Staffers try new ethnic cuisine around Omaha: Okra African Grill on 72nd & Pacific

SophiaVirgillito & GraceVirgillito

Twin staffers Grace and Sophia Virgillito decided to challenge their taste buds on a new adventure. Coming from an Italian family and a cultural-food-loving dad, we’ve eaten a variety of foods. Our household enjoys a Saturday dinner of Mexican, Italian, Korean, Greek, Thai or Chinese food. 

Whether this is going out to a restaurant or cooking up a recipe at home, it is always important to introduce yourself and those around you to different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. There are plenty of different locations around Omaha serving delicious food, bringing about diverse cultures and providing opportunities to expand your knowledge. 

We decided to keep it simple and COVID-friendly by ordering for pickup at Okra African Grill, located near 72nd and Pacific, after it was recommended to us by a classmate. 

Okra African grill is owned by a female immigrant from Togo of West Africa. She came to America in 1994 with a business visa. This new business opened around the time of the lockdown, so supporting local establishments is important around Omaha.

The menu has a variety of different African cuisine including rice bowls, specialties, sides, snacks and extras, vegan options, desserts and a kids menu. The website is simple and easy to use while you get the chance to choose what ingredients go into your bowl. 

On our first trip to Okra, we shared a rice bowl. Inside was roasted sweet potatoes, Vermicelli noodles, red beans and sweet corn. On the side we got two Ablos (sweet rice dumplings) and three Beignets (Puff Puffs or fried dough) for dessert. The total of this meal was $13.40. 

We both agreed that our first meal didn’t initially strike us as something jaw dropping, but later we started to crave it. I [Sophia] found myself wanting to go back to a quality, cultural and COVID-friendly restaurant while not constantly putting a dent in my bank account.

We wanted to explore the menu a little more and get a new experience, so we went back for round two.

The second time around we picked up a Vegan rice bowl, with a side of Jellof Rice (red rice), Pomme De Terre Frit (seasoned homestyle French fries), and for dessert an Ultimate Chocolate Chunk Cookie. The total of this meal was $15.08. It was perfect to split together. 

Sophia: I liked the second meal better. It felt healthier and more filling, but less out of my comfort zone. The first meal I could tell was different from other ethnic meals I’ve had before. The rice bowl on our first trip reminded me of a Chipotle bowl. I assumed the ingredients would be similar to a Mexican rice bowl, but the add-ins reflected the African elements of Okra. 

My favorite part was the sweet potatoes, something that is usually not added to my initial thought of a rice bowl. Most of the toppings of both bowls were grilled, which added a smoky flavor that I think most adults would enjoy. 

The service seemed like a fast food restaurant, but it was quality take out. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for something new to try in Omaha while also wanting to support locally owned businesses. 

Grace: When going to Okra, I didn’t know what to expect as the restaurant is fairly new. I had never had African cuisine before, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

The environment of the restaurant was 5/5. This is what I respected most. The workers were helpful and friendly, which made it less awkward trying to find our pickup order. 

The website was also organized and described the food well, providing easy access to the meal we wanted. They made it easy to differentiate from what we could add and what was in it. 

I was eager to test my taste buds with new food and was captivated by the different flavor combinations. Our untraditional choice was a pleasing 4/5 because I was charmed, but unfamiliarized with the culture. I would definitely recommend going to Okra and trying out different meals to everyone. I think it’s important to explore traditions of various cultures and try something you believe is a little different.

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