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Club Timbuktu

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Chef Chris Harris believes that preparing African food is like cooking any other cuisine. He says the tastes are reminiscent of foods from the Caribbean, India, Asia, and Jamaica. Perhaps some African natives might disagree, but Omar Gagale, owner of Club Timbuktu and a native of Somalia, respects Harris’s beliefs as well as his cooking. He has to — he hired him to be the chef at his club’s restaurant. “We try to incorporate flavors from all around the globe for this side of town into our daily menu,” Harris comments. And they do. A meal beginning with piping hot, sweet Somalian tea, for instance, is a welcome precursor to a lunchtime meal of chicken gumbo and rice. The okra and tender chicken waltzing with traditional West African spices elicit satisfying, toe squirming inside your shoes, getting you prepared to really move your feet on the dance floor. Talks of emancipation and liberation are playing softly through the speakers during lunch but erupt into a medley of African music featuring artists like the harmonic Cesaria Evora. Quality live music, dancing, and dining are the order of the day at Club Timbuktu, 520 East Center Street. In the spirit of Africa, there is something for most music and poetry enthusiasts to enjoy. Groove to a Bob Marley Brithday Party on Febrary 6. Reggae Night begins on Sunday evenings on February 20. Wednesdays are dedicated to poets starting February 9, and the last Tuesday of the month is Sufi Poetry Night featuring the works of Rumi and Hafiz. Weekend shows slated for February include local favorites Paul Cebar and Frogwater for a Tsunami Benefit, the Riverwest Co-op Valentine Dance, and an Afro-Caribbean Jam with DJs from Africa and the Caribbean (see Under Currents Calendar for more details). Owner Gagale says it is important to him for the club to contribute to crossing the color lines of an extremely polarized city. “I have been surprised by how music can relax people and join races,” Gagale says. There aren’t that many places where you can find every kind of person, enjoying music of all Africa,” he adds. African food and music are not the only offerings he and partner Youssouf Komara, a native of Guinea, intend for patrons. In general, they want a safe place for people to have a conversation about anything, to speak their minds and be heard. The customers at Club Timbuktu, like the food seasonings, seem to blend well. People from all walks of life, as multi-hued as the brightly painted walls, come through the doors of this northeast side establishment to get a piece of Africa. IF YOU GO: Open daily for lunch 11AM-3PM; dinner 5-9PM; weekend brunch 9AM-3PM. Club Timbuktu 520 E. Center St.414/265-7000 www.clubtimbuktu.com
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