After scaling back during the pandemic last year, the New York African Restaurant Week Festival returns to full strength this weekend, highlighting delicacies alongside wine, fashion and folk art from across the continent.
The event, which takes place in Hillel Plaza at Flatbush Junction in Brooklyn from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, will also feature live deejays, world music and a cooking contest.
The event did take place in 2020, according to festival founder Akin Akinsanya, “but mostly that was because we thought it was the responsible thing to do. The world was going through a crisis then and we understood that. This year, as a way of saying thanks to the people who helped us through, we’re offering a free ticket to any first responder who can verify that at the door.”
This year marks the festival’s ninth anniversary. At its inception, Akinsanya told Patch, he began the event as a way to educate visitors about the food, culture and art spread across the African continent. That tradition remains the centerpiece of the festival. “At the same time,” he said, “music is going to be a bigger component than ever. So you can come and experience the culture, hear the music and taste a wide variety of foods.”
You’ll be able to nosh native dishes from a dozen restaurants, each representing dishes from across Africa and the Black Diaspora, including foods from Nigeria, Ghana, Trinidad/Haiti, Ethiopia, Guinea and Grenada.
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In addition to the foods on hand, nearly two dozen vendors will be on site as well, offering up their African perspectives on fashion, beauty and wellness. Raw organic products and hair products will be interspersed with arts and crafts at the market.
In keeping with tradition, this year’s theme is plantain, and each chef has been challenged to include the ingredient in their own menus by offering up at least one plantain dish.
“The whole purpose of the festival is to introduce what is African to a wider audience,” said Akinsanya. “We want to educate people about the continent and its people and to introduce them through the food, the fashion, the folk art and the music to another side of Africa they might have not have experienced.”