Whenever my friends (read: friend) and I are at a loss of where to go, we usually end up here. Sundowner has everything you want from a mid-week hangout and/or pre-party venue: cheap alcohol, great music, good food, and outdoor seating. Also, its vicinity to clubs like Papyrus, Cadillac, and KBC make it a perfect place from which to map out the rest of your evening.
For the perfect way to ‘tipsy it up’ with your buddies, ask for a couple of small bottles of Bond 7 whiskey (Rwf 3,000 per bottle), some coke and a glass of ice. From time to time, the staff has had to moto to the nearest alimentation to get more whiskey, but if you’re inpatient you can always try Ugandan sherry instead. No, that was a lie. Don’t ever ever do that. And if you have friends retarded enough to mistake the two, beat them hard with a stick to prevent the error from ever occurring again!
Food-wise they have several options. The Papyrus chef was lured into working here for a short while, so many of the pizzas and pasta dishes resemble that of Papyrus, only cheaper. Beware that, while they taste ok, the pizzas here are heavy on Rwandan gouda and therefore stink like feet. It’s painful on the nose but once you get used to the smell wafting in the air around you and take the first bite… it gets better. But that first bite is a hard one to take.
Most of the food at Sundowner is pretty average and takes forever to come but what they do really well is nyama choma, which is a roasted goat dish. You order a leg or two (Rwf 7,000 a leg), and they’ll bring a big wooden board with chopped-up meat; usually tender and delicious, but occasionally chewy… nothing the amazing dipping sauce (possibly just mayo and pili pili but so damned good!) and spicy tomato salsa can’t make up for though. It’s best to get the number of a staff member (Olivia is always great to us) and call your order in ahead. I usually just tell her how many people we are and then let her do her thing. There’s always enough goat and sides (chips, potatoes, salad, dip, and salsa) and we’re always amazed at how cheap the final bill is… especially given the amount of whiskey we always end up consuming. It makes for a really great night out with friends.
I really do love the music they play here! And no, that does NOT mean they only play Ace of Bace and Aqua. Mostly, it’s classic R&B songs filling the locale, mixed with the latest African hip hop and pop, and European early millennium hits. On weekdays they sometimes play country classics, which actually goes quite well with the Bond 7, coke and cowboys… (Ha! Just kidding. The only cowboy you’ll find in Kigali is the occasional Midwest American that signed up for a study-abroad program through his small-town Christian University in a desperate effort to learn more about… well, more about everything, really, apart from corn, tractors and cow-tipping; topics on which he’s already an expert. Yeehaw!)
The staff here are really great and while they seem to be run off their feet most nights, they’re always really nice. True, a cup of ice might take a half an hour to materialise, but it usually makes it. The good service, cheap drinks, outdoor seating, nice atmosphere, good music and decent food make it a popular place with expats and locals. It’s not a place to come if you’re hoping to strut your stuff on the dance floor (although small dance parties have been known to break out in the space near the bar and since Papyrus closed it seems to have become more of a dance place) but it’s a fantastic place to gear up for a night out.
One last tip: there are two bathrooms – one upstairs, and one around the corner by the gate. The upstairs one only has one stall and no mirrors and is a tricky trek if you’ve been drinking Bond 7 all night. Trust me on this one. The downstairs one is a much better choice due to not needing to negotiate a staircase. Plus, it has two stalls and a mirror in case you wanted to do a last polish before strutting (or stumbling) into Cadillac which is a 15 minute walk down the hill.