The vast, vibrant smile and type eyes of Mamadou Savané, proprietor of Sav’s Grill in Lexington, Kentucky, are the primary issues most prospects strolling into his restaurant see. Together with the nice and cozy deposition Savané exudes and the odor of Guinean meals wafting by way of the air, there’s his story of turning into a meals entrepreneur 1000’s of miles from residence.
Savané hails from coastal Conakry, the capital and largest metropolis of the small West African nation of Guinea. His journey to Lexington started with assembly his now-wife Rachel, who was serving within the Peace Corps there. The pair moved to Lexington in 1993 and began to construct a life and household.
Not realizing a lot English (his native tongue is French), Savané labored numerous jobs to help his rising household ― UPS, a close-by Hyatt Regency, the Lexington Nation Membership ― till he cast his dream of being a enterprise proprietor that centered on his nice loves of cooking and meals. Sav’s Grill opened at its unique South Limestone location in 2008.
“I had this dream behind my head,” he stated. “Individuals who knew me at work, my co-workers, mates and neighbors knew I at all times talked about that someday I’m going to open my very own restaurant.”
However there was a major hurdle: funding his dream. After arising quick in his search to seek out somebody to accomplice with him as an investor, he refinanced the house he and his spouse owned.
Recreating the dishes he grew up consuming posed one other surprising problem. His preliminary menu solely had 4 objects. From there, it has grown to incorporate staples prospects search for time and time once more.
And that he did, a restaurant that right now has moved into one other location on East Primary Avenue inside downtown Lexington, an area painted vibrant yellow with artwork from his homeland adorning the partitions. Sav’s Grill was the primary West African restaurant on the town when it first opened in 2008, and it stays the one one right now. Savané admits that for a lot of of his prospects, eating at his restaurant is their first expertise with Guinean or West African delicacies.
Guinean delicacies encompasses the essence of meals prevalent in most West African nations: low- and slow-cooked stews and sauces with tomatoes, onions, garlic and habanero pepper as a base. Fashionable dishes embrace issues like jollof rice, fried plantain, cassava leaf and groundnut sauces (colloquially referred to as maafe or maffi and produced from peanuts cooked down with aromatics) served with rooster, beef or fish.
Rice is a crucial staple, as is fufu, affectionately known as pounded yam, and rolled into balls to be eaten with sauces, soups and stews. Guinea is a French-speaking nation as a result of French colonization within the 19th century, so some dishes bear these influences if solely in identify. Some examples mirrored on the Sav’s Grill menu embrace boffa tilapia and lamb ragoût.
When Savané cooked his favourite dishes for mates and neighbors at his residence, the intrigue and delight of their reactions spurred his ardour to make a brick and mortar restaurant a actuality as a substitute of a pipe dream.
“Each time I made [Guinean food] at residence for neighbors it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, man that is so good. I want we had one thing like this in Lexington.’ That’s when the concept of the restaurant began rolling round in my head,” he stated.
However there was a major hurdle: recreating the dishes he grew up consuming. His preliminary menu solely had 4 objects. From there it has grown to incorporate staples prospects search for time and time once more.
“After I began including increasingly more objects to the menu, I’d name my mother or sister to stroll me by way of issues I wished to attempt after which made them in small batches at residence for my household,” he stated with fun.
However his ingenuity and introduction of recent dishes and ideas wouldn’t cease there. In 2012, 4 years after his restaurant opened, Savané launched a brand new idea into his enterprise: ice cream. That 12 months, he opened an ice cream store throughout the road from his then restaurant on Limestone. He’d commute throughout the road, utilizing tools he purchased for an eight-flavor ice cream freezer at low value when leasing the house. He used to make as much as 24 flavors, however has now diminished that quantity to 20. Kentucky espresso and scorching banana ― a particular taste that mixes banana and a habanero scorching sauce Savané makes himself ― appear to be buyer favorites.
As a result of coronavirus pandemic, his menu is simplified proper now. Diners can select from his bowls that include a alternative of rooster, goat, meatballs or vegan choices alongside rice or fufu, a aspect salad and fried plantain, in addition to kéké (couscous produced from cassava and a housemade French dressing) salads.
In December, Savané opened at his latest location on East Primary Avenue ― an absence of parking and points with the close by College of Kentucky scholar middle necessitated the change. The brand new house combines his restaurant and ice creamery in a single house. The brand new location is extra handy for him, too, because it’s shut sufficient to stroll from his residence.
Working his enterprise throughout a pandemic has been difficult. He needed to lay off a few of his workers to regulate to the discount of service when the eating room closed some months in the past, and he needed to alter the menu. Nonetheless, he’s hopeful in regards to the future. Lately, he launched out of doors patio seating and stay music.
“All of us have our desires, however in the event you don’t attempt you’ll by no means know,” he stated. “I’m glad I did.”