Andalusia serves up maximum flavor and treats you like family
Photography by Kaeyla Willis
Nestled in the Sanderlin Center is a restaurant like no other in Memphis. Here, food is served in tagines and flavored with many herbs and spices. The dishes are the kind you might find around a family table, made with love and served with a smile. But these dishes aren’t native to America. No, this is a Moroccan affair. Meet Andalusia, where you’ll find nothing but authentic Moroccan cuisine.
Owners—and husband-wife team—Jamal Romani and Hanan Boukhari opened Andalusia in March 2021. Ever since coming to America 15 years ago, Jamal knew that he wanted to own a restaurant. He worked several jobs in those 15 years that helped prepare him for success. Jamal shares, “When I came to America, I didn’t speak any English and I made $20 a day. But I knew that someday I wanted to own a Moroccan restaurant.”
With every job, he learned about different cultures and added to his work ethic, reinforcing habits like working hard and not procrastinating.
In the midst of the pandemic, Jamal and Hanan noticed an empty storefront in the Sanderlin Center. “Although the spot was available, it was not easy to get,” explains Jamal. “There was a lot of other competition. So Hanan and I decided to cook for the owners of the building.”
Jamal and Hanan served their guests chicken pastilla, kefta tagine and bysar soup—all of which can be found on the menu today. The owners were wowed by the cuisine and granted Jamal and Hanan the lease to open Andalusia.
“When we first opened, we didn’t know exactly what to do. True Moroccan food takes a lot of work,” recalls Jamal. Moreover, in Moroccan culture, presentation is a big deal. How a dish is served is just as important as how it tastes. Therefore, at Andalusia, they aim to feed and serve their customers just like they would serve their own families.
Andalusia is named after a region in southern Spain that was once ruled by Moroccans. Because Spain and Morocco are less than 10 miles apart at their closest point, there are several similarities in the countries’ cuisines. Couscous is popular in both places. It’s served many ways, but Andalusia restaurant serves theirs with carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and cabbage, topped with caramelized onions, raisins, and roasted almonds. Another mutual favorite is bocadillo, a Moroccan sub sandwich filled with kefta (seasoned beef), tuna, or mushrooms; the kefta bocadillo is basically the Moroccan version of a hamburger.
Hanan learned to cook during high school, when she lived in Morocco and spent time with her aunt, who often catered meals. They made traditional Moroccan dishes—like pastillas—whose recipes date back more than100 years. Hanan has perfected these dishes into the meals that are served at Andalusia. From one family to another, customers get to dine on authentic Moroccan cuisine.
Many of Andalusia’s main ingredients are sourced from Hanan’s father’s farm in Mississippi. “We have lambs, cows, and chickens. We also have a greenhouse for many of our herbs and vegetables. We don’t use any pesticides or chemicals,” Jamal explains.
Using food fresh from the family farm means a lot of driving—but Jamal thinks it’s worth it. “We go very often. A lot,” says Jamal. “But it’s not a problem. The farm is only about an hour outside of Memphis. It’s a nice drive.”
All the food is made from scratch daily. The bread is baked fresh every morning. Starting bright and early, everything is prepped for the day. Nothing is ever frozen. “I want the customers to have the same experience I have. And I love fresh food,” explains Jamal.
Many entrees are cooked and served in a tagine—traditional Moroccan cookware made from clay with a coned top over a shallow dish. Tagines have been a part of Moroccan life for well over 1,000 years. The magic that happens inside of the tagine brings out the best flavor of all the ingredients in the dish.
For example, the lamb in the lamb tagine is incredibly tender and flavorful. It is flat grilled, then marinated in herbs and spices for a very long time. When it is time to be served, it is cooked in a tagine with potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. The kefta tagine has Moroccan meatballs in a flavorful tomato sauce, perfect for sopping up with Andalusia’s homemade bread.
Whatever you order at Andalusia, Jamal and Hanan will make sure you have an experience rich with flavor, culture, and love.
5101 Sanderlin Avenue, Suite 103
Patricia Lockhart is a native Memphian who loves to read, write, cook, and eat. Her days are filled with laughter with her four kids and charming husband. By day, she’s a school librarian and a writer, but by night—she’s asleep. @realworkwife
Kaeyla Willis is a Memphis native with a passion for people and music. She’s a proud University of Memphis graduate, marketing professional, and live music and portrait photographer. @kaewillcreate