The most important tip I can give you on Kenya local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Kenya, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Kenya
Nairobi has some of the finest eating establishments in Africa. Many different cuisines and types of restaurants are available, from fast food to fancy. Many five-star hotels have attached fine restaurants, which are expensive but worth it unless you are looking to experience true Kenyan cuisine. Restaurants are called “hotels” and there are many in Nairobi, if you stop by make sure you try Pilau-a chicken and rice dish, cabbage and rice; and the staple food in Kenya-Ugali, made from maize flour.
Street food is also definitely worth a try and usually safe to eat, Mandazi are sweet bread-like treats that are often sold on the street, maize grilled with a side of chili to add on is a wonderful snack and very cheap, samosas are awesome and don’t be hesitant to try all the other yummy stuff they’re selling! Also, fruit stand are everywhere-the mangoes and avocados are to die for and can be bought for about 10-20 ksh. Many restaurants can be found downtown and in the areas of Westlands and Hurlingham but these areas are filled with tourists and “mzungu”(singular) “wazungu” (plural) which is the Kiswahili word for “white/foreign people” and places like Ayani, Olympic, Kibera, and other places have more authentic food.
Among the many cuisines available are Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, German and French restaurants. Fast food restaurants, mostly by South African chains (Steers, Nandos), are common in the larger urban areas. If you want pizza then check out the Peri Peri Chicken Pizza from Pizza Inn. Kenya has its own chain Kenchic, which specialises in chicken (and strangely enough advertises that the chickens are caged). For authentic Kenyan cuisine in the city centre a good restaurant to try is Kosewe (also called Ranalo’s), in Nairobi city centre – Kimathi Street. Expect to eat with your hands, you will not be given cutlery! Soupy dishes can be enjoyed with either ugali or chapati. Good Ethiopian food is easy to find as well, e.g. Habesha, a chain with a restaurant in the city centre and another in Hurlingham near Yaya Centre.
If you want an unforgettable experience then check out Carnivore Restaurant, which is famous for its exotic meats. You can sample crocodile, ostrich, camel etc. depending on what is brought in. The meat is all-you-can-eat and comes with salad and a variety of dips. Not a great restaurant for vegetarians, although there is an option available. There is also the adjoining Simba Saloon for those who want a more standard restaurant menu. For a more western-style meal try Java House, where the dishes average about 550 shillings. Don’t miss their guacamole – large portions and very high quality.
What to Drink in Kenya
The drinking/purchasing age of alcohol is 18. Kenyan beer is decent. There is one major brewer whose flagship brand is Tusker Lager. Also try the Tusker Malt Lager. Another good lager beer is White Cap Lager. Imported beers are available in supermarkets and better hotels, but the prices are usually high. But imported Tanzanian beer like Kilimanjaro and Safari tend to be cheaper than even Tusker.
In local bars, do not expect to pay more than around 250 Ksh for a bottle; anything more is a tourist rip-off. Imported and local wines and spirits are widely available, and it is advisable to avoid local brews such as “changaa” and “busaa,” which are illegal, unhygenically brewed and whose consumption has led to deaths on many occasions. It may be helpful to remember that “changaa” literally means “kill me quick” before deciding whether or not to drink a proffered glass of the beverage. There is an excellent selection of soft drinks especially from the Coca Cola stable, but try the Tangawizi brand of ginger ale.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.