Ike’s Cafe & Grill (Atlanta, Georgia)
I got to Atlanta early Sunday morning; the trip necessitated by the compulsory in-person appearance required by the Nigerian consulate to get your passport renewed. And after going to church with my cousin, and lunch at my aunt’s, I was ready for a nap. I’d been up since 4am in order to catch my flight.
I had told my friend Chinenye, whom I hadn’t seen in years that I’d be in town, and we’d agreed to meet up in the evening. When I woke up and called Chinenye and we were trying to figure out where to meet up, the conversation went something like this:
NaijaChef: I don’t know o! Anything, doesn’t matter. What do you want to do?
Chinenye: Let’s go to Ike’s Cafe. It should be popping today.
We agreed to meet up at Ike’s Cafe. I had my doubts about an African restaurant that would be ‘popping’ at 6PM on a Sunday evening, but I said nothing. The meet up was about reconnecting with a friend anyway, not necessarily going to eat or party.
I hung up, and quickly called another friend that I was planning to meet up with on this trip, Sumo. I mentioned to him that I’d be meeting up with Chinenye that evening at Ike’s Cafe. Again, Sumo too was definitive in his comments about the fact that Ike’s Cafe should be fun. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Sumo, a Liberian, was as sure as Chinenye, a Nigerian, that Ike’s Cafe would be fun on Sunday evening.
When I got there at 6:30PM, man, was it popping! Take a look at the picture below to see what it was like when I got there; and that view is less than half the restaurant!
Chinenye, was already there when I got there, and we were sat in the overflow section on the patio outside as there were no open tables outside. Chinenye warned me to quickly look at the menu so we could place our orders as it usually took Ike’s Cafe time to get food out. She had taken the liberty of ordering meat pies for us. The waiter came by, and took our drink orders. We both ordered water.
It was around this point that Chinenye mentioned that the legendary King Sunny Ade was on tour in the US, and was going to be at Ike’s Cafe which accounted partly for the overflowing crowd!!! 😯 He arrived shortly thereafter, an entourage in tow, and everyone at the restaurant trying to get pictures/videos. I tried to get close for a picture, but unfortunately didn’t get a chance.
Contrary to our expectations, all the food came out in 20 minutes. That was definitely impressive! With the crowd present, we had readied our minds for an hr’s wait. When the food came out, Chinenye suggested I do a post for the blog, and that’s when I started taking pictures. This explains why I have no pictures of the snails or meat pies. 🙁
The snails were really good and came in ‘sauce’; that magic combination of sautéed onions and bell peppers. These alone made my evening. Beware though, the snails cost $11.99 and my one disappointment was that there were only 4 pieces, which weren’t that large. Being that I cook often, I understood that was because snails are expensive, but I wish I had some notice about that before I ordered.
The red tilapia is actually regular tilapia, but with the same special ‘sauce’ on it. It came served with white rice and a few pieces of dodo. Chinenye liked it and had ordered it before.
The food was definitely a lot, and we both couldn’t finish our food. I was super stuffed and happy! 🙂 We both asked for to-go boxes, which our waiter readily supplied. I was truly impressed. Our waiter seemed to arrive promptly when needed and she was quite nice. Customer service at African restaurants is usually either non-existent (not enough wait staff; the person who served your meal and took your payment is also the waiter), or not good enough.
- Meat-Pies – $1.99 for 2
- Peppered Snails – $11.99 for 4
- Peppered Fish Red Tilapia – $11.99 (as pictured above)
- White Rice with dodo – $3 (as pictured above)
- Banga Soup w/ Plantain Fufu – $14.99 (as pictured above)
Chinenye and I split the bill, and got ready to leave. We tried catch a glimpse of King Sunny Ade as we made our way out, but in vain. We said our goodbyes and left. This story was supposed to end here…
Later that night, as I wound down, getting ready to sleep, I found myself on Aphrican Ape’s Instagram, only to come across a picture of him with a guy called Kwabena. I checked out the page to see quite a few celebrities that had dined at Ike’s Cafe. Basket Mouth, RMD, Davido, Flavour, to name a few. Apparently, this is where the rich and mighty of Africa dine in town!lol! A-listers! As I later came to find out, Kwab’s family owns Ike’s Cafe.
I reached out to Kwabena, and we agreed to meet the following afternoon. He wasn’t there when I got in and I proceeded to order, this time, picking something I enjoy; yam pottage. It came with beef, and I asked for a side of dodo. Don’t judge :-|. I also had never tried Orijin and got that as well.
He came in shortly after and we got talking. Initially, a lady had broached the idea of selling food on one day of the week at his parents’ African food store, a stone throw from the current location. This morphed into unsold food from that day being refrigerated and sold during the week, and then later, they hired cooks to sell daily. This was just the beginning.
The Birth of Ike’s Cafe
On an eventful day, the president of Ghana happened to be in town, and looking for a place to eat proper African food, was directed to their store! At that point, food was typically carried out, and the president and his entourage had to sit on stacked fufu boxes!!! It was that day, at the entourage’s behest, that the idea of Ike’s Cafe was birthed. If you’re wondering, Ike is his father’s nickname; I had to ask.
The current Ike’s Cafe location had been closed for 6 years, and when they settled on the location, Kwabena and his family went to work quickly. As they set up, he emphasized the need to have a restaurant at the level of any other restaurant you’d find here in the US. A hostess at the front showed me to seat at the bar when I got there and handed me off to the bartender; Flat screen TVs surrounded the elaborate bar in the middle; I watched staff clock in on computerized systems as I sat at the bar, all pointing to evidence of a well run organization.
It was great meeting Kwab, and I enjoyed our chat. Very humble, down to earth personality. Of course, I asked for my own celebrity style picture! Haha!
If you’ve eaten at Ike’s before, what did you think? Please leave a comment below.