Dakar, Senegal

Photo: Restaurant Farid Dakar

What’s the first thing you want—make that need—after an international flight? A shower? Fair enough. But, after that, you’re not thinking about sightseeing, shopping, or even a nap yet. Your mind immediately turns to food. A good meal is the best way to forget the long flight, start adjusting to the new time zone, and introduce yourself to your new surroundings. Get ready for an early dinner.

Restaurant Farid is just a few blocks from, well, everything in Dakar. It’s in Dakar-Plateau, the waterfront district, where you’ll find the port, the Médina, and views of Île de Gorée. The restaurant is in a modest building with a heavy wooden door. But inside, you find an elegant dining room with stone walls, a waterfall, and dark wood tables. It opens onto a spacious terrace with potted trees and hanging vines, comfortable seats and white umbrellas. It’s the Lebanese food that makes it one of the best restaurants in the city, though.

You had expected to find seafood, French cuisine, and maybe some leftover Portuguese flavors along the coast of Senegal. Lebanese dishes had never crossed your mind. But Senegal has a large Lebanese population. Most of the immigrants arrived between the 1920s-1940s during the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon. Restaurant Farid is nearly that old; it’s been run by three generations of the same family for more than 50 years. The decor has certainly changed and modernized, but much of the food remains traditional—and delicious.

Since the sun is no longer high and hot in the sky, you decide to sit on the terrace when you arrive at Restaurant Farid. Though the tropical cocktails, like caipirinhas and mojitos, are tempting, you ultimately select a French rosé that isn’t quite as sweet. Then you order a mezze platter for two to start. It’s full of small plates like baba ganoush, hummus, and tashi. Everything is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Grilled halloumi and a tomato and eggplant salad, plus more olive oil, arrive next. While shawarma and kebabs are still sizzling when they are eventually set down. Your table is practically overflowing by this time.

It’s going to take a while for you to get to dessert—if you have room for it at all. You won’t pass on a café blanc (hot water flavored with orange blossom), though. This feast is the best welcome you could have asked for in Dakar.

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