On Valentine’s Day two years ago, I flew to Dakar. So much has happened since then that it feels more like a decade.
It also feels like I left Dakar ages ago, but it’s actually only been eleven months, which is so unbelievable to me that I redid the math twice. Still, eleven months is long enough to lose touch with a place, and the list I’m about to post may be a little outdated. But I’ve been promising it to myself and others for too long to let it evaporate. And things change far more slowly in Dakar than in New York, so even though there are surely new places to discover, almost all of these old places could still be going strong. (I’ll edit the post accordingly if I learn differently.)
Without further ado, and in no particular order, my favorite places in Dakar…
For really good food:
Bazoff (Grand Dakar), where Youssou N’dour dined with Anthony Bourdain on “Parts Unknown,” and where I ordered five pounds of dibi for my going away party. (They also make a really delicious ndolé, the national dish of Cameroon.)
Yuma (SICAP Baobab) – a higher end pan West-African restaurant that opened up a few blocks from my house right before I moved to Dakar. I used to go for lunch and slightly faster WiFi nearly every day.
L’Ortolan (Point E) – a delicious, classic French restaurant.
New Africa (Sacré-Coeur) – a casual restaurant with lovely ambiance. The patio has string lights, plants, and often, a salsa class.
Annapurna (Ngor) – If you’re in the mood for Indian food in Dakar, this is where to go.
Jardin Thailandais (Point E) – And if you’re in the mood for Thai, go here. It feels like leaving Dakar to go for dinner at someone’s house in Bangkok.
La Churrascaria (Fann Hock) – really good Brazilian barbeque. Get the all-you-can-eat menu and you can make unlimited trips to the buffet and request as many slabs of assorted skewered meats as your stomach can handle.
La Calebasse (Mamelles) – It might feel like a traditional Senegalese thatched hut, but it’s a fairly touristy place. Still, it’s fun, has good food, and there’s often entertainment.
Chez Loutcha (Plateau) – Reputedly the oldest restaurant in town, this cozy spot serves huge portions of Cape Verdean and Senegalese comfort food.
For great views and ambiance where you can also eat and drink:
Djollof (Fann Hock) – this beautiful hotel has a rooftop terrace with stunning views and a really good restaurant and bar. It’s lovely at any time of day.
Charly (Ngor) – a poolside bar and restaurant with a slight midcentury SoCal vibe. There’s often live music.
Le Lagon 1 (Plateau) – a kookily Bond-esque restaurant housed in a circa 1950s yacht that opens onto a terrace that is actually a pier above the water.
Pullman Hotel terrace (Plateau) – the redecorated hotel has a really beautiful restaurant with a balcony area that overlooks the coast.
Le N’Gor Restaurant (Almadies) – a waterfront seafood restaurant with intricate mosaic walls and floors. (Note: don’t get confused by the similarly named and rather lackluster restaurant next door, Restaurant Le N’Gor Lounge.)
Noflaye Beach (Almadies) – Another beachfront Almadies restaurant that is packed on weekends and has a really nice vibe.
La Cabane du Surfeur (Almadies) – not to be confused with La Cabane du Pêcheur, a N’gor restaurant that is also well-loved, this sandy bar has picnic tables on terraced levels leading down to the ocean. You’ll often see surfers hitting the waves (or taking a break at the bar). It’s a relaxing place.
Phare des Mamelles (Mamelles) – there’s an American-inspired all you can eat brunch buffet at the top of this lighthouse on weekends, as well as DJs and dancing at night. I never went to the latter, but I can vouch that the former is wonderful. It is way up high and secluded, and you can spend a few relaxing hours above the noise of the city, laying on the couches and staring out at the amazing views of the water that you can’t get anywhere else.
Crêperie La Prainha (Almadies) – most of the go-to spots in Almadies are along the beach but this one is on the other side of the road. I like it because of the peaceful garden-like setting. Plus, crepes.
Le Jardin de l’Amitié (Point E) – another one of my old neighborhood places, it’s a great casual place for a drink. (Beware of ordering food here, though – every time I’ve done it, it’s taken at least an hour.) A semi-circle of cute straw-topped gazebo thingies is set back from the street via a long patio and a wall covered in greenery.
Hôtel Le Sokhamon (Plateau) – go to the waterfront patio bar at sundown and enjoy the lovely view.
Le Bideew (Plateau) – this is the restaurant at the Institute Français. Like Sweet Coffee, it has an amazing salad bar, but I think it’s only on weekends. It’s also really pretty and the fact that it is on a covered patio is nice when it’s too cold or rainy to be fully outside.
Chez Fatou (Almadies) – the most Brooklyn-esque place in Dakar in terms of decor, and they serve American breakfast, too. Plus they have what inner Brooklyn does not – oceanfront real estate.
Les Ambassades (Point E) – it’s not the greatest food but for some reason I love it here. It feels like the Dakar version of a diner, and there’s nice outdoor patio as well. I used to come for shawarma and omelettes.
La Piazzola (Mermoz) – I went to this place one night with friends and though I couldn’t eat the pizza (pizza in Dakar is a rarity enough, let alone gluten-free pizza), I could smell how delicious it was. Plus they made me a gluten free “pizza” by baking cheese, sauce, and toppings on top of rice, so I loved them. It’s also a nice outdoor space with blooming trees and coral stucco walls.
Redstone (Almadies) – if you really miss American food, this is the closest you’ll get to Cheesecake Factory or Tex-Mex type fare. It’s not good per se, but it can be comforting after a long stretch without burgers and burritos. Unfortunately it was forever ruined for me on that awful November night when Americans gathered there to watch the election results. Still turns my stomach thinking about it.
Breakfast and cafes:
Chez Fatou – see above
Pause Douceur (Plateau) – a Lebanese-owned café with the most delicious scrambled eggs and orange blossom-infused lemonade.
Sweet Coffee (Almadies) – I used to come here only for the salad bar, which is served at lunchtime on Tuesdays through Fridays as well as Sundays, I think (but can’t remember for sure). Salad is a rare menu item in Dakar, but here they have an expansive buffet with all different kinds of vegetables that I usually didn’t see elsewhere in the city.
L’épicerie (Plateau) – a gourmet French grocery on the bottom floor and a beautiful pocket park of a cafe on the rooftop level.
Terrou Bi (Fann Hock) – this oceanfront hotel serves an all you can eat breakfast buffet as well as an all you can eat lunch buffet. They are both delicious but some of the more expensive meals in town.
Melo Patisserie (Ngor) – for sweets of all kinds – and they do gluten-free orders like the Thanksgiving pies and Bûche de Noel I ordered for Christmas at the Los.
Presse Cafe (Plateau) – one of the few places in town to get real espresso.
Music and dance:
Just4U (Point E) – the best venue for music, in my opinion, because the best bands play here.
Villa Krystal (Ngor) – the space itself is not as nice as Just4U, but they often host really good musicians as well.
Les Petites Pierres (Ouakam) – this artist collective / event space changed its name a couple of years ago and I can’t remember what it’s called now. Last I heard they were still having events; I hope they still are.
Bayékou (Ngor) – there’s a rooftop bar and restaurant with fun music nights.
Goethe Institute (Point E) – a cultural center that hosts cool events. I went to a dance performance here that was both free and super good.
Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor (Grand Dakar) – This is where I took sabar dancing lessons right before leaving Dakar, and where these amazing sabar drummers and dancers gather to practice several nights a week. You can just show up and get a free, mind-blowing performance.
Hotel du Phare (Mamelles) – On Thursday nights, a DJ spins admittedly pretty annoying music at the rooftop bar til 2 in the morning. The place gets packed with mostly French ex-pats but also a bunch of Senegalese, Americans, and other assorted nationalities. It often felt too rowdy and young for me, but certain nights when I hadn’t been out in a while and was in the mood for a people-watching party, it hit the spot. They also screen movies here but I never went.
Noname place (Point E) – There’s a tiny maquis-like restaurant without a name (at least not one that I could tell), where they have really amazing live Congolese music and dancing. My friend happened to walk by and discover it in our neighborhood and she took me there once. I would have gone back, but I was leaving town in just a couple of weeks. It was incredible, but I don’t remember its exact location. I Google Street Viewed my way back to where I am 99% sure it is: look for a red bar sign on Rue Diourum just west of Rue 10. Worth the search.
Also, as a rule, check Agendakar for music, art, film, dance, and nightlife listings. It is an invaluable resource.
[This list is getting way out of hand so I’m going to stop describing places and just hyperlink them if you want to learn more.]
Hotel Savana (Plateau) – my favorite.
The old Club Med / Hotel Sheraton Dakar (Almadies) – make sure to visit the westernmost point in Africa while you’re there – it’s on their property.
Museums and other artsy stuff:
lFAN Museum (Plateau)
Dak’Art (mostly in Plateau; biennial)
Senghor Museum (Fann) – this place is decorated in the most amazing early 1980s awesomeness.
Street art (all over Medina)
Village des Arts (Yoff / Nord Foire)- ateliers where you can buy directly from artists
Institute Français (Plateau) – for movies and cool exhibitions, as well as for the aforementioned restaurant and good live music, too.
Aquabike (Point E)
Running along the Corniche from Mermoz to Fann Hock
Climb up the African Renaissance Monument steps like Rocky Balboa
Club Olympique (Mermoz)
The boutique in La Demeure (where Almadies meets Ngor) – The store in this hotel has lovely gifts. The brunch they serve here is also good if you are not gluten-intolerant like I am. (It’s heavy on the breads/pastries.)
Cocktail du Senegal (Plateau)
Adama Paris for custom tailoring
The Dakar Farmers Market (Ngor)
The Christmas bazaar at the international school
Bapribap (Point E) – go to Bapribap for children’s clothes made by my friend, as well as the home goods boutique next door, which she co-owns.
Marche HLM (HLM) – for all your fabric desires
Yoff beach (Yoff)
Secret Beach (Mamelles) – it really does feel like a secret party here, complete with DJ and lots of drinking. Actually when I was there this place was in danger of being seized for development so I’m not sure what is happening with it now.
Finally, these are not my favorite places per se but they come in handy if you need to find American / European food items:
La Casa Italiana (Plateau) – for Philadelphia Cream Cheese to make cheesecake
American Food Store (Almadies)
Nature Attitude (Plateau) – for organic and gluten-free foods.
Well, now I really miss Dakar…