Museum of African Art 316-332 A Street NE. 547-6222.
Hours: Saturdays in February, from noon to 2 p.m.
Atmosphere: An informal celebration of soul food and its heritage. This is Black History Month -- and these are the times to try man's soul food.
Price range: Prices vary slightly each week; last week it was $2 to $2.75 for children and $4 to $4.75 for adults.
Credit cards: No.
Special facilities: Dining area accessible by wheelchair, although a few steps are involved to get to the food table. Street parking possible if you're patient. After you eat, there's much to see and do in the museum.
You'll have to act fast if you want to try today's recommendation -- for it's not every day that the Museum of African Art whips up a feast for families.
But for two more Saturdays in February, which is Black History Month, you're invited to the museum's edible exhibition of "Soul Food -- The Culinary Heritage." It's a travelogue for tastebuds that features different goodies of the Third World each week.
After an opening round on Feb. 3 with the hot-and-hearty, let-your-fingers-do-the-stoking food of Ethiopia, last Saturday's feast focused on the specialties of West Africa -- which, we can report, had every bit as much body as soul.
Our quartet of guinea pigs for this trek, in addition to the two regular young explorers and me, included a good-hearted and game contemporary of our 9-year-old daughter.
The chow hall for these events is a few doors up from the main museum entrance at 328 A Street NE. There, you walk right into a roomful of fam ily-style tables. Up a set of steps to the left is the spread for the day, which is served buffet-style.
By the time we arrived midway through the noon-to-2-p.m. serving, things were jumping -- tables were nearly filled and there was a line, but it was moving. The big decision for each of us would be whether to try combination platters or go the singledish route.
Though the prices apparently vary for these different feasts, ours boiled down to a choice of three out of five dishes for $4.75 an adult and $2.75 a child, or the one-dish plates at $4 for a grownup and $2 for a kid.
We should have gone for the combos, which were far heftier servings, but when you're sailing in uncharted waters you tend to be conservative -- and we each picked a single specialty. With soft drinks for the youngsters, we racked up a reasonable bill of $11.77.
As it turned out, between us we wound up with three out of the five offerings anyway. The also-rans, if you're curious, were the Egusi and Spinach Soup, billed as a mildly seasoned soup topped with green plaintains, and the Kenke (sour cornmeal balls) and Fried Fish, a Ghanaian specialty.
In an unusual burst of culinary courage, our daughter decided to try Fried Plaintains and Beans. None of us was exactly bowled over by the baked beans, but the plaintains were nothing like the weed of the same name that steals our front-lawn show every summer. They tasted like fried bananas.
The big hit with the small fry, however, was what our 12-year-old son and our daughter's accomplice ordered: Groundnut Soup and Jollof rice. The groundnut, you should know, is more familiarly referred to as the peanut; and this wasn't really a soup, but a stew of meat and vegetables in a peanutty sauce over a mildly spiced rice.
My selection was Yassa and Couscous, a Senegalese dish of chicken and vegetables over fine-grained wheat. This one goes down easily and then 60 seconds later turns hot enough to halt your speech. When you sit familystyle, you also can watch the guy across from you shovel in the couscous and then wait for his gasp, which nearly scorched the African-pattern tablecloth.
So much for the fine meal, now for a floor show -- back in the children's gallery of the main museum. There we watched a stunning presentation of dancing and cheers by the superb Melvin Deal African Heritage Dancers and Drummers, featuring some dazzling costumed sleight-of-feet by children from Richardson and Shaed elementary schools, and by the Asafo Dancers, who were a knockout.
Saturday, the feast will feature Caribbean food -- including roasted curried chicken, goat. ginger beer and other specialties. The show at 2:30 p.m. will feature Afro-American poetry.
The finale, on Feb.24, should be a biggie -- it's soul food, barbecued chicken and ribs, red beans, rice, potato salad and greens. The afternoon show will be about Afro-Americans in the Visual Arts.