Simileoluwa “Simi” Adebajo, founder of San Francisco’s first-ever Nigerian restaurant Eko Kitchen, is opening a satellite location in Los Angeles via takeout and delivery on April 8. Adebajo, who overcame a difficult pandemic period and even a kitchen fire that took out her commissary last year, hopes to bring Nigerian food to a greater audience in Los Angeles. LA’s Aduke African Kitchen, one of city’s notable Nigerian restaurants, received a positive review from LA Times critic Bill Addison back in 2019, but Nigerian food still has plenty of opportunity to reach more Angelenos.
Adebajo has had quite a journey in her culinary career, leaving a financial analyst position at Twitch to open the Lagos-inspired weekend-only Eko Kitchen in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2019. Adebajo was born in the Bronx but raised in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, before coming to the U.S. for graduate school, where she studied international and development economics. Eater SF first covered Eko Kitchen’s opening in July 2019, which described a party atmosphere with Afrobeats music and colorful decor that Adebajo helped cultivate in its early days. The restaurant gained even more fame from a feature later that month in Bon Appetit, which highlighted Adebajo’s importation of ingredients like honeybeans from Nigerian farmers.
When the pandemic hit last year, the restaurateur transitioned from a dine-in space to a commissary in order to accommodate delivery and takeout, only for that building to catch fire in July 2020. Adebajo lost all her food inventory in the blaze, but not her will to continue cooking Nigerian food. She stayed afloat with help from SF New Deal, a tech-backed effort to support local restaurants, which allowed her to prepare and serve meals to the needy in San Francisco.
While Eko Kitchen continues to operate on weekends in San Francisco for takeout and delivery, Adebajo hopes the LA expansion at Arts District’s Crafted Kitchen can serve Wednesday to Sunday evenings, with delivery available through Uber Eats, Doordash, and Grubhub. Menu items include asun (smoked goat meat) with grilled or fried sweet plantains and sweet potatoes; obe ata dindin, a red pepper and tomato stew made with a choice of protein like chicken, tilapia, beef, or goat; and chicken suya grilled over goal and served with jollof rice. And the sampler tray comes with the grilled chicken suya, asun, jollof rice, and sweet plantains. Meals may end with sweet puff-puffs, fried dough dusted with sugar.
Asked why she was opening LA, Adebajo said “when I tried to get Nigerian food in my visit to LA, I wanted to bring a more modern take. I give accolades to the two restaurants [including Aduke] that are there, but they are more traditional. I’m doing Nigerian food but also fusion — my own spin as a Nigerian-American. I want to provide a different perspective as to what Nigerian food can be.” Adebajo said she copied and pasted the top five dishes from San Francisco knowing they would have wide appeal in Los Angeles. “It’s not like I’m doing anything extraordinary. I’m very into aesthetics and making sure that I’m packaging or interpreting in a way that is familiar with different audiences,” she said. “My goal is to be able to share Nigerian culture with as many cultures and diverse backgrounds as possible.”
Eko Kitchen will open April 8 on delivery platforms with hours from Wednesday to Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m.