Tucked away in the Tallahassee Art District surrounded by art shops, small boutiques and jewelry stores, Halisi Africa set itself apart by starting a new venture: Zanzi Bar. Originally an apparel store featuring authentic, hand-woven African couture, co-owners Vanessa Byrd and Bryant Shaw dared themselves to add food to their product list.
Halisi Africa opened in September of 2019 as only a boutique, but Byrd and Shaw had a grand opening for their café three weeks ago. Many customers found the idea of a café attached to a clothing store confusing, but reception of the shop has been extremely positive.
Located at 1002 Commercial Drive, Halisi Africa is modeled in a relaxed “shop-and-sip” style in which customers can experience real African customs through clothing, food and music. I had the pleasure of visiting this establishment and was thoroughly impressed with the authenticity of the shop.
“Halisi in Swahili means ‘authentic’ or ‘original,’” Shaw said. “So, when you combine Halisi with Africa it translates to ‘from Africa.’”
Shaw and Byrd based their entire business on Afro-fusion combining multiple tastes from different African countries and even added an Indian flare.
Very friendly and personable, Shaw greeted me at the door and explained the types of foods they offered. Since this was my first time tasting authentic African foods, Shaw offered the “Taste of Africa” sampler menu in which I could try three drinks and three small dishes.
On the menu, there is a range of tapas, or small plates, that include chicken or salmon cooked in a variety of spices from Morocco, Ethiopia or India — just to name a few. There are also traditional breads and grains that complement African meals. The Zanzi Bar also has a vegetarian option for those with special eating habits.
“I am not someone who usually likes spicy food, but I loved the salmon,” said Shardai Sallye, a guest at Halisi Africa. “I could tell that the salmon was fresh, like they literally just caught it. But what I really loved was their drinks.”
In addition to their food menu, the Zanzi Bar offers a range of different drinks infused with fresh fruit and herbs. The most popular drink on the menu is said to be the Passionfruit Juice and I must agree. The Passionfruit Juice is the perfect balance of sweet and herbal and is much better than a fruit juice you would find in the store.
“We hope to get our license soon so we can start serving alcoholic drinks and wines,” said Byrd. “That’s the next step and we’ll have a tasting menu for that too.”
Halisi Africa is the perfect spot for lunch or if you want to get away from an ordinary meal. Their food menu will surprise you with true African meals and flavors. Shaw and Byrd were extremely attentive to their customers’ needs and enjoyed receiving feedback and making conversation.
Open from 1 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday, Halisi Africa is definitely a shop you should check out. To find out more about Halisi Africa and their Zanzi Bar, you can follow them on Instagram @halisiafrica or visit their website at