195 DeKalb Avenue


Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight


Photo Dominic Perri

Mark and Jenny Henegan built Madiba pretty much from scratch in 1999, eventually expanding from a small single room into a significantly larger space — the better to invite the surrounding community of Fort Greene to partake of South African food, drink, and culture. The restaurant honors Nelson Mandela: Madiba is the anti-apartheid hero’s traditional Xhosa clan name, and portraits of Mandela and wife Winnie prominently adorn the dining room. “We started very small, not thinking it would be a restaurant in the beginning,” Mark Henegan explains. “We wanted to develop a cultural hub, a place for expat South Africans and then a neighborhood spot.” The restaurant’s tagline is “A Place of Love,” and Henegan’s home-style cooking draws on the concept of South Africa’s shebeens — informal hubs where township residents gather for a good time. Menu stalwarts include samoosas (cousin to the Indian samosa), spicy chicken wings or livers peri peri, oxtail stew, an assortment of curries, and pap 'n' boerewors: a polenta-like cornmeal mash with a long link of richly flavored beef sausage nestled atop. The wine list hews to the Henegans’ homeland, and the sound system spins South African house and jazz. Recently the Henegans opened a satellite in Harlem. “Hopefully, this place will never disappear,” Mark tells the Voice. “It’s not really a restaurant, it’s an institution, a cultural platform for South Africa, a mini-vacation. It’s the community that makes the restaurant. Harlem has a similar diversity — a concept like this would never work in an all-white neighborhood. People come from all around: rich, poor; black, white; gay, straight; families, and people looking to party late. It’s a one-stop shop.”