Coastal winds of change

West African restaurants reenergize bistro format

Bintou N’ Daw at her Charleston restaurant, Bintu Atelier; her mother’s artwork hangs behind her/ Photos by Hanna Raskin
Bintou N’ Daw at her Charleston restaurant, Bintu Atelier; her mother’s artwork hangs behind her/ Photos by Hanna Raskin
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Over the last 10 years or so, a caboose-sized clapboard box in downtown Charleston’s otherwise residential Eastside neighborhood has housed a jerk chicken shop, bagel counter, and breakfast burrito joint. But a few weeks after school let out in 2023, up-tempo tunes animated by steel strings and accordions started wafting through the little building’s screened windows.

Maybe passers-by who heard the music from the quadrant of Africa formerly colonized by France guessed that the chef now in charge of the kitchen was working with peanuts and palm oil. Perhaps the lyrics in Arabic and French made them think of slow-cooked lamb nestled in couscous, or fried fish abreast tomato-stained rice.

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