Sita Sanogo Coulibaly is the warm, welcoming heart of YKO Chicken BBQ, a staple on McArthur Avenue since 2010.
Sita and her husband, Moussa, came to Canada from the Ivory Coast more than 20 years ago. When he joined the University of Ottawa as a professor, she became a restaurateur by combining a love of cooking with her amazing grilled chicken recipe.
Their first restaurant, YRE Chicken, was located in Sandy Hill and named after their first daughter.
After it closed, the family moved to Vanier and opened YKO (incorporating the name of their second daughter) and became a local favourite with a dedicated base of regulars. Moussa has since retired and Sita runs the business alongside her sister and brother. The interior of the restaurant is stark and simple, but the feeling of family and love fills the empty space.
The secret to Sita’s famous BBQ is a fresh, organic, halal chicken rubbed with her unique blend of spices and then grilled to order over real, wood charcoal. The spice mixture, an organic blend of dried vegetables and herbs, ranges from savoury to intensely spicy and can also he had on roasted goat.
As a steady flow of customers move through the modest shop, they all assure that Sita’s chicken is “the best in Ottawa” – charred and smokey on the outside, while staying perfectly moist and juicy on the inside. African expats who frequent YKO say the food here reminds them of home-cooked meals by their mothers and grandmothers back home.