19. Little Senegal in Harlem

Senegalese food in Harlem

Little Senegal, or “Le Petit Senegal” to many Francophone locals, is home to African immigrants from Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, and other West African countries. It is centered around 116th Street between Lenox Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in the middle of Harlem. Over the past 30 years, the population of immigrants from West African countries has slowly grown and expressed its influence in the area. This section of the city has a long and storied past, from being one of the hotbeds of the Harlem Renaissance to serving as a major site of the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements. While the vibrant African American culture is still present and thriving, the influx of African immigrants has become more apparent, particularly the prevalence of West African languages spoken, including Wolof.

New West African restaurants like Le Baobab have sprung up around classics like Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s. Pikine is a popular Senegalese restaurant serving dishes like thiebou djeun, a fish stew served with cassava, carrots, and cabbage. The prevalence of West African cooking extends to Central Harlem around the 130s, including Chez Maty et Sokhna and Chef Jacob. There is also a permanent outdoor market in the area named for Malcolm Shabazz, whose businesses offer everything from traditional Malian clothing to cell phone plans with discount rates to Senegal or Ghana. The neighborhood also includes a small East African presence predominantly from Somalia; the city’s only Somalian restaurant is Safari Restaurant on West 116th Street.