Monday, March 17, 2014

Ghana Cafe, DC

Ghana Cafe is the one of the few restaurants in DC serving authentic Ghanaian cuisine. I first visited their location in Adams Morgan many years ago, but since moving to Logan Circle, they are much closer to my home base. That said, I don't visit them any more often than when they weren't in my neighborhood because I have a sort of love-hate relationship with them. When I first visited the restaurant, I was very excited to find that they had a separate vegan menu and I really liked the food so I dined there several times. Then, they offered a Groupon a few years ago that really hurt their business. When I tried to redeem my Groupon, I waited over an hour for a seat and hours for my food all with no apologies from the owner or the staff. In fact, they were downright rude. They are a family-run business that really can't handle a fully packed restaurant so the two people who worked that night couldn't handle the hundred or so people who showed up. The entire experience left a bad taste in my mouth and I never went back, that is, until now. So here is my most recent experience.


So upon moving to the hot Logan Circle neighborhood, you would have thought they'd have upgraded some of their decor or at least the neon sign. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When we arrived, my friend immediately remarked that it looked exactly the same as it did in Adams Morgan many years ago. I confirmed that this was an accurate observation.


When we walked in on a Saturday night, we were the only patrons in the restaurant. That is telling. We took a seat at a table in the middle of the restaurant.  The top of each table has Ghanaian flag prints covered in lacquer and Ghanaian flags adorn the walls. We were approached by a young waiter who told us about the Ghanaian beers available that night. We ordered two -- Castel and 33 Export. We enjoyed both of them.


The menu is fairly simple, but with many of the foods being authentic to Ghana, it takes a bit of time to figure out what to order if you aren't familiar with this cuisine. You have a choice of vegetarian peanut soup, spinach and egusi (pumpkin seeds), okra stew, or beans stew with any of a choice of 12 different meals under the subheadings of rice, plantain, corn, and yam.

We started off with the plantain appetizer, which consisted of fried sweet plantains with a tomato-based fresh ground pepper sauce. This was pretty spicy and pretty tasty.


For my entree, I ordered the Jollof rice, which is Ghanaian-style rice cooked in savory seasonings with spinach and egusi stew. I liked the flavors of the spinach stew and the red sauce, but the rice seemed a bit overcooked and underseasoned. The meal definitely needed more spice so they supplied me with some of their hot sauce, which still wasn't that hot. And the entire meal had a bit too much oil for me. That's not to mention that the portion size was humongous!


My friend ordered the Red Red, which was fried plantains with beans stew and gari, which is made from cassava root. This dish was okay, but really needed more spice as well. My friend, however, liked it much more than I did.


Throughout the meal, there wasn't much attention put on good service. In fact, despite being the only patrons in the restaurant, the owner spent the entire time watching sports on the television. His one waiter joined him and seemed to have forgotten about us so much so that we had to get up and ask for the check.

For a divey restaurant with $11 entrees, I guess it is fine for a quick grab-and-go lunch or dinner. But, if you are looking for a unique experience, you can find a better one elsewhere with better service.

Ghana Cafe
1336 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 387-3845

Ghana Cafe on Urbanspoon

6 comments:

  1. [ Smiles ] This looks like my sort of food (I like anything that is vegan).

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  2. I moved to Ghana six months ago and can tell you that you have had an authentic Ghanaian experience. From the awful service to the overcooked and insipid rice, it sounds exactly like the typical Ghanaian restaurant. The food is so awful here that I cannot imagine wanting to go to eat Ghanaian food when I move back to DC. The only difference is that it is virtually impossible to find a vegan restaurant here. Ghanaians seem to eat fried chicken every day.

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  3. Poor service might be okay in Ghana, but with as many amazing restaurants as we have in DC, that won't cut it here.

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  4. I'm Ghanaian and vegan since 1997. I would say that eating at an empty restaurant is already a gamble. No Ghanaians in the DMV eat at Ghana Cafe. That being said, one should not indict a people or their cuisine based on one experience. Much Ghanaian food is naturally vegan or can be made so. As to the commenter above, it's too bad that they are having a bad culinary experience in Ghana. Some of my best meals have been in GH. I also would not generalize and say that poor service is in expectation in GH. Like any country, service experiences will vary...

    Abena

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  5. Thank you for your comments! I agree!

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  6. Abena, is there a restaurant you would recommend?

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