SK African Cuisine proves is a rare discovery flying under the radar| Grub Scout

SK African Cuisine proves is a rare discovery flying under the radar| Grub Scout

The other day, The Grub Spouse asked me if I’d heard of SK African Cuisine. Spousey had seen it mentioned online somewhere. It’s only been open for a few months, but until that moment, I had not heard of the restaurant. Even now, their most prominent web presence is via Grub Hub, which offers delivery of their food.

Between the unique food category and the fact that I’ve been digging extra deep to find new restaurants to try, I shuffled SK right to the top of the queue. My schedule cornered me into having to do a lunch outing, and since The Spouse was unavailable, I took this assignment on solo. SK is located in a strip plaza on Western Avenue, not far from the I-640 interchange.

Evidently, they do all of their business via delivery and carryout. I’m not sure if that was their intended business model or if it’s because of the pandemic (although I did notice tables and chairs stacked against one side of the main room). I seemed to catch the owners off guard when I walked in last week and started asking questions about their menu, with the intention of placing an order. I explained that I hadn’t wanted to call in because I didn’t know much about their food and wanted to be able to ask questions. The male half of the duo handed me a carryout menu and explained unfamiliar items to me.

Main entrée items include fried or grilled fish, fried or grilled chicken, and skewered beef or chicken. The menu specifically mentions snapper and pomfret fish, but the couple informed me snapper was not available that day. Tilapia was apparently my only fish option. They were also temporarily out of chicken. Side dishes include jollof rice, beans and rice, and attieke, which is made from cassava – a root vegetable that very much resembles couscous in texture.

Other items include okra soup with fufu rice, goat meat pepper soup with rice, potato greens with rice, lamb salad, several varieties of spaghetti, a mushroom burger and meat pies. I ordered two meals: steak skewers with jollof rice ($8.99) and roasted tilapia with attieke ($10.99). I also ordered a meat pie just for kicks. I was told my order would be ready in about 20 minutes. I killed a chunk of that time in the Grubmobile, and I spent a few minutes browsing the other component of the business, which is a small African-food market. The shelves are stocked with all kinds of grains, legumes, cooking oils, vegetables and meats that are common to African cuisine.

When my order was ready, I paid at the counter and retired to the Grubmobile, where I went through my usual sanitation procedure before digging in right there in the parking lot. I started with the fish. When I opened the Styrofoam lid on the container, I was surprised to discover a whole tilapia – head, tail, fins and all. As such, some work was involved in extracting bites of meat that didn’t have a substantial number of bones in them. After consuming one side of the fish (I tried not to make eye contact with it), I concluded that the grilled tilapia meat was actually very tasty. I particularly liked the side of attieke, with its grainy texture and embellishment of diced onions.

I moved onto the other container and found three skewers loaded with char-grilled chunks of steak as well as diced onions and peppers. The beef wasn’t the tenderest cut, but the grilled flavor was very good. The very generous serving of reddish jollof rice embodied flavoring notes I’m not accustomed to finding in rice dishes, but it was still good. The small bits of peas and carrots mixed in with the rice were a unique twist.

After consuming half the steak meal, I called it a day. It was only then that I realized there was no meat pie in my to-go bag. And I remembered the man specifically telling the woman (I don’t think she spoke much English) that I had ordered a meat pie. On the plus side, they hadn’t charged me for it, so at that point, I decided to let that dog sleep.

So here’s a business that serves a style of cuisine that’s scarcely represented in East Tennessee, and they happened to launch just as a pandemic was paralyzing the food and beverage industry in America. On top of that, they don’t seem to have done much promotion to get their name in circulation. Hopefully, after this article, many of you will give SK African Cuisine a try. Any new business can use some support, but when the product is unique, tasty and well prepared, that support is even more than justified.

SK African Cuisine

Food: 4

Service: 3.5

Atmosphere: NA

Overall: 4

Address: 3627 Western Ave.

Phone: 865-444-1130

Ordering options: Delivery, carryout

No alcohol service

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 3 to 6 p.m. Sundays

This new eatery and market serves up a tastily authentic African-food experience.