When I go to Morgantown, I like to spend some time with a friend who lives there. He knows the good spots in town, so it’s also a great way to try new places. So when he asked what I would think about going to Kenyan Cafe an inspired “HELL YEAH” came out of my mouth. I really wish that there was an Ethiopian restaurant nearby, and as I had never had Kenyan before, I wondered if it was going to be similar.
The restaurant itself is in a small strip mall right next to a Middle East grocery, which in some ways is an advantage but I doubt I would have known the restaurant was there if my friend hadn’t taken us. There is a bit of an unassuming storefront with simple lettering and with a little African flair of a giraffe and savannah silhouette.
I was impressed at the beginning when walking in, asked if it was my first time there and being given three samples of their teas. OH MY! It is amazing tea! If you even have a passing interest for flavorful teas, you owe it to yourself to try what they’ve got going on here. They had three made up: ginger, red and masala. Each was delicious, hearty and complex in flavor. I am not sure if they were pre-sweetened, but if not the flavors alone make it so they really don’t even need any additional sweetness outside of the brewed pot. Favoring all things ginger, I had my first menu selection. They offer their teas both hot or chilled, and I got the chilled variety. It almost tasted like really good chai tea to me and when I eventually ate my meal it was an excellent flavor complement to the spices in the food.
If I lived in Morgantown, I would stop by this place just to get tea on occasion. It is just that good.
Since this was my first Kenyan cuisine experience, I was not sure what to order. There are a variety of vegetarian options, and they state that most of their foods are organic. The first option looked good with the plantains, so after a little bit of realization that I didn’t know enough about Kenyan food to make an informed decision – the Matoke was the order that came out of my mouth. I am not entirely sure if I pronounced it correctly.
My friend and I went to the dining room and I was impressed with its bright colors and various African decor. Although the painting above our table had a lion pouncing on a gazelle, who was on its back displaying its testicles. That was a bit of a strange detail for the artist to pay such close attention to, but it was authentic, so I guess it works.
I also ordered samosas to see how they were, and was glad I did so when I saw there was a bottle of restaurant brewed hot sauce. I immediately added it to my plate when it arrived and dipped a samosa in it. The samosas were basically vegetable pot pies in a pocket. I ended up liking them better without the hot sauce, which was a little bit vinegary. The gravy inside was slightly different than pot pies I am used to. Normally I make pot pie with a onion sort of sauce, but this sauce was reddish – possibly containing a mix of saffron and peppers. But I am not entirely sure.
The Matoke was amazing, but before I talk about it, I will mention the kale to the side. It was about as fresh as could be without being picked from the ground immediately before preparation. As soon as our orders were in, one of the cooks grabbed a big bunch of it out of a cooler and started chopping. It was perfectly al dente and the spices added to it were muted and an excellent contrast to the main dish.
I initially forgot about the plantains in the dish and thought I was eating yellow potatoes. Like the kale, the vegetables were al dente and flavorful. Slightly spicy and resting in a stew like sauce. It almost felt like I should be eating it with rice, but the kale fit in just as well and is probably much more healthy than plain rice. The entire dish was very comforting yet exotic and I was highly impressed! (Click here for a picture of my friend’s dinner – a lamb stew I think it was)
After eating, we wandered the Middle Eastern grocery and picked up a couple things and began a quest for dessert. If I had thought about it at the time I would have ordered some of their unique dessert items at Kenyan Cafe, but we had already walked out and suddenly a beer sounded like a good thing to grab. So Morgantown Brewing Company became our next destination.
Morgantown Brewing Company deserves a more thorough review. I have been there once before and liked what I tasted, but their biggest draw is their freshly crafted beers. A sampler is a must if you like beer. I enjoy seeing how each establishment puts the beers out, and MBC places them on a placemat-like menu so you remember which beer is which.
I may need to pay more attention when I do a full review, but I love all the beers I tasted and was happy I had left a growler at home because I would have been hard pressed to choose only one to bring back with me. The cake was a perfect complement to the darker beers. My friend was convinced that the cake was the same one that was sold at a few different establishments throughout the city, which makes some sense. Baking and cooking are such incredibly different skills, I am sure a number of restaurants collaborate with local bakeries to get their desserts and breads.
The layered chocolate cake was their “Featured Chocolate Cake” and I think was called the Chocolate Mess. It did indeed have a lot of different chocolates and was messy, but it brought out some of the flavor notes to the Coal City Stout, and I was happy to eat it mostly when I was drinking that sample.
It is too bad Morgantown is a bit of a hike, and pretty hard to bike from downtown Charleston. They’ve got some good food going on there, and good beers to go with it!