Eating Out: African BBQ Restaurants Serve Spicy, Spicy, Smokey Chicken

A first dive into Ottawa’s African barbecue scene revealed chicken with spicy herbs and balanced smokiness

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safari grill

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360 St Patrick St, 613-700-1326safarigrill-restaurant.com
Open: weekdays 10am to 11pm Saturday 11am to midnight, Sunday 4.30pm to 11pm
Prices: quarter chicken combo with two sides: $17.95

Moyo Grill

2-3500 Fallowfield Rd., 613-823-8121, moyogrill.com
Open: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 3 to 9 am, Sunday and Tuesday from 3 to 8 pm, Saturday from 3 to 10 pm
Prices: quarter chicken combo with two sides: $17.95

Lazare . BBQ House

928 Montreal Rd. Unit 1, 613-276-6153, lazarebbqhouse.ca
Open: daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: quarter chicken combo with two sides $15.95


Picking up where last week’s column ended, looking at more eateries that specialize in meats cooked over charcoal and infused with the kind of smoky, spicy goodness that awakens primal hunger.

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But while last week’s topic, Brine & Grill in Orléans, has a distinctly North American take on barbecued meats, the three topics of this column are new, or at least new to me, African grills that feature highly seasoned chickens. what you came for.

I’ve decided to go wide instead of deep. That is, rather than exploring the depths of every menu and location, I’ve tasted enough to say, with a few caveats, that these unassuming places, all of which serve meats cooked to halal restrictions, deserve visits.

Last weekend I was in Lowertown for a Chamberfest concert and I needed a quick pre-concert bite. That’s when I came across Safari Grill on the street. Patrick Street. The sign said ‘Charcoal BBQ’, and that was all I needed to read.

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I stuck my head in the door and saw a small, simply furnished room full of Caribbean sounds. Minutes later I ordered a quarter chicken dish with my two sides chosen? — rice and plantains.

The food which arrived on a home spun attractive wooden platter was delicious. Two pieces of chicken were moist, fantastically seasoned and clean smoked. The rice had spice and color. Large pieces of plantain were the best I’ve ever had, seemingly fresh from the fryer and alive with sweetness.

Quarter chicken with rice and plantain at Safari Grill in Lowertown.  Photo by Peter Hum
Quarter chicken with rice and plantain at Safari Grill in Lowertown. Photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg

The only downside to my meal was that it took so long to be prepared. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except for that concert. I ate as much as I could, a little faster than I would have liked, and started listening to music.

That satisfying meal whetted my appetite to make some comparisons. The next night, my next stop was Moyo Grill in Barrhaven, which opened last September in a shopping center on Fallowfield Road.

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Owned and run by the Traore family, Moyo is a no-frills place with about 20 seats for dining. I invited myself to a friend in Barrhaven and we ordered more extensively from Moyo than from Safari.

Boneless chicken pieces, plus pieces of goat and beef, were all superbly seasoned and heavily smoked. The red meat was usually chewy or chewy, and in a subsequent interview, Sylvia Traore said, as we thought, flavors often transition to well-done at home. Not that chewy meat was a deal breaker for me, but next time I might ask for meat cooked medium-rare out of curiosity. (Note that the cut of meat would also affect the final texture.)

Traore told me that although her family’s roots are in the West African countries, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, Moyo’s food comes from different parts of Africa. Suya-spiced goat and tomato-tinged jollof rice are popular in Nigeria. (Warning: peanuts are used in the preparation of suya.) A green sauce Moyo makes is native to Rwanda in Central Africa. We were intrigued and delighted by kwanga, a roll of soft, fermented cassava “bread” that Traore said was Congolese.

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Moyo samosas were crowd pleasers filled with curry mincemeat. A grilled whole tilapia was juicy and well salted and topped off with some sort of loose sauce, which also added moisture and extra flavor to meats and cassava couscous.

Grilled chicken from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven.  Photo by Peter Hum
Grilled chicken from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven. Photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
Cassava couscous and cassava from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven.  Photo by Peter Hum
Cassava couscous and cassava from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven. Photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
Fried plantain from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven.  Photo by Peter Hum
Fried plantain from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven. Photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
Grilled goat from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven.  Photo by Peter Hum
Grilled goat from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven. Photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
Grilled tilapia from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven.  Photo by Peter Hum
Grilled tilapia from Moyo Grill in Barrhaven. Photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg

My last stop for African BBQ this week was Lazare’s BBQ House, which is essentially a takeaway on Montreal Road.

After eating his food at home, chef-owner Lazare Boubala, a native of Gabon in Central Africa, told me that he had been cooking in Ottawa for 15 years in both African and non-African cuisines. In the fall of 2019, he opened his first eponymous restaurant in Orléans and moved it to Montreal Road in February 2021.

His barbecued chicken came whole and while not as lively as Moyo’s chicken, it was still tasty and enjoyable. We ordered skewers of lamb, beef and chicken from Lazare’s, which were well seasoned and well done too, even if Boubala told me he himself preferred his meat cooked medium rare or medium, “like the Europeans”. If you like less cooked meat, it’s best to let Boubala know in advance.

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We ordered standard sides from Lazare’s. The plantain and sweet potato fries were filling and unremarkable.

Sweet potato fries from Lazare's BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum
Sweet potato fries from Lazare’s BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
A whole charcoal grilled chicken from Lazare's BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum
A whole charcoal grilled chicken from Lazare’s BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
Plantains from Lazare's BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum
Plantains from Lazare’s BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg
Charcoal grilled lamb, chicken and beef skewers from Lazare's BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum
Charcoal grilled lamb, chicken and beef skewers from Lazare’s BBQ House on Montreal Road, photo by Peter Hum Photo by Peter Hum /jpg

The bottom line: These three African grills made chicken cravings with their spicy seasoning and balanced smokiness. However, if you want juiciness from your other meats, you need to specify in advance what happens. That said, I’m satisfied enough with what I tried to delve into Ottawa’s African barbecue scene.

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