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First Bite: Nelshil African restaurant in University Place

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Sep. 17, 2008 at 5:45 pm | No Comments »
September 17, 2008 5:45 pm

TNT Diner reader Olemag e-mailed the Diner crew last week and asked us to look into a newish African restaurant called Nelshil in University Place.

So of course I dutifully went to dine there Saturday. (Yes, indeed, our TNT Diner bellies are at your disposal. Make a note of it.)

The restaurant is cute and sweet in a mom-and-pop sort of way. I loved the black and white cotton tablecloths and light pink walls – a really adorable place. It also was, sadly, empty on a Saturday night.

The menu is an interesting collision of American, soul and West African. Spaghetti seems really out of place on the menu, but hey, whatever.

On the soul food side of the menu, there’s catfish ($7.99 for a three piece) and greens ($3.75), corn bread ($1.50) and fried okra ($3.25)

The African side of the menu, page 5, was a bit more interesting and seemed very West African in ingredients and descriptions. The menu listed spinach stew with rice ($9), goat soup ($7) and the traditional West African jollof rice ($8.50).

I ordered takeout to bring to my fellow newsies. Knowing TNT reporter Scott Fontaine is a huge fan of carbs and anything from Africa (he’s traveled there extensively), I ordered peanut soup ($7) and fried plantains with a blackeye pea stew ($9).

The soup tasted just like a traditional West African peanut soup should, laden with chunks of goat meat in a peanut-buttery-tomatoey soup base. With rice, it was great eating. Note: ask for extra rice. The soup serves 4 or so, but only came with enough rice for two people. The TNT carbivores (Scott) were not pleased.

The stew was a delicious combo of black eyed peas, mild spices and stewed meat (goat, perhaps?) and a side of fried plantains that were so good, they invoked a fork fight to the very last chunk. You MUST order the fried plantains if you eat at Nelshil. A crunchy, fried exterior gives way to a creamy, delicious center. The carbivores (Scott) approved.

I asked a woman working there how long ago the restaurant opened. She said they have been in the University Place location about six months, and previously were in the B&I Shopping Center on South Tacoma Way for about the same amount of time before moving.

It was a brief first bite, but will I go back? Sure. I really want to try the jollof rice and some of the soul food (but probably not the spaghetti). If you go try Nelshil, post here and let us know what you thought.


Nelshil, 5510 Orchard St. W. (behind the 7-11 at 56th and Orchard); 253-584-0491

Note: This first bite report brought to you thanks to a TNT Diner reader. Have a newish restaurant you want us to try? E-mail me at

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