A basket of injera bread at Blue Nile. Injera used as the main eating utensil (and is also made of teff, a complete protein that's naturally gluten-free).
Image: Katharine Shilcutt
One of Houston’s enduring outposts of Nigerian, Ghanaian, and other West African food, Afrikiko is beloved for both its food and the warm service from the friendly owners. The restaurant serves a variety of soups—our favorites include the ultra-spicy goat pepper variety with dusky goat meat and fiery cayenne pepper, as well as the silky-smooth peanut butter soup, which is sweet and mild and instantly addictive.
This family-owned restaurant has served as the heart of Houston’s Ethiopian restaurant scene since opening in 1984. The sunny, well-appointed dining room is usually busy. Prices on Ethiopian standards like doro wat and tibs may be a little high, but that’s because owner Tina Ameblue insists on importing her spices from back home, making the delicious dishes worth your dollars. Go all in and order tej—the sweet, fermented, slightly fizzy honey wine—to round out your feast.
First, that name: bukaterias are communal dining halls popular in Nigeria, while finger licking refers to the act of cleaning your fingers between bites of sticky fufu—a ball of dough made from pounded yam or cassava. Fufu is used the same way as injera bread in Ethiopian cuisine: as an edible utensil for scooping up stews and other dishes. Here, the most popular order is egusi—a hearty, peppery stew made from melon seeds, fish, tomatoes, onions, and spices, though thanks to Nigeria being a former British colony, you’ll also find items like homemade sausage rolls and meat pies.
Lucy offers a more modern approach to Ethiopian cuisine, with a chic, high-ceilinged restaurant that often turns into a full-fledged dance club by night (though you can still eat at mesobs, or traditional Ethiopian tables, around the fully-stocked bar and dance floor). Owner Suzani Grant is often on hand to guide newcomers through the menu, whether they’re there for the giant qinttot platters that offer a combo plate of the restaurant’s Ethiopian specialties or less traditional dishes like the curry-basil chicken.
A boerewors roll at Springbok.
Image: Katharine Shilcutt
It’s tough to tell which is the biggest draw at the popular Peli Peli: the striking dining room anchored by a two-story “tree” that shifts colors throughout the night, the stunning South African cuisine made by chef Paul Friedman, or the gregarious Friedman himself. But any way you look at it, you’ll find yourself charmed by the place, whether gorging on the meat lover’s mixed grill (which comes with boerewors sausage and pap and gravy, among other items) at dinner or brunching with bobotie egg crepes and Peli Peli bellinis on the busy patio overlooking the fountain plaza at Vintage Park.
As much a pub and sports bar as a South African restaurant, Springbok is an ideal spot to unwind after work or meet friends to catch a game (whether football or rugby) over slap chips (South African for french fries) and pints. At dinner, look for updated twists on traditional favorites, like a boerewors sausage roll made with beef and pork belly, served with onions cooked down in Saint Arnold Lawnmower, or chicken sosaties (skewers) with a piquant peppadew relish.
Bring a bunch of friends, order a round of beers, and settle in at Suya Hut for a meal that’s a fun, if spicy, introduction to northern Nigerian food—especially suya. The skewers come in a variety of meats (beef, chicken, and shrimp), but all are marinated in the spicy blend of peanuts, ginger, paprika, and habanero. Slightly less spicy is the jollof rice, cooked down with tomatoes, onions, and red pepper, and served here with sweet fried plantains. For something with less of a bite, try the cool, crunchy peanut-and-cilantro-laced lansirsalad.