August 19, 2022
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Owner of new Nigerian eatery Afrika Taste & Lounge in South Euclid invites all to ‘try a new thing’ – cleveland.com

  • October 30, 2021
  • 5 min read
Owner of new Nigerian eatery Afrika Taste & Lounge in South Euclid invites all to ‘try a new thing’ – cleveland.com

Afrika Taste & Lounge, serving Nigerian food, has opened at 4483 Mayfield Road in South Euclid. (Jeff Piorkowski, special to cleveland.com)
SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — Martins Nwangwu grew up in Nigeria spending a lot of time working in his mother’s restaurant. When the now 26-year-old came to Cleveland to attend Cleveland State University, he found that there were Ethiopian and Mali restaurants here, but none that served the Nigerian dishes his mother’s eatery prepared.
The enterprising young man has filled that gap by opening Afrika Taste & Lounge in South Euclid.
Through Nwangwu’s efforts, and those of his younger sister and head chef, Lilian, adventurous diners will have the opportunity to sample Nigerian fare.
That fare includes entrees such as atekie (grated cassava with fried red snapper and plantains, topped with cucumbers, onions and pepper sauce); egusi (pureed melon seeds simmered with spinach, assorted meats and spices); fried red snapper; pepper soup (actually, a Liberian favorite); and jollof rice (long-grain rice mixed with spice, stewed in a tomato broth and served with chicken).
Appetizers include asun (spicy goat meat), plantains, pepper snail and shawarma (seasoned chicken breast and sausage mixed with a medley of vegetables and rolled in a tortilla).
“Spiciness,” Nwangwu answered, when asked the difference between Nigerian food and American cuisine. “American food is not very spicy. This is going to have a different taste.”
Nwangwu started planning his restaurant in 2019, but those plans were delayed by the time he spent on assignments as a U.S. Army Reservist and because of the pandemic. He was finally able to open Afrika on Oct. 23 at 4483 Mayfield Road, just east of South Green Road.
He has worked to make sparkling the surroundings of what had been a vacant storefront, the former home of Mirage Party Center, which closed when COVID-19 hit the area and never reopened. The dining area features new flooring and freshly painted walls adorned with large portraits of popular African music artists.
Martins Nwangwu is the owner of the new Afrika Taste & Lounge. (Jeff Piorkowski, special to cleveland.com)
With a bachelor’s degree in hand and plans to pursue a master’s degree, Nwangwu — who speaks six languages (English, Nigeria’s first language; French; and four African dialects) — first had plans to move to Atlanta. He later selected Cleveland as his home for an unusual reason.
“The way I do things, when I hear a lot of bad things about a place, I end up going there,” he said. “When I was in Nigeria, I heard a lot about Cleveland and my friends told me there’s a lot of shootouts and that it was very rough and the weather is cold. I was like: ‘Let me test this. Let me try it.’”
While last winter in Cleveland was on the mild side, Nwangwu said it wasn’t mild to him, coming from a country where winter means more rain, but always warm temperatures.
“I had to adapt,” he said.
Nwangwu has come to like like the choice he made in settling in Cleveland, and hopes with his restaurant to expand upon its cultural richness.
“When I got to Cleveland, people were saying that there is no Nigerian restaurant in Cleveland,” he said. “Cleveland’s a great place. It’s a land of beauty, but when you don’t have great places to eat and hang out with your friends and family, the city looks like it’s a boring city.
“I thought of opening this up for people to get to know the African culture. They don’t teach in school, other countries, about Africa, about African culture. Africa is very broad. There’s a lot of nice things in Africa.”
Afrika Taste & Lounge includes a stage upon which Nwangwu plans to soon host live music. It also has, as its name states, a lounge for those who want to stop in for a cocktail.
Closed Mondays, the business is open from noon to 1 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays. Nwangwu said dinner is served each day until 7 or 8 p.m., after which the lounge remains open.
Carryout food is available by calling 216-331-5054.
“We’re open to accept anybody, anybody,” Nwangwu said in closing. “Come try the food. Come try the cocktails. I just want everybody to come out and try a new thing.”
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