Eating out in Kisumu: Mama Colo’s kibanda restaurant
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has just landed in Kisumu and like the Luos we really are no one wants to be left out of being among the first to visit the place. I haven’t been there yet – I am not a fan of fried chicken and I do not believe that trying the KFC specials will change my mind about fried chicken. In the middle of the conversations everyone is having about KFC on Facebook, I learn about a kibanda that serves good chicken and it’s simply known as “Mama Colo Restaurant.”
When you hear the tag restaurant or hotel in Kisumu, do not always try to associate it with 5 star dining. Most of the time you will be disappointed when you land in some dusty roadside shack.
“Mama Colo” is quite the typical name of a roadside Kibanda that serves food in Kisumu’s peri-urban environs. I grew up eating lunches at Mama Safi in Nyalenda. It was quite the place back in the day. So as I drove from the office in the sweltering Kisumu sun…I had an idea of what to expect. Probably a replica of Mama Safi just this time the lady owner probably has a son called Collins. Mama Safi was called that because she had spotless sufurias that would blind your eye as they reflected Kisumu sun.
Mama Colo restaurant is located along Marine Drive, just a few meters after Lake View Hotel, not far from Swan Center. Lake View is one interesting place – the old know-it-all professors drinking at the bar being the hallmark of it all but we will talk about that another day.
The restaurant is actually called Mama Colombus. So no child named Collo…maybe Columbus but then again, this is Kisumu. The Hotel Might have been named after anything including Christopher Columbus. There is a long queue at the door. Bigger than the ones I saw on the photos from KFC. There are other Vibanda restaurants next to it but they don’t seem to have this kind of special activity. Mama Colo must be very popular or the food must be very good – based on what I have heard, I will go with the latter.
I wash my hands at the entrance and before I even make one turn, someone calls out my name.
“Ominde, so you decided to see for yourself,” mumbles Jefferson Ngozi as he tries to multitask between catching my attention and chewing the piece of chicken in his mouth.
“Mama Colo, huyu ni mgeni siku ya kwanza, mshughulikie vizuri anaweza kukuongeza wateja (Mama Collo, this is a first time visitor treat him well, he can bring you more clients) adds Edgar Odoyo, a corporate MC in Kisumu. I still don’t understand why they need her to get more customers while the place is literally full. It’s about 1 PM, there are about six of us on our feet waiting to get seats.
I spot another lady I know, exchange a quick wave. The crowd here is very diverse. There are the businessmen and tenderpreneurs in casual clad. There are the guys who seem to have come from offices clad in official attire. There are the guys in suits too – I still don’t understand why someone would walk under the Kisumu sun in a suit and tie.
There are a significant number of ladies here too. Some are in the company of the men dressed like they came from offices. Others are on a lone mission like I am. There is one in a beautiful black dress standing behind me. She kinda looks out of place but she is very comfortable.
Edgar assures me that once I taste the chicken, there is no going back. I hear the KFC chicken is addictive too, the secret recipe’ thing…I wonder what could be Mama Collo‘s secret recipe’.
I find a place to sit after about five minutes of standing and chatting with Ngozi and Edgar. Actually, it’s Ngozi who leaves me his seat. As I wait for my order, I notice that almost everyone here knows someone in here. Maybe they all work in offices close to each other or maybe I just don’t know enough people.
The guys next to me have just ordered for ugali saucer and it took too long to come. They are now screaming at the top of their lungs (okay not quite literally, but they are a little loud). In case you haven’t been to a kibanda ugali saucer is an extra serving of ugali that you do not actually pay for. It’s delivery depends on how loud you are or the moods of the waiter. If you are unlucky enough to order from a lady in the wrong time of the month, you will have a story to tell.
Their ugali saucer arrived moments after I had given my order of ugali with stewed chicken. They got a whole serving of ugali to share among the two of them. One managed to convince the other that more was coming and took it all. No more came. You can imagine the look on the other guy’s face. You know people have died because of things like this…Do not try that in Kakamega, ugali and chicken are not things to be taken lightly.
I saw a man’s face literrally light up when he saw the ugali on his friend’s table.
“Chairman abiro mana bet bathi kanyo. An mogo e watna (Chairman, I am sitting right next to you. Food is my only relative).”
The guys seated directly opposite me has a broken leg. He came in walking in crutches and more than a dozen guys have said hi to him and asked him how the leg is doing.To friends, it’s not just about the food. This is where they socialize for a quick minute during their lunch breaks. From the look of it, some of these people meet here daily.
The chicken stew seem to be the popular dish here even though I heard someone order fish and another one meat stew. The chicken costs either Ksh. 200 (USD 2) or Ksh. 150 (USD 1.5) depending on the size of the portion. The chicken tastes really good and it has some pilipili kwa umbali (cooked in mild pepper). Sort of the chicken you will eat in the village.
Several people are still standing on their feet. I hurry through my meal and hand over my seat to a lady who had been standing for a while but seemed not to mind waiting. Maybe she knows it’s worth it. Another guy makes his order despite being on his feet, he says as long as the chicken lands in his stomach he is alright.
Other than the amazing food, this restaurant allows you to rub into the Luo culture. Everyone here is proud, talks loud and does not mind calling for an extra serving of ugali.
PHOTO CREDITS: Joyce Osike
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