Finally Made It


This week I made it to the restaurant that was to be the subject of the first blog post but it was closed that weekend and so many months later I finally made it to Zoewee’s.

To say the outside is unremarkable would be giving it too much credit.  It sits off N. Tryon in Charlotte at the back of a parking lot among a group of buildings that are all past their prime.  When I got there just before noon two of the employees were waiting outside to be let in as well.  I thought that meant I’d be sitting for a while before they actually opened but they hit the open sign at 12:01.

The interior was basic restaurant décor with that minimalist feel.  The man who let me in was friendly and told me it would be just a few minutes while they finished opening.  The short conversation let me know he was not originally from the US so my hope for authentic Liberian cuisine was bolstered.

After just a couple of minutes a nice young lady brought me the menu.  The menu is basically a list of daily specials and there are 4-6 dishes per day on the list.  I was torn between the potato leaves and cassava leaves both with rice.  I went with the cassava leaves since I didn’t even know what a cassava was.  The waitress looked at me funny and asked if I had ever had African food before and I said a bit but was there something she thought I needed to know.  She said no but still had a skeptical look on her face as she walked away.  When she strolled up with a plate and a bowl, one with the rice and one with the cassava leaves, I suspected I was going to get my money’s worth.  OK, I was thinking the same thing you probably are seeing the pictures below, “That doesn’t look all that appetizing” or something more scatological, however just stay with me here.  My attitude adjusted quickly.

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As she was placing the food she pointed to the small plastic container in the upper right of the pictures and said it would “add spiciness” to the dish if I wanted it.  I think this may have been why she asked if I had African food before to see if this should be a side item or not.  Well of course I needed to know what “spiciness” was so I got a little on the tine of a fork and tasted it.  Hey now!  That had a bit of heat since it was essentially hot pepper paste.  I did wind up adding most of it to the cassava leaves but that first undiluted taste was a sinus clearer.

I thought I might be eating a meat free lunch but as you can see in the second picture there was chicken liberally interspersed in the cassava and oil.  At this point I still didn’t know what a cassava leaf looked like in the wild because these were just short of pureed and liberally doused in what I’m going to assume was palm oil as I’ve since learned that is the traditional oil.  So based on what I had to work with I used the cassava leaf mixture as a gravy on the rice and dug in.

It was so much better than it looked.  It had a very earthy taste and the rice helped cut the oil and the chicken flavor was very noticeable.  The peppers brought it up another notch and improved the flavor even more.  This was not haute cuisine but it tasted good and was filling.  As suspected there was too much for me to finish so I brought some home for later which is another sign I liked it since I don’t often do leftovers.

Overall I’d say this is not a place to book your fancy party but if you want to try some interesting west African food, with a limited menu you can feel free to ask about, served by what I found to be a friendly staff this is a good option.

They don’t have a website but you can find the address searching on Google or Bing.  One thing some of the websites indicate they open at 11:00 but that’s not correct it’s 12:00 on Saturday.

Check out Tell Me More  for a recipe for Liberian greens & rice, music & more.


Island Hopping


Image result for cuban passport stamp

After a short hiatus for some vacation time at the beach, to quote a famous Cuban “Lucy, I’m home!”

This week I dusted off the old Culinary Passport and took a trip to Cuba via A Piece of Havana on S. Tryon in Charlotte and wow was that a good choice.

Nice place sitting by itself at one end of a shopping strip.  The interior has some Cuban paraphernalia and a big flag hanging from the ceiling.  The furnishings are dark like a club rather than a breezy tropical place which probably works well since they have live music on the weekend evenings.  It was basically empty when I arrived so I was greeted and seated quickly and the waiter had my tea at the table in a flash.  He also asked if I had any questions about the menu and patiently provided answers to the few I had.  But enough of the set up, let’s talk food.

Because I’m a good blogger and willing to make sacrifices for my readers I started with the small empanada appetizer as seen below.  They were only $2 and a great size for an appetizer.  Inside was a tasty ground meat filling and as you can see it came with pico de gallo and another dipping sauce that was ok but I liked the empanadas just fine plain.  What you don’t see is they were freshly cooked and smoking hot.


Next up was the crispy beef with rice and beans plus plantains.  I’m going to say this was my favorite meal all week and I had a Trumplet earlier this week (it’s an omelette that’s been politicized).


Let’s go from left to right.  The rice and black beans I could have made a meal of just by themselves.  They were obviously cooked together and not just beans dumped on rice and stirred together.  They also had a wee bit of fatty salt pork cooked with them which warms any born and bred Southerner’s heart.  I’m not sure what seasonings they had but they were very good.  Now the crispy beef.  As you can see it was topped with grilled onions and a chimichurri sauce.  The marinated meat is cooked until tender then shredded and cooked again until it starts getting crispy.  I don’t know what exactly was in the marinade but the flavors were subtle and quite tasty.  Finally we get to the plantains.  They were my least favorite, not because they were bad but because the other two were just so good.  They were also the sweetest plantains I’ve ever had and I think that threw me as well.  Good but unexpected.

I washed the meal down with jupina, a pineapple soda.  Not too sweet and although it was slightly artificial the pineapple flavor was good and went well with the meal.  For mojito fans they had a list of 10-15 different types of mojitos and some of them looked interesting.  My plan was to finish off with a Cuban coffee but there was just so much meal I didn’t have room.  I’ll have to skip the emanadas and save room for the coffee next time and there will be a next time.


You can link to the restaurant by clicking the name above and don’t forget to check out the Tell Me More page for a crispy beef recipe and a great video of street musicians in Cuba as well as the usual random fact and Amazon top results for Cuba.