Called “Pittsburgh’s Taste of Africa” on theirs website, African Cuisine – Pittsburgh’s newest specialty restaurant – shares a slice of Nigerian culture with the locals.
African cuisine is located on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill and serves a variety of authentic Nigerian dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. African Cuisine became Pittsburgh’s first Nigerian restaurant when it opened on Saturday. In addition to dinner, the restaurant offers delivery via Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub. Major Bill Peduto Visited for dinner on opening day.
Saudat Lawal, a Nigerian native who runs the restaurant, decided to open a Nigerian restaurant in Pittsburgh after discovering there were no options for African food in the city.
“I lived in Rhode Island for 20 years before moving to Pittsburgh, and when I got to Pittsburgh I realized there were no African restaurants,” Lawal said. “I realized that this was a need I’d been expecting the longest, and it really made me want it.”
African cuisine currently serves over 65 dishes, most of which are from West Africa. According to Lawal, the restaurant plans to add dishes from other African countries to its menu in the near future. Lawal recommends everything on the menu, but she said she has a few favorites.
“We plan to include all other African countries over time,” said Lawal. “I will recommend everything. My favorites are jollof rice and fufu. “
Traditional Nigerian Jollof rice contains long grain rice, vegetables and spices while Fufu consists of cooked starchy foods that are shaped into balls and dipped in sauce.
Uchechi Uzoukwu, a sophomore biology student, is excited to open a Nigerian restaurant in Pittsburgh. As someone with Nigerian heritage, Uzoukwu is familiar with traditional African dishes.
“It just takes you out of your comfort zone and you can experience new things. I definitely think it adds to Pittsburgh and the experience you can actually have here, ”said Uzoukwu. “I think it’s really important that there is definitely an African aspect. As an African and as a Nigerian, that makes me very proud. “
Nigerian food is different from some other African dishes. Nigeria is made up of 36 different states and the seventh most populous country in the world. Lawal said that diversity is what makes Nigerian cuisine interesting.
“Nigeria is a huge country. In terms of ethnicity, we have different types of food and we can never run out of food – from the northern, southern, eastern and western parts, ”Lawal said. “That’s what makes Nigeria so special.”
Uzoukwu shares a similar view of Nigeria’s diverse culture. Uzoukwu said she was enjoying seeing different parts of Nigeria bring their own dishes to national dishes.
“It’s really interesting how to take these different ways of making food and the different cultures that make these foods differently,” said Uzoukwu.
By growing up, Lawal was familiar with the culinary industry – both her parents and grandparents owned a restaurant in Nigeria. Lawal’s sister, Tawakalit Enitan Aderemi said her family has always shown an interest in the restaurant business.
“We were born into the restaurant business. I was born in the restaurant business with all my family – my mother, my grandma, my father, ”Aderemi said. “We’re passionate about food and I love being in the kitchen all the time.”
Aderemi supported Lawal in opening the restaurant. Aderemi said she would like African cuisine to serve the best of African food to the locals.
“We want people to know that we are making the best of the best when they go to this restaurant,” Aderemi said. “We have a passion for food and making people happy. We don’t want anyone to be hungry. “
Many Americans are unfamiliar with traditional African dishes. Uzoukwu said she wants African cuisine to end the stereotypes about African food that she experienced in her youth.
“There are stereotypes that surround it. One hope that African and Nigerian communities and Pittsburgh can have when it comes to this restaurant is that maybe these assumptions of [African] Food, smells and spices are changed or expanded, ”said Uzoukwu.
In addition to owning and managing African cuisine, Lawal works as a nurse. She said planning the restaurant’s opening while balancing her career during the COVID-19 pandemic had been challenging.
“It’s a lot of work. But right now we’re planning the opening,” Lawal said. That’s my philosophy. “
As the first Nigerian restaurant in Pittsburgh, African cuisine offers residents something new to try. Lawal said she hopes others will partake of what Nigerian culture has to offer.
“The best thing is that you just tell everyone to come over and see for yourself,” said Lawal. “Because it’s very different to writing things down and reading them than actually seeing and experiencing them. It is a place that you go and that you will have a tempting taste. “