The flavors of AfroBites’ food truck are at once familiar and innovative, like old friends meeting in new places. 

 

I discovered this on my first visit to AfroBites’ Little Rock food truck at 1701 Wright Avenue. The owners also park another food truck in Conway at the Layla’s parking lot at 125 E. Oak Street. AfroBites, another of our “New in Town Bucket List” eateries that opened mid-pandemic, has an enthusiastic following (enough to support two locations) built in the past year or so largely through word of mouth.

 

The menu offers tastes from across the continent, but heavily favors the owners’ Senegalese roots. Their combinations of spices come across in distinctive and lively ways, but most of the individual elements tasted familiar: coconut, peanut butter, grilled chicken, garlic, black-eyed peas. It’s food that not just pleases the palate, it stimulates culinary creativity; what other disparate flavors in the Western diet make magic tastes when mixed into exciting new combinations?

 

 

Friends regularly post photos of their AfroBites takeout on Instagram and Facebook, but this was my first visit. I’m happy to report that my first tastes of this authentic African fare were of foods I’ve honest-to-God had a hankering for daily since visiting.

 

It takes a minute to settle on the menu’s possibilities. Entrees come with a customizable choice of up to four components: protein, base, two sides and an optional sauce for your protein. Everything sounded amazing. Luckily, my three companions let me sample theirs. (#Protip: Bring friends.)

 

The first choice is protein. Boneless Dibi lamb; chicken in curry, Suya, or spicy Piri Piri varieties; fish filet; shrimp; jackfruit; and the newest addition, curry banana blossom. Some meat and fish combination plates are available, too. 

 

Then you choose your starchy base: Senegalese Jollof rice, coconut rice, couscous with tagine or Chapati bread. Available sides are curried cabbage, Kenyan collard greens (sadly, these were still cooking when we visited), black-eyed pea stew, fried plantains and spicy fried plantains. Finally, you have your choice of two sauces to pour over your protein and starch: peanut butter and spinach stew or okra stew. The entrees don’t need the stews, but the one we tried was fabulous, and packaged separately so you can try your food with and without it at no extra cost. 

 

Lentil Patties.

 

The two appetizer options are African meat or lentil patties. And though they were out of desserts on our visit, AfroBites normally offers enticing-looking (from their social media posts) mango pie and African beignets. AfroBites also makes a reportedly fabulous hot sauce that we were offered, but declined. If you’re a hot sauce aficionado, I’m told it’s worth the trip. 

 

We chose shrimp with coconut rice with the peanut butter spinach stew, Suya chicken with Chapati bread, jackfruit with Jollof rice, and curry banana blossom over couscous with Tagine sauce. For sides, we got curried cabbage, black-eyed pea stew and fried plantains. We also ordered the lentil patties and some super-zingy ginger pineapple juice AfroBites bottles. 

 

There are no tables, so be prepared to take the food to go. We headed for a downtown park. I was a bit wary of transporting potentially soupy messes, but everything remotely liquid was thoughtfully packaged separately to avoid spillage. We made a picnic of it, our only impediment the gusty day that wanted to carry away our lids and napkins. 

 

Y’all. 

 

It was fantastic.

 

Every. Single. Thing. 

 

Suya Chicken with Chapati bread, fried plantains and black-eyed pea stew.

 

The Suya chicken was a sort of spiced kabob chicken minus the skewer. We thought we detected smoked paprika, garlic and onion in the seasoning, among others. It was paired with a couple of pieces of East African Chapati, yummy flatbread my companion described as between a crepe and a tortilla. He used it to make a sort of African Suya chicken taco. 

 

I ordered the peanut butter and spinach stew (it may sound crazy, but it’s the most amazing combination) over a half-dozen grilled shrimp and coconut rice. The rich stew and the naturally sweet coconut rice beautifully complement each other, one of my favorite tastes of our visit. 

 

Peanut butter and spinach stew over grilled shrimp and coconut rice with fried plantains and black-eyed pea stew.

 

Companion 3 tried the Jollof rice (a Senegalese version, per the owners’ home country) with the jackfruit. Delicious. The flavorful Jollof rice is tomato-based, full of interesting spices, and the hearty jackfruit was vegan comfort food, African style.

 

The banana blossom curry, a relatively recent addition to AfroBites’ menu, was another star. Light and fresh, banana blossom is a food I hadn’t realized I need in my life. The tagine sauce, packaged separately, featured sweet potatoes in a mellow-yet-tangy-fruity blend. 

 

Banana Blossom Curry over couscous.

 

The lentil patties were a surprise. They turned out to be an African version of fried pies or empanadas, stuffed with savory black lentils, with a dipping sauce. I could just order these on their own. 

 

Our sides of curried cabbage (I’d never even considered currying cabbage) and marinated, tomatoey black-eyed pea stew were terrific. And the fried plantains were the best I’ve tried anywhere. Dense and sweet inside, with just the right amount of caramelization on the outside.  

 

I’m eager to try absolutely everything else on the menu, in every combination mathematically possible. I predict that years from now, when AfroBites is a long-time beloved Central Arkansas establishment, we’ll look back with fondness at this time of discovery when these favorites were still categorized as “new in town.” Don’t wait to try it. 

 

 

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