In the middle of a quiet tree lined residential area in Dar Es Salaam, just a stones throw from the Kenya High Commission, is Grace Shop.
During non-meal hours, it’s little more than a duka (small convenience store), painted with the Pepsi logo, that sells cool sodas and little deep fried snacks.
One of the first things you notice when you stroll up for lunch is that Grace Shop not only serves food, but the facility also doubles as a wedding gown rental shop (is that what you call it?).
Wedding gown rental plus good food is fine by me.
All the food is prepared in the back house by a crew of motherly ladies, who then wheel the food to the restaurant using a yellow wheelbarrow.
There’s no menu, so you just ask what they have prepared for the day, or peek into the pans and plastic containers, to see what looks good.
Everything is fresh.
Most of the Tanzanian food specials are always available: ugali, pilau, plain rice, beans, mchicha, cabbage, beef, goat, chicken, fish, and sometimes extras like organs curry and fried chicken.
The normal routine is to choose your starch of choice accompanied by your meat of choice and the vegetable sides are included.
On this particular day the beef pilau looked spectacular, glistening in the midday sunshine, and while that already included big hunks of meat, I couldn’t resist ordering the fried fish as well.
So my plate of food was piled first with a big bowl of spiced pilau rice, fried fish, vegetable, cabbage, beans, curry sauce, and finally a scoop of kachumbari (tomatoes and onions) for the finishing touch.
The curry sauce added an wonderful bite, filled with pili pili mbuzi chillies to provide some good heat.
Though my fried fish didn’t look overly excited to be part of my plate, I was personally thrilled!
He didn’t disappoint.
I’ve had quite a lot of Tanzanian food over the years, and I can say with certainty, this was one of the best all around home-cooked meals that I’ve had.
The pilau rice was spiced with cinnamon bark and cardamon, and lightly greasy beef. The fish was crispy and salted, and each of the vegetable sides was cooked to perfection.
The home cooked food was comforting, like the Tanzanian version of that Singalila restaurant in Darjeeling.
How to get to Grace Shop, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania:
Grace Shop is located in the Oyster Bay part of Dar Es Salaam, just behind the Kenya High Commission. From Ali Hassan Mwinyi, turn onto Kaunda Drive, make your first left (it’s Bongoyo Road), and Grace Shop is about 200 meters up the road on your right hand side.
Open hours – Eat there for lunch, food should be ready around noon
Price – 5,000 TZS ($3) for my monster plate of food that included both beef and fish, other plates can cost just 3,000 TZS ($1.82)