Traditional African Food in Las Vegas
Taking a trip to Vegas has long been on my bucket list and before I head on vacation, I like to
check out the history of my destination. Las Vegas has a rich and winding history. Once
inhabited mostly by railroad workers and ranchers, the city had a reputation for fast living, and
with this lifestyle, drinking and card games. This reputation saw an enormous rise in speakeasies
and illegal casinos.
After a while casinos became legal once again and with enormous building and regeneration
projects taking place across the city, business boomed. New casinos and cabarets seemed to be
popping up everywhere and by the late 1940s Highway 91 was well on its way to becoming The
Strip that we know today. Las Vegas’ name was sealed as a tourist destination by the 60s, when
fans would visit to see the likes of Elvis and Frank Sinatra perform.
By the 90s Vegas was home to 13 of the biggest 20 hotels on the planet and nowadays receives
around 40 million visitors annually. It’s a must visit for anyone who wants to experience that big
city feel, or even try their luck at the slots. However, here we’re only interested in the food, so if
you wanted a travel guide to Las Vegas for your next casino spree, then there are plenty of other
sites to check out! So without further ado, here’s my guide to the best African food you’re likely
to find in Vegas.
Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant
A reliable favourite of mine is Merkato, one of the few really good chain restaurants around. The
Las Vegas joint was no exception, offering a big (but not disconcertingly big) menu full of
traditional Ethiopian flavours. Honestly, I love a nice piece of meat, but the vegetarian platter
here is so good and so plentiful that I’d struggle to choose anything else!
There are eight or nine different veggie based dishes, some refreshing salads, others fiery curries.
Everything is served as it should be on injera, which you use to eat with instead of knives and
forks. I’d recommend a cup of Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine; it goes beautifully with curry as its
sweet and soothing on the palate. The best news? A truly enormous meal, a glass of wine and a
coffee set me back less than $20. Can’t say fairer than that!
Nigerian Cuisine by Folaf
If jollof rice is on the menu then I always order it. I find the simplest dishes are usually the best
judge of a restaurant and this place does the perfect Nigerian jollof rice. The food here isn’t super
spicy, so as not to alienate the largely Western clientele, so be sure to ask for it hot. They’re
pretty accommodating for people with dietary requirements – and extra accommodating for those
who just want a really large portion; perfect!
It’s nice to see pounded yam on the menu as it doesn’t get more comfort food than yam. They
serve all of their rice dishes with a meat stew, with the goat being my personal favourite. The
other dishes come with a simple soup with a choice of veggies. Whilst a main course here is
more than enough to fill you up, try to save room for some ‘snacks’; the suya is only a couple of
dollars a stick and is a real taste of home, whilst the meat pies are pretty filling, but again a must
Lucy Ethiopian Cuisine
Another Ethiopian restaurant, Lucy’s has a couple of other establishments across the US and for
me it more than competes with Merkato. The stand out dish for me here was definitely the Misir
Wot, with perfectly spiced red lentils and that wonderful savoury garlic flavour that reminds me
of proper home cooking.
The vegetables are also great here, spears of sweet root vegetables are treated to a liberal rub
with turmeric and cardamom before being roasted. They are absolutely delicious on their own,
but are on another level when enjoyed with the Yebeg Wot, a rich and melty lamb stew full of
proper Ethiopian herbs. There's the choice of a few imported beers here, which is a nice touch,
all of them sourced from Ethiopia.