May we lure you into trying something for dinner other than pho, fried chicken, or another bloody burger? A little African perhaps?
Sure, we're aware that the concept of "African food" is pretty darn broad. It's as complex as the myriad cuisines of Asia. Yet, while researching this list, we're amazed at how many people we randomly questioned/accosted in the street who struggled to think of one African place they'd tried.
So - as there's no way to include every beloved local joint in Footscray here without us getting very happy and very fat - think of the below picks as the best African restaurants in Melbourne for beginners.
Flying the flag for African food amid the melting pot that is Victoria Street, is Little Africa. More specifically it's a cosy little slice of Ethiopia renowned for their generous way with spices. It hard to go wrong with prawns cooked in a hot sauce of berbere spices and butter? Even better, Little Africa will deliver to their neighbours at Prudence bar so you don't even have to interrupt your Sunday session to go feast.
Melbourne food bloggers Abderazzaq and Shukri of The Somali Kitchen tip The Abyssinian as their favourite haunt, "the earth toned decor takes us back to the Horn [of Africa] where we also come from and the food is deliciously spicy with plenty of options for vegetarians." They reckon everyone should try The Abyssinian's take on Zighini. Typically made with chicken or lamb, the dish is given a local twist here with kangaroo!
Inspired by their travels through east Africa, PolePole's founders don't claim their menu is authentic. Instead their upscale bar snacks aim to give you a taste of their adventures. The stars are meltingly tender ribs, but you can try wild boar and ostrich or the regional version of jerky called biltong. The cocktails are ace but do order an African beer or cider or two; a percentage of each sale here goes to social enterprises YGAP and Women for Women in Africa.
Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant
Open for mere months, Fitzrovians are already flocking to Saba's for her spongy Injera flatbread made with proper Teff flour and vegetarian-friendly dishes presented in fun woven baskets (never fear carnivores, you are certainly catered to). It's a hands on dining experience here. As with many North African eateries, you're meant to dive right in with your fingers (right hand please). Saba's also conducts coffee ceremonies on weekends. Take your friend who is "just so over lattes" and blow their minds.
We don't know what by what magic live music causes food to taste better, but The Horn has it. Here the sounds of jazz and Ethiopian hip hop and funk regularly accompany a feast of spiced, slow-cooked "wot" (stew). Bonus points for the opportunity to sip a few brews imported from the continent in their al fresco beer garden and for the delightful Ethiopian fried doughnuts spiked with spices, caramelised fruit and nuts.
Strewn with figurative African art, Nyala is a stalwart of the Melbourne food scene. It's a bit of a crowd-pleasing, easy choice for diners who are new to the region's food. Though many of the dishes are Ethiopian inspired, you can also try Sudanese "ful" beans, South African "bobotie" mince, Kenyan and Tanzanian curries and a "domeda" or beef stew from Gambia. Naturally there's plenty of that ubiquitous injera to happily soak it all up.
Want more great food options in Melbourne? Search our directory!
Photo credit: Jenna Fahey-White for The Urban List