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Afrobites Embraces Authenticity

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten my fair share of fantastic food throughout Arkansas. And I am never hesitant to share those moments with you. But it’s rare to have an occasion that truly stands out above the rest. I refer to these as “food moments”–times when you know deep within your soul that you’re eating something special. My first glazed donut from Spudnuts was one of them, as was that initial bite of Wright’s brisket.

Well, I’d now include my inaugural trip to Afrobites, the food trailer located at 1702 Wright Avenue, as a true “food moment.” Granted, my experience with eating African food is somewhat limited; in fact, I can probably count the number of times on one hand. But I know great food when I taste it, and Pap Diop and Madere Toure, co-owners of Afrobites, are making outstanding eats.

And they’ve only been in business a few months.

“Being blessed with the opportunity to come to the United States from Senegal for college, we have realized that the one thing that we were really missing, and was hard to find in Arkansas, was African food. So, little by little, we taught ourselves how to make African dishes, and the feedback we were getting from our friends, co-workers, and people to us was just amazing. We realized that we had a gift and wanted to create a profitable business, but more importantly than that, we wanted to be able to give back to the community and share our African culture through food,” says Pap Dior.

His partner agrees.

“One of the main inspirations was being able to give back to the community by sharing a part of our culture, a part of who we are. Food builds bridges and shrinks cultural gaps. We were raised [with the belief] that anything we are blessed with deserves and needs to be shared,” says Madere Toure.

If you’re looking to pin down their food to one region or country, think again.

“We’ll bring a taste of different countries and region of Africa. We want to bring a bit from different regions with our specials, but our first flavor profile is rooted from Senegal and West Africa. It’s a big continent and we are trying to bring to the forefront different flavors. Our inspiration is more than a region or a country, but rather it comes from our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and generations of cooks that brought us the taste we grew up with. Now we want to honor them by sharing that to our customers,” says Toure.

And that they do. First-timers should expect bold, yet not overpowering flavors. Everything I tried had such a nice balance of spices. And that included the most popular dish at Afrobites, the lamb shank with fried rice. At $15 for the plate, it’s a mountain of food, highlighted by fall-off-the-bone lamb meat that pairs wonderfully the fried rice laced with sauteed onion. You get two sides with the dish, and I opted for the black-eyed pea stew and Ethiopian cabbage. While I absolutely loved the peas, it was the subtle taste of thicker cut, greenish-yellow cabbage that I enjoyed even more. I hate overcooked cabbage, so I appreciate how this version still had a nice bite to it.

My second entrée, Suya Chicken, was every bit as delightful as the lamb. This dish included heavily seasoned chicken kebabs resting on a reddish bed of sticky rice. I had never eaten anything like it. And the two dishes, along with the sides, left me excited about a future visit.

Next time around, I plan on trying out the okra stew, collard greens, and plantains. Maybe wash it all down with some refreshing hibiscus tea. No matter what I eat at Afrobites, something tells me I will enjoy it.

Cheers to “food moments.”

Afrobites
1702 Wright Ave (Little Rock)
Phone: 501-483-8721
Hours: Days/hours vary (please check social media)

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Kevin Shalin is a food writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Sara, and two daughters, Natalie (12) and Sydney (7). He started his own blog, The Mighty Rib, seven years ago while living in Houston. Six months later, he began writing for Eating Our Words, a Houston Press food blog. After a year in Boston, he moved to Little Rock, where he’s been for almost five years. During that time, he’s written for Little Rock Soiree, Rock City Eats, Treatsie, and Bourbon and Boots.

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