Every night, as the sun goes down, the food stalls in the Forodhani Gardens (also known as the night market) start to fire up the grills to cook the day's catch. Tentacles of octopus, skewered pieces of swordfish and flounder, and long kebabs of whiskered shrimp sit waiting on the tables next to big piles of chips (French fries), waiting for passing customers to point at them and ask to have them grilled.
Before eating anything at the Forodhani Gardens, the first thing to do is walk the length of the food stalls and get a sense of the evening's offerings. Walk past the friendly, hollering guys running the stalls, and inspect what they've got. Are you in the mood for shrimp or calamari? Whose chips look hottest? And don't overlook, at the very end, the African pizza stall, where the proprietor will make to order little pancake-like pizzas stuffed with meat, fish, veggies, or (my favorite) banana and chocolate, crowned with an egg and fried on a giant tin drum, and then garnished with tangy tamarind sauce.
When you've made up your mind, go back to the stall that caught your fancy, and let them know what you want. They'll grill it for you and hand it to you on a paper plate. We never found any food item that cost more than a $1.50, so there's no need to skimp. Vegetarians should head straight to the pizza stand as the best bet, but piscovores are in for a real treat: everything's fresh and perfectly cooked.
You can eat sitting on the grass among the Masai selling beaded jewelry, or perched on the concrete seawall overlooking the harbor, admiring the southern stars and refusing the occasional offer of pot from local salesmen. Don't expect privacy: the gardens are a crowded scene of tourists from near and far, plus locals and mainlanders in town for the evening. But it's a friendly, good-humored crowd, and maybe you can get tips about who's got the best fresh fish.
If you're worried about such things, it's good to note that the food at the stalls is also probably some of the safest in town, as you see it cooked right in front of you.