When diners think African cooking, their thoughts usually jump to Morocco’s delicious tagines or Ethiopia’s spongy injera, but African cooking is vast. Here in Denver, we are lucky to have a host of regional choices, and one of my favorites is Aurora’s Maandeeq East African Cafe.

Busy morning, noon, and night, this bustling strip-mall location has no menu—you just walk in, sit down, and ask what’s cooking. Those who have traveled in East Africa will appreciate the steaming hot ugali. This dish, which is similar to stiff, white grits, is meant to be rolled in your hand and dipped into one of the ever-changing soups.

Follow that with the daily special, which might include a raisin-studded rice pilaf (called bariis), which is scented with cardamom and cinnamon from Zanzibar (sometimes called the Spice Islands); chicken suqaar tinged with garlic and cumin; tender beef mishkaki kebabs; or slow-roasted goat. Whatever you’re served, the experience is authentic, right down to the cacophony of East African dialects swirling all around.

Tip: Maandeeq does not serve alcohol, so respectfully order a mug of their delicious hot chai instead.

1535 S. Havana St., Suite H, Aurora, 303-745-2355