Vegetable Soup and Chicken Noodle Soup are all good. The signature entrees are the Chicken Waffle (three large wings on a Belgian waffle), Meat Loaf (100% real beef loaf and homemade tomato sauce), and Shrimp & Grits (cheese grits and shrimp in tomatoes and scallions with a spicy sauce) and they're all worth ordering. Sides include Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Kale, Cabbage and Mac & Cheese. The Peach Cobbler is the best of the desserts. We advise going early in each dining cycle because they tend to run out of food, especially of the more popular items. They can also fill up quickly, as this is not a large facility. Service can be slow. The menu is limited, so repeat customers quickly exhaust it. The owner and staff are young and learning on the job. This is a great location and they have a lot of locals hoping they succeed. House of Soul
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