Americans' tastebuds have gotten more diverse in recent decades, thanks to more restaurants offering cultural cuisine such as Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Korean. Diners in the Santa Fe area are now getting a taste of African and Caribbean dishes thanks to the Jambo (pronounced jam buh) Cafe.
Operated by chef and owner Ahmed M. Obo for nearly a decade, the restaurant specializes in fragrant marinated chicken kabobs, curried Caribbean goat stew, sweet and savory plantain crab cakes, and more.
"The layers of spicing creating a multi dimensional dish that is both subtle and bold," Lyric Kali, who manages marketing and development for the restaurant, said. "From delectable curries to melt in your mouth lamb and succulent stews, you'll find a taste you love. Chef Ahmed is from the islands off the coast of Kenya and in his younger years took tourists fishing and then cooked up their catch. As a result, Jambo Cafe has a solid focus on creating fragrant seafood dishes with delicate layers of spicing not to be missed!"
In addition to appetizers and entrees, including ones for vegetarians, the menu also includes sandwiches, soups, and side dishes such as cumin fries and ugali, which is an African cornmeal mash. After enjoying a meal, diners can savor a sweet treat like pistachio banana baklava or the date coconut flourless chocolate cake.
"Be sure to try a hibiscus cooler or mango ginger lemonade to drink, tropical and fruity, but not too sweet," Kali said. "Most bases for dishes are naturally vegan and gluten free."
Jambo Cafe is located on Cerrillos Road in downtown Santa Fe. For those that don't have time to sit and dine the restaurant's food truck, Jambo Hapa, serves a limited version of the menu Monday through Saturday from wherever it's parked. The restaurant will be celebrating its ninth anniversary this year, and a second location is opening in Albuquerque that will feature imported African goods.
"Chef Obo has other ventures which share his Kenyan home and his love for children and family," Kali said. "Jambo Imports brings African art, textiles, jewelry, clothing, and more."
One of Obo's other ventures is the Jambo Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the Jambo Kids Clinic in Lamu, Kenya, which is Obo's hometown. The clinic helps provide healthcare for children and families and serves over 390 people a month, 30% of which are children. The Jambo Kids Foundation happily accepts donations through its website.
Jambo Cafe has won numerous awards including the Santa Fe Reporter "Best International Cuisine" for six consecutive years, and "Best Chef" in 2015 and 2016. The restaurant was also featured on an episode of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2013. It also regularly receives five-star reviews from satisfied customers on online review sites. The next time you're in downtown Santa Fe and crave a taste of the exotic continent, just say jambo, it's an African salutation meaning hello, to the Jambo Cafe.