>> Little Mai African Restaurant & Social Club | Eat the World NYC

30 November 2017

Little Mai African Restaurant & Social Club


Most people driving down the road would not give this storefront a second glance. Two metal gates are closed to the pavement, blocking the windows, while the dark glass door can not be seen through even on a cloudy day. No neon sign helps you figure out something is actually happening here under the awning.

But swing that door open, and a large space comes into view once your eyes adjust. Not quite fancy, but definitely much more than you expect from the exterior. Tables are set with red and black plates, napkins rolled around silverware, and wine glasses.

The decor is spartan, but various charming fabrics and images from West Africa adorn the walls and give the place warmth. The best piece of decoration was the clock below giving a sense of how things might run around here if you come inside in a rush.

Get it?

The TV is set to MSNBC but on this visit the only thing audible was reggae. The large speaker was taken over by someone's phone, which intermittently beeped with incoming messages and interrupted the music.

The menu is simple, and changes daily. Each day of the week brings two new dishes, and there is no wiggle room beyond that as far as we could tell. Fufu was overheard to be a weekend item, so rice comes standard with the dishes on weekdays.

What day it is during your visit determines what you will eat.

The proprietor in the kitchen welcomed me with a handshake when I approached to talk about an order. Apparently the restaurant has been around since 1999, and he treated me as a friend who has been coming in since those early days. An order of both available meals was entered, and the interaction ended with a fist bump.

If you are thirsty, grab a drink from one of the refrigerators in the corner. These units are residential, and therefore have no glass to see inside, but feel free to open them all up and find what you want.

The Tuesday highlight is palm butter ($13, below), served with a mountain of white rice. The finished product is not so much unlike other groundnut stews made in the region, but Liberians are known for their spicy foods and a good deal of heat is built into this rather than just plopping a scotch bonnet pepper on top. A mixed bags of meat and fish are used, ensuring that each bite is a bit different than the last.

When the dish arrived we were asked if we wanted an extra plate to share. When we said we could use one of the ones on the table, another man told us those were just for show. This brought smiles to our faces, and another white plate arrived for our use.

We also said not to bring more rice since another mountain would have been completely redundant, so our order of potato greens ($13, below) came out alone. These greens had a slightly sweet taste to them without any bitterness, and were also joined by a combination of meats. The taste was positive, but unlike any I had ever had before.

We barely finished half of our gigantic plates and had to ask for to-go containers. It was sad to think about leaving though, as the atmosphere was so cordial. After some brief conversations with the proprietor and other man, I perused the bulletin board which seems to be the hub of finding out what is going on in the Liberian community.

From the limited amount we could try, I would assume that any day would be a good one to come here to Little Mai. It is a block away from the University of Rutgers Hospital, if you ever happen to be visiting.

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Little Mai African Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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