The other morning I happened to glance down and spy a crumpled but very serviceable $10 bill patiently waiting for someone to come along and scoop it up. At first I thought, “How lucky,” but it also caused me to consider all the things that I pass by or otherwise ignore. I wondered too, if there was a lesson, because, as my mother used to say, there is a lesson in everything.
Later that day, I decided to stop at YaYa Foods, a place I had driven by about 100 times and wondered what a curious name it was and what curiosities awaited inside. What I found was a gem that, besides being a regular convenience store, offers African specialties such as fufu flour and, most importantly, a full-fledged kitchen with a few tables that make up a tasty spot for West African–style food.
To the uninitiated, the menu can be a little tricky—it has few descriptions—but the very convivial Liberian émigré and owner, Ya Ya Meahyen, (or his son) is often behind the counter and is helpful in providing explanations. Basically, it works like this: There are several categories of vegetables such as spinach or cassava leaf; there are meats—some braised, some grilled kebab-style—and there are soups served with fufu (a plantain and cassava dumpling), fried plantains, and a ground sesame-and-eggplant condiment. Be sure to ask what is available—my friend Adam and I did and were told that goat soup could be had, but only on Saturdays. We opted for beef kebabs ($2; don’t miss the chunky homemade harissa for them) and a dish that was only described on the menu as spinach ($8) but came with chicken, beef, and rice as well. It was nothing short of incredible. The sublime spinach was gently spiced with magi and cayenne.
After all that, we were plenty full, and I admit to being a little curious about the bill. In a world of pure serendipity . . . alas, it wasn’t $10, it was $12. No matter, we left satisfied. On the way out, I couldn’t help thinking, “lesson learned.”
3404 Cedar Ave., Mpls., 612-729-1200, 612-559-0641