(photos by Aaron Phillips)
A few years I ago, I visited a friend in Washington, D.C., and he took me to my first Ethiopian restaurant. The dining experience was so unique. Instead of eating with utensils and sitting at a table, we used a tortilla-like flat bread to scoop spicy vegetables and meat from a straw basket called a mesob. Upon my return to Jackson every other dining experience felt lackluster and boring.
Recently, I discovered Chitoes African Deli and Catering in South Jackson (1700 Terry Road) and I had an is-this-really-happening in Jackson moment. The owners, who are from Nigeria, set up shop about a year ago, adding to South Jackson’s mix of ethnic dining options (If you haven’t discovered South Jackson’s taquerias, you must).
Chitoes offers a sliding scale of food experimentation. My dining partner and I decided to split two dishes: Egusi soup with goat and fufu (out of my comfort zone) and curry chicken with coconut rice (within my comfort zone). Fufu is a basically a lump of starch that looks like mashed potatoes but has a thicker constancy. It’s pretty heavy, so I don’t recommend going for a swim afterwards. I had never had goat before and it really isn’t too crazy, just be prepared to deal with a bit of fat and bones. The sweetness of the fufu went pretty well with the goat as well as the soup and various spices. The curry chicken and coconut rice was a perfect mixture of sweet and spicy, and the chicken was so tender I could barely sink my fork into it without it falling apart. The menu offers lots of fish and rice dishes as well as ton of dishes that I’ve never heard of. The deli also has beer such as Corona and Heineken.
The deli was out of most of the appetizers such as plantains and meat pies when I visited, but the owners are very attentive and apparently buy all their products nearby at an African market on Highway 80. I’m glad Jackson has something so unique and off-the-beaten path. I can’t wait to take my guests from out-of-town to eat there.