Editors’ Eats: Warm welcome at Mama Wale’s

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By Elaina Kleven & Jazmyn de Jesus

Being greeted by fresh comfort food, warm lighting and a wholesome smile from behind the counter is something one can expect when entering Mama Wale’s Rice African Fusion restaurant in Riverside. Friendly service and an inviting space perfectly sets the tone for what will be a hearty West African meal.

Located on 195 E. Alessandro Blvd., Suite #8D, the restaurant has a family-friendly style seating with pictures of West African cities decorating the walls. The home-style furnishing  and warm colors adorning the inside of Mama’s brings a classic comfort to what some might think would be an unfamiliar experience when visiting.

This fusion restaurant serves typical West African cuisine like Jollof rice, swallow and plantains with a unique twist on the preparation.  

Mama’s serves its food hot bar style with toppings, sides and stews all being made before ordering. The quick-service style allows the customer to receive their meal in no more than 10 minutes.

The Fufu & Goat meal comes exactly as it sounds. The fufu is made of pounded cooked yams, West Africa’s version of a swallow. It’s meant to be grabbed and flattened into a disk with your fingers. Then dunked into the egusi stew and swallowed, not chewed, which is where the name comes from.

You’d think a dough swallowed with goat and a slimy stew would easily make someone skittish, but Mama’s fufu meal is like American Thanksgiving. The egusi was flavored like southern greens and the fufu is comparable to mashed potatoes. 

The Jollof rice bowl, a traditional staple in many African countries, is offered at Mama Wale’s. Your choice of classic or fried Jollof rice can be paired with up to two proteins. The options are chicken, beef and sweet plantain. The flavorful and tender meats complimented the freshness of the veggies and smoky tomato flavor of the rice. 

The fusion aspect of the restaurant definitely shows in this dish as it is topped with collard greens and pickled cabbage. Various pastries were also available to grab on the side, including Puff-puffs and meat pies. 

The meat pie has a thick flavorful crust that makes it difficult to get to the center. Once you make it to the filling, the flavors balance out nicely. The pastries could easily make a fast on-the-go meal for someone looking for a quick West African fix. 

The restaurant offers various types of imported bottled and fresh drinks to pair with your meal.

The VitaMalt sodas are an imported soft drink from the Caribbean. The tropical flavors complimented the seasonings well and they were far lighter compared to soft drinks we are used to in the U.S. 

Another beverage that is offered here is Zobo juice, which is very similar to a Jamaica agua fresca but with more of a ginger lime kick to it. Its simple yet acidic taste was refreshing to sip when paired with the meaty entrees. 

Every bite was familiar in the most nostalgic ways, giving a self explanation to the African Fusion label. The variety of meals, with comfort laced in them will leave every customer with a full stomach.

This can become anyone’s classic spot to hit up in Riverside.

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