Going to eat at Badou Senegalese Cuisine (2055 W. Howard, Chicago, IL) is like eating at the house of the friend. In fact, Badou likes it when you call ahead to let him know how many people are coming so he is prepared for your party (just like a friend). When we entered Badou, we immediately were greeted by he restaurant’s namesake, Badara “Badou” Diakhate himself, the chef and proprietor, and obviously the heart and soul of the restaurant. He sat down with us and consulted us on his favorite dishes and how much he thought we should order. Badou is located in a nondescript strip mall on the border of Rogers Park and Evanston, but the food and hospitality with transport you to another place. The walls are painted a vibrant blue and covered with masks, wall hangings and paintings from Senegal and surrounding areas.
On our first visit we chatted with Badou over Bissap hibiscus drinks ($2.99). We started our meal with chicken pastels – kind of like empanadas ($4.99) – Badou upped the serving from the normal three-piece serving to four to match our group. The pastries were delicious and flaky, and gently spiced. We ordered three entrees: first was Diby Yaap ($12.99) roast lamb with a spicy habanero and onion sauce. One of the most classic Senegalese dishes was next, Chicken Mafé ($11.99), cooked in a peanut butter sauce. Finally, we ordered the Attieke – fried whole tilapia ($11.99). This dish came with fermented cassava, cooked like couscous, and served with a colorful and onion, tomato and bell pepper sauce.
Our dishes came out one at a time, and we shared each family-style. For the price there was an enormous amount of food, and the three dishes were more than enough for the four of us! The tilapia was excellent, but as with any whole fish – you have to work for your meal. The lamb dish was perfectly tender and had a bit of a spicy kick. The chicken mafe was just like we liked it: rich, creamy and not too spicy. There was something for everything at Badou, with all spice tolerances and tastes covered with ease. On a future visit we tried the steak with Dijon mustard and onions, which seems like a simple mix, but actually had a completely different and delightful flavor profile.
Badou is a great place to enjoy a home cooked meal straight from the heart of Senegal. This is the kind of place to come with friends to while away an evening with some good food. We have now visited Badou on several occasions, and highly enjoyed the food and atmosphere each time. However, this is not a restaurant to go to when you are in a rush, since dishes arrive at a leisurely pace, one-at-a-time, and they sometimes get swamped with delivery orders. Make sure you call in advance too, after all, you are visiting a friend’s house.