Owner Fatou Dibba prepares food at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Owner Fatou Dibba prepares food at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Oxtail stew and fufu: Heritage African Restaurant in Everett dishes it up

“Most of the people who walk in through the door don’t know our food,” said Fatou Dibba, co-owner of the new restaurant at Hewitt and Broadway.

EVERETT — The jollof is a jolly enough reason to dine at Heritage African Restaurant.

Jollof, a flavorful West African dark rice, is among the specialties.

The restaurant opened in late February in the multicolored building at the corner at Hewitt Avenue and Broadway, in what was previously Sol De Mexico.

Co-owner Fatou Dibba is still modifying the menu.

“I want to know what the customers want,” Dibba said. “We are going to take whatever works.”

It is a guessing game at this point.

“The customer base is 90% white people,” she said. “Most of the people who walk in through the door don’t know our food.”

Owner Fatou Dibba poses for a photo at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Owner Fatou Dibba poses for a photo at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

It might be a matter of explaining what’s in goat pepper soup or where that oxtail bone comes from.

The unadventurous can order a burger and fries.

Customer service is a priority, Dibba said. Guests can expect to be asked what they liked or disliked about the meal, which is prepared upon order. Sit back and have an appetizer while waiting.

Appetizers include fried plantains ($6.99) and akara, crunchy black-eyed pea fritters ($8.99).

Popular entrees are lamb dibi ($24.99), a street food with onions, and domoda ($22), peanut butter soup with meat or vegetarian. Oxtail stew ($28) is served with fufu, a dough-like mash that blew up on TikTok.

Order red snapper ($26.99) and get an entire fish staring up from your plate.

Finish with chakry ($6.99), a West African dessert with couscous, golden raisins, yogurt and coconut flakes.

For big appetites, Saho Platter ($120) is a spread of grilled ribeye brochette, chicken and lamb, potato salad, grilled corn and kale salad that will feed a party of six. Kaa Platter ($80) is a smaller combo. The platters are named in honor of a family patriarch in West Africa who loves meat.

Grilled lamb at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Grilled lamb at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Dibba and her aunt, Mama Saho, spent a year looking for a space to open a restaurant in the Everett area. They own Diva’s Beauty Supply in Lynnwood. Dibba also owns an adult family home in Marysville, where she lives.

Dibba, who moved to the area as a teenager, would prepare her homeland dishes for events.

“People would say, ‘How did you make this? Can I pay you to cook this for me?’” she said. “That’s how I started.”

It was her aunt’s idea to open a restaurant.

Other local African restaurants include Dijah’s Kitchen and Bantaba Restaurant, both in Lynnwood. African markets can be found in Everett, Marysville and Lynnwood.

Dibba and her aunt spent several months tweaking the inside of the building at 2019 Hewitt Ave. Gone are Sol De Mexico’s bright yellow walls and palm trees. The interior is white with West African art.

Inside the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Inside the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The only margaritas served from the expansive bar are mocktails, at least for now.

On a recent Saturday, Odhiambo Gaya sipped a ginger and pineapple drink with his meal, a chicken entree, jollof rice and fried plantains.

It was his first time at the restaurant.

“This is more Western African. We are from Eastern Africa,” Gaya said. “It’s a good place. Nice food, too. Very nice ambience. I hope they can have some African music going on. Rumba, you know rumba?”

Fried plantain at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Fried plantain at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The large venue has seating for over 150 in separate areas with tables and booths. Dibba said it can be used to host events.

Fatoumatta Njie, who is related to the owners, can be found in the kitchen or greeting customers.

“Our family loves to cook,” Njie said.

The family is from The Gambia.

“It is a small country in West Africa,” Njie said. “Very tiny on the map, but a very beautiful place.”

The country has a population of about 2.5 million people.

Pa Ousman Joof, director of the Washington West African Center in Lynnwood, said “10,000 is the unofficial count of West Africans who live in Snohomish County.”

The stores and restaurants “keep us connected to our staples and culture and food,” Joof said.

“A lot of West Africans are busy working at jobs and going to school,” he said. “We love our food and want to stay connected to home, which is very important.”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @: (425) 374-7728reporterbrown.

Heritage African Restaurant

Address: 2019 Hewitt Ave., Everett.

Phone: 425-374-7728

Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Menu: DoorDash or Uber Eats.

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