Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Uganda Restaurant Rundown

For all of you headed to Uganda in January, here are our reviews of the restaurants we ate at during our stay. We cooked at the guest house as much as we could to save money, but, sometimes you have to eat lunch in Kampala, and other times you are just dying for some American food. If this list looks long, remember we were there for five weeks. Hopefully you won't be! Here are the restaurants we tried and our impressions. To be fair, we only went to most of these places once, so it is possible that a poor impression was based on an "off" day.

Pizza Inn/Nandos: Pretty decent pizza any day except Tuesday. Tuesday is two-for-one day, which may tempt you, but here is why you should avoid it: the wait will be way longer, the ingredients seemed skimpier, and when they say "two-for-one" the don't mean get two, pay for one, they mean "open your pizza box and find two of the same pizza stacked on top of each other." The top pizza is the free one, and it will be small and pretty soggy. Also, it will make the pizza you paid for pretty soggy too. So, as great as it is to get extra pizza, it wasn't worth the quality sacrifice. On any other day it is good. They deliver. That is awesome.

Chicken Inn: I am pretty sure this is related to Nandos/Pizza Inn. They sort of share a building in Kampala. The sandwiches are pretty good but you want to get a two piece sandwich, because the chicken pieces are like what we would think of as chicken fingers, and if you order a one-piece it will mostly be bun and scraggly lettuce. The chips are good here too (and by chips, I of course mean fries). The bummer is they don't have ketchup, only mercado sauce (like top-up). They will swear to you that it is ketchup though. However, if you mix the mercado sauce with the chili sauce that they have (both in little squirt bottles that look like ketchup and mustard bottles), you can make a decent sauce for your sandwich. Thursday is two-for-one day at Chicken Inn, which we found out when they handed us a second bag of sandwiches as we were leaving. The same delivery that brings you Pizza Inn will also bring you Chicken Inn, although we never tried it.

La Petite Bistro: Check your lonely planet- this one good restaurant. It is located outside of Kampala (close to the American embassy). It is an open air restuarant with a cute thatched roof, so you can't miss it. The food here is quite good. Things we enjoyed (two visits: one with Jeff, one with my mom): house salads (with lettuce and tomatoes...luxury), beef samosas, beef stew, pepper steak, pork chops, and the cheeseburger. I think either the beef stew (ugandan style) or the pork chops were the best. The catch with La Petite Bistro is that it takes forever, and ever, and ever, to get your food. So, don't go if you don't have at least an hour to wait for it. It is "expensive," I think seven dollars for the steak or pork chops. The meals come with a house salad and a potato and vegetable, so it is a lot of food for your money. We went on the day that Jeff left (his last meal in Uganda) and on the day that mom and I left- out last meal. It was a nice send-off.

Ranchers: This is in Garden City Mall. Now, before I tell you our impression, I should say that it was highly recommended to us, and I know people who ate at Ranchers consistantly and really liked it. Also, it was the first place we went in Uganda for "American" food, so we were very surprised when it was British food instead. Ranchers was decent, but not great. I was dissapointed because it really looked like it was going to be good, and then my cheeseburger arrived topped with cucumber and tasting exactly like a meatloaf sandwich (I am not a meatloaf fan). It was also our first run-in with Garden City Mall food prices, so it seemed really expensive to us. We did not go back. However, if I were concerned about food preparation and handling, Ranchers did seem very clean and is probably very hygenic.

A Lo Cubano: Garden City Mall food court, third floor. This is only one of the food court offerings that we tried. The food court in Uganda is a very different experience than in an American mall. Instead of wandering around and picking a place to eat, you sit at a table and waiters from all the different restaurants swarm you waving menus. You pick your menu and order from the waiter for that restuarant. Service is not quick like American fast food. You will wait a while. A Lo Cubano had very good food. It was spicy and interesting. My mom had a pork plate, and I got a sandwich, and we were both happy with it. Tommy was particularly pleased with it as well (Ugandan babies seem to love spicy food), as he shared some of both of ours. It is a lot of food. We were surprised by the big portions. I would absolutely eat there again.

Quality Cuts: This is at Quality Hill, which is very very close to the American Embassy. At Quality Cuts you can by deli meats, cheeses, and a few very expensive groceries, but you can also buy deli sandwiches made to order. I loved this place. The sandwiches were about two to three dollars each, and they were very big. We went twice, and both times we (me, Mom/Jeff, and driver) all ate for about ten dollars total. The meat is not the highest quality, but it is good enough.The bread is good, and it is great to choose from different kinds of cheese! There are some tables out front where you can take your food and eat, so it is very convienent. I would highly reccomend this place.

Quality Hill Coffee Shop: I don't know the proper name of this shop, but it is right next to Quality cuts at Quality Hill. You wouldn't be able to miss it. We went here one day that we were stuck at the embassy. We went in in the morning and had to come back a few hours later, and didn't want to drive back to the guest house so we went and sat in the coffee shop. It is nice, clean, and offers typical coffee-house drinks. However, (notice the theme of slow service) it takes a really long time to get your drinks, and if you order a blended iced coffee by the time they make it and deliver it the small bit of ice they put in it is melted. Not at all frappuccino-like. The desserts are decent, but overpriced. However, if you are stuck near the embassy it is a comfortable place to kill time.

Lotus Mexicana: This is where we went to celebrate after getting our "yes" from the judge! It was recommended to us by an American who lives in Uganda as the closest thing to Mexican food that we would find. Now, you should understand that Mexican food is my favorite kind of food, and I grew up in Southern California, so I have fairly high standards. Lotus Mexicana is a fusion restaurant, so it isn't purely mexican, which we knew going in. It was good enough to alleviate some of my worst Mexican food cravings. The food was, in my opinion, more southwestern than mexican, but it was, as Tommy is fond of saying, tasty. We had enchiladas and tacos, and both were close enough to the real thing. The rice and beans were decent too. The biggest dissapointment was that the tortilla chips tasted like fried wontons, and not like real tortilla chips. This place is expensive (the bill ended up being $50 for the four of us), but it was a very nice restaurant, and a good place to celebrate.

Metropole Hotel: This hotel has a few restaurants. We ended up at the first floor cafe, on one of the days that we had to hang around the Surgery all day (to bring back a sample). It is very close to the Surgery, which was convienent for us and why we ended up there. The hotel is quite nice and very clean. Service was extremely slow, the food was only so so, and it was fairly expensive. The cafe does have some beautiful gardens. I wouldn't go back, because Garden City isn't that far away, and it had better food than the hotel cafe for a similar price.

Tea Room next to the Surgery: This place has a real name. I can't think of it. Anyway, you will see it when you go to the Surgery because it is in the building right next to the parking lot and below the Surgery entrance. We never ate there because on the days we needed to hang out at the surgery they seemed to only have broccoli laden food- soups and quiches (I do not eat cooked broccoli). However, the cookies there are awesome and totally worth going in. The chocolate dipped shortbread is so yummy, and since you will probably visit the surgery multiple times, you will have ample opportunity to get some delicious treats. They have a really nice patio that would be a comfortable place to hang out in between appointments.

Zambia River Lodge Restaurant: Yuck. Please refer to our tale of Safari horror to understand why we even stopped here. I got really sick from this food, even though it is supposed to be a nice hotel that caters to tourists.

Parra Lodge Restaurant: Best food we ate in Uganda (except maybe at Gately), but you have to drive an awfully long way and pay a very steep price for it.

Buffet at Ndere Center: Gross. Don't do it. Cold matoke is not appealing, and the buffet has very few options. Just go and order chicken skewers A La Carte.

Chapati Stands- Ok, we totally broke all the "rules" and had chapati from stands often. We were warned that we should only purchase it fresh-made to avoid "the running stomach." We stuck by that rule and were fine. You can get a bunch of chapati for very little (50 cents) and it will keep well enough if you have a way to heat it. We used it to make tacos and quesadillas, and we ate it when I made Ugandan food. Rolexs are also a cheap way to eat. They are a fried egg and some veggies rolled up in a chapati. I think they may have made me a bit sick though. Samosas from stands are also good, but only buy them hot.

Traveler's (In Jinja): This is a bar/restaurant in a hostel. We went to Traveler's for the smoothie bar, which, while not Jamba Juice, was the closest I saw anywhere. The smoothies are made with great juice, but not nearly enough ice. Very refreshing after a hot hike at Bugagali Falls. The menu there is limited, but inexpensive and pretty good. A bit too much of the British influence (my cold roast beef sandwich was slathered in butter), but for the price you can't complain.

Gately on the Nile (In Jinja): Yum. Gately is tasty. It was one of the more expensive places we ate, but they had iceberg lettuce that we felt safe eating. And to put "expensive" in perspective, a Greek salad was, I think, 7 dollars. All of the entrees we had were between 5 and 8 dollars. Dessert was three dollars. We went to Gately twice. The first time when Jeff, Tommy, and I went to Jinja, and our driver insisted we go there because "Mzungus love it." Jeff had quiche (yes, real men eat quiche), I had a steak sandwich, and our driver had pork chops. Everything was delicious, although I think my steak sandwich was the best. We had friend bananas with ice-cream for desert, and it was amazing. So, when my mom started to get a little burned out on driving around Kampala (the smog made her very sick) we decided to take a day-trip to Jinja, and I planned to take her to lunch at Gately. I knew it would make her feel better- and I was right! She had Greek Salad and I had Nachos (with decent salsa!), and our driver had fish. Of course, we finished with friend bananas. It was the highlight. All good. So, if you are in Jinja and desperate for a salad, or some good food, hit up Gately. It also has very nice grounds and a neat patio so you can dine al fresco. And don't forget the fried bananas.


Jim and April said...

Hey! Just wanted to let you know we have our new official adoption blog up and running! Feel free to subscribe and follow along with us on our journey of bringing home our first child from Uganda, Africa! http://www.starkeyadoption.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks for the restaurant rundown! we won't be traveling for awhile, but i'm sure this will be helpful!!


Emily said...

Some additional suggestions: If you like Indian food, Khana Khazana (I think that's the right spelling) is very nice and good, though a bit on the pricey side by Uganda standards (I think my dinner was $15 or so.) There is also a delicious and cheap Indian restaurant near the cultural center in Kampala-- I think it was called Masala House? Anyway "Masala" was definitely part of the name and it's near The Cake and Bread Shop (which I never tried despite its tempting name and very clean-looking cases of pastries).

I also ate at Le Chateau Belge, the thatched-roof hut restaurant next to Quality Cuts. Again, it was a bit more expensive (my entree was about 20,000 UGS or about $10-$12) but it was REALLY good. I had awesome fried tilapia fingers with the best chips (fries) that I found in Uganda. Ditto on what Amy said about Gately, though the quiche I had was a bit strange (veggie quiche with a surprising amount of carrots). The fried bananas were great. It's right across the street from Amani Baby Cottage if you are adopting from there or visiting.

We also ate at a good japanese restaurant called Samurai which is on Ggaba road near Patrick's guest house. Very yummy. There is another good restaurant called Caffe Roma that is near the guest house but not in Buziga, I can't remember the name of the area but it's near Heritage International School; it has good pizza and italian food and was reasonably priced.

Emily said...

Oh also my quesadilla at A Lo Cubano was really gross and also had a giant hair in it... so maybe stick with the sandwiches.

sheila said...

I am Ugandan and yet this has been very infomative for me. You know it's mostly tourists that eat out in Uganda. Thanks. I hope you're enjoying your baby