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Europa Mediterranean Café & Tapas Bar; Taste of Afrika

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Now about 3 years old, Europa, popular from the beginning, seems to have found its niche. The quarry-tile floor and original brick walls make for a lively room. It's a room open for extroverts, not romantic tˆte-…-tˆtes.

Europa takes the Spanish name tapas for its two-dozen-or-so offerings, but these little dishes, both hot and cold, take their inspiration from all around the Mediterranean. Europa's tapas ($4 - $8) range from a simple bowl of ripe olives to stuffed mussels and seared tuna.

Paella is perhaps the most famous Spanish dish, and the Europa version ($39.95) serves two to three patrons; after several tapas it will serve four. Fish and shellfish are compelling main dishes ($14 - $20) here, though meat and poultry have their place as well. The zuppa de pesce is a robustly flavored dish, more stew than soup and redolent with both fish and shellfish and warm garlic bread for the last of the sauce. More delicate are the seared scallops, carmelized and sweet, with polenta and a scatter of green beans. For a little different spin on dinner, grab a group of friends and give Europa a try. — Davis Morton

Europa Mediterranean Café & Tapas Bar
1409 E. Cary St.
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Monday - Thursday 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.;
Friday - Saturday 5:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Although nothing could replace Winnie's Caribbean Cafe, the new occupant, Taste of Afrika, does retain some of the friendly atmosphere and down-to-earth ethnic cuisine that made Winnie's so distinctive and popular.

Though its menu offers conventional American crowd-pleasers like sub sandwiches and burgers ($2.50 to $5.50), its centerpiece is composed of Senegalese specialties like Chicken Yassa ($7.99), which is a famous mustard-marinated chicken-and-vegetables dish served over rice, and West African-influenced dishes like St. Louis Red Snapper ($12.99), which is cooked with tomatoes, garlic, onions, vegetables and also served over rice. There is nothing subtle or delicate about this food — the flavors are bold and spicy, the helpings are large, and the presentations are without fuss.

Diners looking for a unique dessert experience will appreciate the bean pie. It involves a sweet and creamy white bean paste spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg that bears little semblance to the beans from which it is made. The paste is baked in a pie shell and topped with sweet crumbles, resulting in a nice dessert that's well worth a try. — B. Ifan Rhys

Taste of Afrika
200 E. Main Street
Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
Closed Sunday

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