I grew up in a small town. We’re talking small as in -used to be a village- small. We usually dine in Cafe Judi (my mom’s kitchen) and since she makes a pretty mean pot roast, I’m fine with it. However, this trip was different! When I found out that an African restaurant opened up in Shelby County, I was both surprised and SO eager to check it out! Luckily my Mom was up for the adventure; she’s a bit tamer in her tastes. Example: she doesn’t like Indian food. I know, right?! How are we related??
As it turns out, the owner of Sene-Store is related to the owner of an African place in Cincinnati (will be going there ASAP)! And this, was my connection, my in. I went to Sene armed with this knowledge and ready to make friends. And make friends I did!
The owner and chef of Sene is super nice and super proud of his food. I learned from talking to him that Senegalese cuisine is West African (which is also influenced by North African, French, and Portuguese). After perusing the menu, it became apparent that we needed to try one of almost everything! Not even kidding.
We scored right off the gate (I don’t speak sports, so this might be a mixed metaphor). The owner/chef made us a free sample of neme (think egg rolls). The neme is light and crispy, filled with beef and small little noodles. Mind blown people! Sorry Chinese restaurants, but you’ve got nothing on these bad boys.
Note, this place is small. There are only a couple small tables inside so most of their business is takeout. While we waited on our food, we shared two of their speciality house-made juices. They had three varieties: Bouye, Bissap, and Ginger. I’m not a ginger fan so I went straight to the other two. The Bouye tastes similar to a very sweet, pineapple smoothie. I don’t think they mess around when it comes to sugar! It’s thick and just a little chalky in texture. As I learned from my new friends, this is a very African drink, high in Vitamin C, made from hanging, dried fruits of the baobab tree. Bissap on the other hand is lighter and more like a traditional juice. Deep red, fragrant, and a little floral. This one is made from the dried flowers of the hibiscus plant. I really liked both, but I found the Bissap more refreshing!
Armed with our bags (plural) of incredibly aromatic dishes, we headed back home to share it up. We put it all on the table and dug in! We ended up with fataya (think empanada), spiced chicken wings, jerk chicken and rice, chawarma, and another order of neme.
Let me break down some of these dishes:
I will start with our least favorite: fataya. Please know that “least favorite” in this case is still really good, just not as special as every other single thing we ate.
The star of the show, for me, was the wings. Goodnight, these were good wings! Seasoned, marinated, and grilled to perfection. Spicy and full of flavor, but not hot as in hot sauce hot. No sauce needed. These were gone lightening fast.
My brother’s favorite dish, in addition to the wings, was the jerk chicken. It’s a fall off the bone chicken breast served with rice and beans, steamed cabbage, and plantain. Even though the chicken was delicious, we actually fought over the last few bites of the steamed cabbage. Seriously. I’m not going to try and sound educated here; I have no idea how the cabbage is cooked or what it’s in it, but I am a fan.
My mom’s favorite dish was the chawarma (think tortilla wrapped sandwich). The chawarma features beef, banana peppers, green peppers, some secret yummy version of mayo, and I’m pretty sure…french fries…inside! This is big and filling! It kind of reminded me, flavor wise, of an African version of a philly cheese steak.
We almost finished it all off, but there were a few bites left for later. This meal turned out to be fun, adventurous, and great family sharing time.
If you are traveling down I-75 heading north, jump off the Sidney exit and try this little gem. If you are one of my hometown friends, please GO! These are truly such nice people and I wish them every success.
GO THERE (Sene)! TRY THAT (the wings)!