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African / Soul Food


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Sav's African Grill

Lexington has one purely African restaurant, and none serving 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.


Sav's offers a West African menu. There are only a dozen tables inside plus the outdoor garden, but owner manager Mamadou Savane has drawn quite a following, so it can get very crowded. Sav himself serves up the food from a dozen large bowls along the wall. The Lamb Raout, Cornish Hen, SAVory Wings, and Tilapia are excellent. We really like the Vegan Keke and Chicken Keke Salads (Keke is Cassava Couscous). We highly recommend the Fried Plantains. They're delicious, and filling enough to be a lunch all by themselves. Sav's Bowls are wonderful. The most spectacular are Peanut Goat and Ginger Chicken Meatballs, but there are various beef, chicken and vegetarian bowls, all made with palm oil, served over your choice of rice or fufu. Cups of Sav's Own Piment (Habanero) Sauce are always optional. There's Fataya (beef and mint in a pastry shell). Drinks include BeeSop (made from hibiscus and lemon), JinJon (ginger and pineapple) and various Beers. For Dessert there are amazing Ice Creams, like Hot Banana, Kentucky Coffee, and Lavender. African art hangs on the walls. Sav's is a serious, authentic African restaurant, the best example of this cuisine in the state. 630 East Main (diagonally across from the Fayette County Schools Offices).

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.
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