When I first walked into Ike’s Café and Grill in Norcross, I felt as if I’d somehow wandered into my favorite aunt and uncle’s home. How I was just now visiting this not so hidden gem? As a 2nd generation Cameroonian living in Atlanta, I’d often heard that Ike’s was the go to place for a taste of authentic African fare. Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by the warm, rich smells and bold decor. Dark wood and gold washed walls create an environment that felt simultaneously exotic and inviting. Soft lamps highlighted pots of flowers that caught the eye and added welcome bursts of color to more intimate corners of the rooms. I immediately sought to find out more about the owner’s history.
A Taste of Home
The restaurant began as an African Foods grocery store that offered rare ingredients shipped directly from various countries in Africa. Ghanaian by birth, Ike saw an opportunity to further serve his loyal patrons and opened up the restaurant in 2013. It would be an understatement to say that Ike’s was a hit from the start. Perry Boakye, Ike’s nephew and one of the restaurant’s co-managers, explained that it was the family’s mission to serve their community with pride, hard work, and consistency.
“Ike’s purpose for opening the restaurant was to bring Africa to America so that people who love food, from all walks of life, can experience a taste of our home. No matter where you are from, there is something here for everyone.”
The space is thoughtfully designed to accommodate patrons looking to celebrate any and every occasion. Meals and drinks are served at the bar for those looking to catch a game on one of the big screen TV, or who simply wish dive elbow deep in a bowl of hearty soup. Guests are also welcome to relax in tables and booths in the dining area, a private VIP section, or the veranda outside of the restaurant.
“Africa” Ike’s Way
Ike’s menu offers an eclectic selection of delicious meals that serve as a flavor-based representation of Africa. Next to many dishes on the menu, guests can find the flag of the country from which the dish originated. Appetizers include Peppered Snails, Fried Plantains, Curried Goat, and the ever popular Suya.
Suya is a West African street food consisting of thinly sliced meat that is marinated in a complex mix of spices, then grilled and served on a skewer. Though the flavor of Suya varies depending on personal and regional preferences, appreciation for the savory dish is common amongst many of the countries whose dishes are featured on the menu such as Sudan, Nigeria, and Cameroon. This is largely due to the fact that in some parts of Africa, meat is not commonly available and is often considered to be a luxury.
“Africans love to eat meat!” Perry explains with a chuckle, “Suya is the most convenient way of cooking and serving meat, and our African patrons recognize that. So Suya is another way that we bring a staple African food to America.”
At Ike’s, Suya is prepared in a method similar to that of a Cameroonian street vendor. This entails slicing and grilling the cuts of beef to be served with a pepper mix on the side. Ghanaian style Suya in comparison is both seasoned and peppered before grilling and is served as a shish kabob. While this method of preparing Suya is most common, the Cameroonian recipe more easily accommodates guest who are not partial to spicy foods. Ike’s also serves a delicious Chicken Suya to further distinguish its menu since beef is more commonly chosen for this recipe. I have had the pleasure of tasting both the beef and chicken Suya and have yet to pick a favorite. Each cut of meat is tender and juicy with a light crisp around the edges from being repetitively kissed by flames on the grill. Ginger, onion, and garlic blend with a medley of herbs to create a mouthwatering experience upon the first bite. Ike’s may as well serve Suya in a Pringles can because once you pop one in your mouth, you won’t be able to stop. Thankfully, the dish is so reasonably priced that you won’t have to.
(Banga/Palm Nut Soup)
For those with an eclectic palate who would like a truly unique taste of African, Ike’s offers a selection of native wines and beers. One such beverage is called Ogogro, a locally produced hard liquor mixed with herbal tonics and used for medicinal purposes. Another rare offering is Palm Wine, a sweet, fermented drink made from diluting the sap from date palms such as the African Oil Palm. Served in a calabash, a cup made from a dried melon or squash, the flavor is reminiscent of a hard cider with a nutty finish that is refreshing and unique.
More to Come
As Ike’s restaurant continues to draw guests with savory dishes like the Grilled Tilapia or Red Red, the opportunity for expansion becomes increasingly possible. “My aunt Ama, who actually had a hand in designing this place, is in Ghana working on opening up another restaurant.” I certainly intend to continue my patronage of Ike’s Café and Grill to get a taste of excellent service, relaxing ambience, and delicious food.
Ikes Cafe and Grill
1250 Tech Drive, Norcross, GA 30093
Valerie Fuoching is an Atlanta-based foodie of Cameroonian descent. One of her goals over the next year is to explore the greater Atlanta area one restaurant at a time…