OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Get your taste buds ready. The Taste of Omaha festival is back this weekend and KMTV is a proud media sponsor.
The festival offers you a chance to sample some of Omaha's best restaurants. There's a wide selection featuring everything from Mexican to Italian to Greek.
It's a great way to experience food you've never had before.
As 3 News Now Anchor Serese Cole reports, one metro restaurant owner is counting on the festival to introduce more people to African cuisine.
Nina Sodgi's love for cooking started as a little girl in Western Africa thanks to her grandmother.
"She'd come really early in the morning, and she'd made this really simple dish. It's not really anything like fillet mignon type thing but it was so satisfying to me that she came," remembered Sodgi.
She later found out Grandma Agnes was also making hot meals for other kids in the neighborhood.
"We have something special about our food," said Sodgi.
She also wanted to share it with others.
"I mean we have all of this nurturing and rich culture, but nobody knows of. If anybody asks you what is African food, they're like, what is it? They don't have the slightest idea," Sodgi said.
She changed that last year when she opened Okra African Grill.
It offers slow-cooked African dishes made from scratch.
"So you come to the door and build a bowl," she explained.
Building a bowl is simple.
You pick your base: A choice of white rice, Jollof rice (white rice cooked in tomato sauce) or beans. Then you pick a protein: chicken, lamb, steak, pork, shrimp or fish.
Next, select a sauce and add your toppings.
"If you want it, you get it. If you don't, you leave it alone. It's as simple as that," Sodgi laughed.
Customers can also order bowls off the menu like the Peanut Butter Chicken Special. It comes with white rice, grilled veggies, grilled chicken, plantains and pico with peanut sauce drizzled on top.
There are also four specialty bowls. The Lamb Bowl is one of the most popular. It's served with the Jollof rice, veggies, lamb, spinach sauce, roasted potatoes and pico.
The Ablo Bowl is Nina's favorite.
"Ablo has the kabobs and it has a special African seasoning... it tastes totally different than any steak you'll taste," she said.
The options are endless.
"You can make it as healthy as you want, as more high protein as you want, as vegan as you want," Sodgi explained.
Nina is happy to share her food with Omaha and her customers are happy, too.
"That's the most rewarding part for me to know that they love the food so much," she shared.
Nina is serving up culture and kindness, just like her grandma.
"I'm sure she'd cry," she said with a smile. "For me to come all the way to America and actually be able to do this on a large scale to this point would be beyond the imagination. I think my mission is accomplished."
Nina will only be serving a few of her bowls at the Taste of Omaha this weekend.
If you'd like the full of experience, stop by the Okra African Grill at 1303 South 72nd Street.
To see the complete menu go to their website.
Okra is just one of the dozens of restaurants showcasing their great food this year at the festival, which will take place Saturday and Sunday at Elmwood Park.
To see all the participating restaurants and a list of the concerts, visit this website. Admission is free.