September 9, 2009

Favourite 'Secret' Food Spots in Ghana

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My top recommendations for 'off the beaten track' chop bars and restaurants in Ghana. They’re mostly unlisted and they’re worth a visit if you’re in town. Please add your own recommendations or comments good or bad about anything listed.


The one and only Eli above.

Elimax Spot on the way to Elmina.

Eli’s is unsurpassed for taste, value, laughs and hugs anywhere in Ghana. She cooks a dish of the day, much like an Italian trattoria. If you call ahead, she’ll cook especially to order. Eli doesn’t use palm oil and she’ll make veggie-versions if you ask.

Main dishes:
Red Red: Spicy beans and fried plantains. The best I’ve tasted.
Palava sauce with boiled yam and plantain: Absolutely brilliant.
Fufu with ground nut soup: Tasty, especially the veggie version.
Akple and Okro stew: Eli’s akple is better than anywhere else.
Yam Balls and Egg Stew: An obruni favourite. Best yam balls and egg stew anywhere.
Veggie soup with toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches: If you’re craving western food, this is a winner.
Fish or chicken and chips: Yep, fish and chips and it satisfies the cravings.
Gari fotor: An Ewe specialty a bit like spicy couscous with stew. Seriously great. It’s not even worth trying it anywhere else.

Eli has a group of Ghanaian regulars who usually go for the Akple or the fish and chips. I recently returned to Elmina for a visit and dinner turned out to be gari fotor, my favourite. When I walked around the back Eli smiled and said, ‘It was for you’. She’ll make it for you too.

Each meal is served with meat (chicken or fish) and a huge mixed salad. She washes the veggies in pure water. If you’re vegetarian, Eli will give you a boiled egg instead of meat. Tell her before hand. One meal is 4.50 Cedis per person, including the main dish, meat and salad. Amazing value. She also serves the usual range of drinks, but doesn’t always have them all. Just ask.

A group of volunteers enjoying Gari Fotor

If you want something different or special, she can prepare that too. The important thing is she needs notice as she goes to the market daily to buy fresh ingredients.

Contacts and directions:
Don’t be put off by coming from Cape—it’s only about 20 minutes and quite easy. From Cape Coast catch a taxi to Elmina (a share taxi is about 70 pesewas). Ask the driver to stop at ‘Hotel Junction’. They all know it. It’s the junction before Elmina Junction. (If you go past the Shell filling station on your left, you’ve gone too far. It’s just before Shell.) At Hotel Junction there are signs for Elmina Beach Resort on the road to the left. Walk along that road. Eli’s place is just ahead on the right as the road curves around. You can’t miss the apricot/white wall which, incidentally was painted by some great WIP volunteers last summer. The Elimax sign is opposite. CALL HER ON 0203939247.

If you’re coming from Elmina, go along the beach road and past Elmina Beach Resort and keep curving to the left. Eli’s is just around the curve on the left. If you’re coming from Elmina or T’di on the highway, ask the driver to stop at Shell or Hotel Junction and walk from there. If in doubt, ask anyone for EliMax and they’ll show you.

Wander in the picket fence gate. Say hi. Give her a hug. She’ll look after you. Call in advance and find out the day’s dish or order your own. I promise to add the number shortly. My phone was stolen so waiting for it to come from a mate.

African Pot Spot—Fufu!
The best fufu and soup I’ve ever had. Even fussy Godwin says it's the best he's tasted. It’s just off the highway heading to Eli’s on the right before Hotel Junction. If you’re coming from Takoradi or Elmina, it’s on the left after Hotel Junction. You’ll see the colourful sign. It’s about 3-4 Cedis for fufu with a huge piece of chicken or meat. Um, to the best of my knowledge, it doesn't sell pot.

Cape Coast
Janet’s Egg Sandwiches
Outside Oceanview Internet Café. The sign doesn’t lie: egg sandwiches are around 60 p. Toasted cheese, tomato and omelet sandwiches are about 1.4 C and will keep you going all day. Tea is about 60 p.

Jollof Rice Lady
If your back is to Melcom in Cape, look over the road. There is a large woman with a stand of pots in front of a cloth shop. Her name is Adwoa. Her jollof is excellent. A big bag of rice, boiled beans, and a boiled egg and stew is 1 C. If avocado is in season, cutting one into your jollof is delicious.

Kumasi

I tried, but I never found any great hidden eats here. If anyone knows, please say! I’m simply endorsing a favourite, Vic Babboo’s, in Adum near the banks. My favourites were pizza, Indian dishes (the owners are Indian), the Lassis, and the salads.

Bolgatanga

International Travelers Inn: egg sandwiches and tea
A non-descript boxy grey covered spot on the main street is a little gem. From the south end of the main street (the opposite end from the SSNIT building), it’s just on your right. They serve excellent egg sandwiches and tea for 1.5 C. The huge range of baskets in the warehouse square behind are worth a look.

Wakye
Exactly opposite International Travelers Inn is the best wakye I’ve ever had. It has a spicy, gingery base and doesn’t send you running to the toilet. A bag with egg costs 1 C.

Rakia’s Inn
TZ with guinea fowl
If you’re after TZ, don’t go anywhere else. On the main street, go to the post office and turn into the dirt driveway beside the post office car park. About twernty metres ahead on the left is Rakia’s in a free standing building with two double-doorways. It’s next to a Mosque. Try their ‘TZ with betel’ (spinach-like) soup in a ground nut base with guinea fowl for about 3.5-4 Cedis.

Speedlink
Up from the STC towards town. Try fufu for about 4 Cedis with chicken or other meat. The other great dish is mixed salad. Strips of chicken are mixed through a huge plate of truly mixed salad and baked beans with boiled eggs sliced on top. 4 Cedis.

Good Taste
At the other end of the main street is the cheapest, good chop in town. It’s the yellow spot on your right, just past the two shops on the corner coming from the SSNIT building on the main road. A plate of fried rice or jollof and salad (cabbage) and a small piece of chicken is 1.5 Cedis.

SWAT Cafe
This is the Vic Babboo’s of Bolga, run by an affable Ghanaian man who knows how to cook. Their pizza, their signature dish, is not cheap at 7-10 Cedis. Although not the best on earth, it does the trick. At least it tastes fresh and hand made. The Ghanaian and Indian dishes are great. His okro stew rivaled Eli’s for taste.

Accra
Several volunteers raved about the ‘Jerk’ (and all I could think of was Steve Martin) and made special trips for it. Then I tried it. It’s similar to Portuguese chicke: grilled on a BBQ—and addictive. A generous plateful with spicy sauce is 5 Cedis which is miraculous in Accra. Or, you can get take-out in a box. Unfortunately, I didn’t take down directions. It’s about three streets behind Frankie’s in Osu. Turn left out the door of Frankie’s down the side street (next to the Chinese restaurant) and then right at the first street on the right and then left and start asking around. It’s in a little free-standing building on its own in a quiet street not far back.

Ko-Sa Beach Resort in Ampenyi, about twenty minutes past Elmina, along the same road that takes you to Brenu, serves brilliant food. It’s run by a German couple and they’ve put a lot of effort into a good, inexpensive and delicious menu and good customer service. I’m writing a separate review on them shortly.

Green Turtle, past Takoradi from the same junction (Agona) that takes you to Busua or Butre, is the other great hide out for good food and an even better cocktail list and atmosphere.

14 comments:

  1. I have spent roughly 200 nights eating Eli's food over the past four years, and there are few restaurants (or home kitchens) in which I'd rather be. The food is AMAZING by any culinary standard and you can't beat the atmosphere. Fancy and sophisticated it is not, but you won't find a more inviting host or a warmer environment. Be prepared for a hug from Eli that might break a rib.

    My two favorite Eli-foods would have to be groundnut soup with chicken and okra, served over rice, which is simply wonderful; and her pilava sauce with yam and apem (boiled plantain) which I literally cross oceans for. I miss it terribly.

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  2. I just realised my face book pic is at Eli's. Perfect.

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  3. Oh yes! Eli's food is the best food I have ever had in Ghana. I recommend it for anybody visiting the Cape Coast-Elmina area.
    Thank you Gayle for bringing this hidden treasure to the "Globe"

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  4. Eli's food is what I refer to as "home made food"; she is well versatile in preparing both local food and what some Ghanaian refer to as Oborni’s food. I recommend Eli’s palava sauce with yam, apem (boiled plantain). Her Okro stew with Banku,…. OMG! I miss it so much. Guess what! Your bill is five times less costly than what you pay in any restaurant. Trust me; I am speaking from Ghanaian’s point of view. Don’t forget to get your warm welcoming huge when you get to Eli’s

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  5. @Godwin: I can't believe you openly declared someone to be a better cook than your own mother!

    @Mandy: Thanks. If it weren't for you and Eli I wouldn't have come to love pilava (I always thought it was palava!) sauce.

    @Jonathan: Thanks! You and okro stew!

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  6. When I am in Elmina I only eat at EliMax. The food is truly wonderful, wholesomely healthy, and leaves you feeling warm and contented. There is actually no other place in Ghana where the food and company are as good (and this is saying a lot!) Love you Eli!

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  7. hei! i think sweet will surely be an under statement when you eat at eli's.i always miss it

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  8. Very interesting blog. I really love it!

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  9. I'm amazed at how you been able to capture all these and many moments. You've inspired me to bring more about Accra out... Watch-out for more on AccraConsciousForever soon. Nice blog post. Keep it coming.. :))

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  10. it's a bit of a riddle, but if you're spending time in navrongo, it is well worth buying 1/4 or 1/2 goat from the meat seller near the cool spot bar and then bringing it to said bar where they will cook it up burkina style (on brown paper so it marinates in its juice as it cooks on the grill). half a goat, a beer, and a few friends. perfect.

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  11. Eli doesnt use palm oil?!!!

    I was only in Ghana for 3 months but never came across a chop bar/restaurant that didnt!

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  12. Hi Rachael, You're right. I should have been clearer. Eli uses palm oil for her Ghanaian customers but doesn't use it for travelers and tourists--she generally cooks for them with vegetable oil. If visitors really want palm oil, they ask for it and she'll cook with it.

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  13. Thanks a bunch for your recommendation about Elimax Spot ...I am studying in Cape and seriously going nuts having to cook because I just haven't found good spots to eat around ...but tonight I ate exactly what i needed - grilled cheese, nice salad and mash potatoes ...super yum! Thanks a bunch!
    Christina

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  14. Mac and Edward: Thanks. If either of you know secret spots in Accra, please say so!

    Hi Christina, I'm so glad you went and tried Eli's and thanks for commenting about it, too. It's exciting to know someone reads this and actually goes and tries it out. I know a lot of people who love Eli and will be really happy about this. I love the grilled cheese! I think I must have eaten roughly 300 meals there and they were all great. Even the snails (someone made us try them) in stew. The snails were awful but the stew was fantastic. I'm envious you're so close.

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