In the world of the culinary curious, there is a continent's worth of food traditions that stand apart-a final frontier of dining that, for many routine consumers of sushi and pho, dosas and arepas, still seems a bit far out. It's a cuisine too hard to find an entry point into, too obscure to get a handle on.

In the world of the culinary curious, there is a continent's worth of food traditions that stand apart-a final frontier of dining that, for many routine consumers of sushi and pho, dosas and arepas, still seems a bit far out. It's a cuisine too hard to find an entry point into, too obscure to get a handle on.

I'm talking about Africa, and I'm eager to acquaint you with its flavors. Not only does Africa provide a variety of notable and worthwhile gastronomic experiences, but Columbus features an impressive array of African food.

For those who have tasted the continent's fare, odds are it's been through Ethiopian food. When Blue Nile closed its location near Ohio State's campus in 2013, many thought they took the cuisine with them. But to the east of town (within about a half-mile radius of Hamilton Road and Main Street), numerous Ethiopian restaurants, groceries and bakeries have thrived for years. Among these, an evening at the restaurant and bar known as Lalibela is delicious and unforgettable.

Recently, a newcomer has inched closer to the center of the city. Opened September 2014 on Cleveland Avenue, Addis Restaurant brings Ethiopian to a part of town otherwise dominated by Somali restaurants (Addis owner Niman Hassan says Somalis actually make up a significant portion of his customer base).

Fundamental to Ethiopian cuisine is injera-a light, spongy, pancake-shaped bread that bears the tangy flavor of the sourdough-like starter used in its making. Addis' injera is about as good as it gets. It's baked for them daily and serves as the physical foundation for almost every dish here. Pile atop it dishes like tibs, a spicy marinated beef-tip stew; kitfo, flavorful, rare ground beef cooked in spiced butter; and doro wot, a thick, savory mole-like sauce concealing a chicken leg and hardboiled egg. With all dishes, additional injera bread is provided and is traditionally used in lieu of utensils. If you can appreciate Ethiopian, Somali's a cinch.

Influenced by Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian and, yes, Ethiopian foods, its flavors are subtler than any of the aforementioned, yet equal in complexity. Somali dishes are also known for comforting aromatic qualities rather than assertive spicing. Spicy heat, should you want it, comes in the form of side sauces.

Hoyo's Kitchen is the reincarnation of the well-regarded Somali restaurant Solay Bistro off state Route 161. In the transition, they've maintained the spirit and high quality of the original while improving service and adding a novel and convenient spin to the ordering process. Entrees are selected as either a plate (with a choice of two sides) or a bowl (choice of one side). Delicious tender goat or the meat and vegetable stew known as suqaar are among the recommended mains, and Hoyo's exceptional range of sides are notable for including far more (and also more enticing) vegetable options than most Somali restaurants. Carb options include a variety of breads, wonderful, fragrant rice or pasta.

African Paradise is quite possibly the longest-running Somali restaurant in the city, and with good reason. The food is consistently delicious, and the servers are happy to talk with the uninitiated at length about the menu. Complimentary soup is served to diners as an appetizer. Order the beef or chicken Kalankal or the KK (beef and tomato sauce mixed with jabati bread). Goat and rice is a popular dish, as at any Somali restaurant, but African Paradise offers a diverse selection of other proteins, too.

Just to the south of Ethiopia and Somalia lies Kenya, and its local culinary representative is the gregarious and charming Wycliff Nduati of Wycliff's Kitchen. As the son of a Kenyan restaurateur, Wycliff has been in the business since age 5. Under his watchful eye, the kitchen turns out recommended specials, such as karanga mbuzi-a rich and savory stew full of tender and mild pieces of goat-and its beef-based cousin, karanga ng'ombe. On the weekends, the menu expands to include nyama choma-smoky and nicely seasoned grilled beef-and mukimo, a mashed vegetable dish (in this case, potatoes and peas). All entrees come with the choice of two sides, and I particularly enjoyed kabeji (fried cabbage with onions) and pilau (seasoned rice).

Now, let's turn the focus to West Africa. Before we get into specifics, it's worth noting the foods of the New World and West Africa have had a longstanding relationship, with each benefitting tremendously from the other. Black-eyed peas and okra came to us from West Africa, as did many of the food traditions that underpin Creole, Lowcountry and Caribbean cuisines. In the opposite direction, plantains, tomatoes and peanuts are among New World foodstuffs that have become staples in West Africa.

In other words, odds are that as a result of this dynamic, you'll find many familiar flavors.

This interplay is in abundant evidence at Dabakh Restaurant, a Senegalese restaurant on Morse Road. Here you'll find intriguing and satisfying dishes, such as maffe (lamb in a rich peanut, onion and tomato sauce served with rice), thiebou djeun (tender fish and vegetables served over a savory broken rice) and dibi (grilled lamb or goat with a Creole seasoning, served with a choice of side and an onion and vinegar garnish).

At Intercontinental Restaurant, West African is served with a Nigerian spin. Favorites include moimoi (a labor-intensive black-eyed pea loaf spiked with chunks of hardboiled egg), egusi soup (spinach and melon seeds with scotch bonnet peppers) and plantains. Try the jollof rice (made with tomato and onion), which can be ordered with a variety of proteins and is the quintessential dish of West Africa. Occasional specials include suya (baked beef strips covered in chili powder and served on skewers) and puff puff (a mildly sweet fried dough conspicuously similar to a beignet).

While I hope the above will serve as a good beginning reference, it's far from comprehensive-I admit there are more African restaurants in town than I can keep up with. Generally, these eateries are casual neighborhood affairs, so if there's one near you, that's the place to start.

Bethia Woolf, owner of Columbus Food Adventures, blogs about Columbus' ethnic dining scene at alteatscolumbus.com.