Kilimandjaro

Maybe Penn fraternities just ruined the phrase for me, but when we were told, “You’ll just have to wait outside a minute,” I wasn’t thrilled.

Rain spilled off the roof and onto the sidewalk of the shopping plaza on the corner of Chestnut and 43rd. Our group of four had been waiting outside for twenty minutes, and it was colder than anticipated. As a result, I thought I would be more than ready to down full dish at Kilimandjaro, (I’d been warned that the portions leave one full well into the next day) but I was wrong. A big tin container full of leftovers came home with me.

photos by Maria Murad

Maybe it was psychosomatic, but when we entered Kilimandjaro, any coldness left me. I was transported, forgetting all about the rain. The dining area was warm with yellow light, and walls are painted with bright colors and adorned with abstract art, traditional masks, framed newspaper articles, posters of the sunset on the Savannah, and a television screen playing a rotation of African music videos. Unsuspectingly, I dropped a few feet into my fluffy leather seat and the waitress left us our menus. She was accommodating and kind, seeing as I had and still have very little experience with African cuisine.

We started with the Ginger Baye, a mango-based juice that will clean out your sinuses in an instant. Next, a friend of mine who was more familiar Kilimandjaro insisted that we order one, maybe even two plates of plantains. We ordered one. We then wished we had ordered two. Even just the onions on top are worth it.

Other hits were the Yassa Philly, a lunch special served with rice (that could also be ordered for dinner), and the chicken-turned-vegetable spicy curry, which was delicious, but one of few options for our resident vegetarian. I decided to be adventurous, at least by my standards, and order the Mafe, a lamb dish cooked in creamy peanut butter. It was delicious, but I had a very difficult time cutting the meat from the bone without coating myself and my companions in projectile peanut butter sauce.

So, it wasn’t that the quality that prevented us from polishing off all the food — it was the quantity. Between our small mountains of plantains, the Baye, and the density of the entrees, I was stuffed after only a few bites. When we stepped outside after paying the check (side note: Kilimandjaro is cash-only!), it had gotten even colder. But we didn’t mind cold hands; there was no way we weren’t taking those leftovers home.