TLO Restaurant Review: Naija Wife Kitchen
6:03 AM EDT on November 2, 2021
My gal-pal Jodie and I had decided on having a trashy enough lunch at a chili dog place near the bus station downtown. I should have known that this was going to be a problem when, as we went in, the sullen woman behind the counter was giving a seemingly homeless man the business, as he was asking her far too many questions about hot dogs.
As I tried to jump in here and there with a few questions of my own, she grew even more aggressive, to the point that Jodie and I slowly backed out and headed onto the pavement outside. As I began to wonder where to try next, she asked about the Latin American restaurant that’s right around the corner; that sounded good to me, I replied, out of options.
Turns out the Latin American eatery was long gone, instead replaced with a side-by-side outing: Chef Paul’s Place and, most intriguingly, Naija Wife Kitchen, 502 N. Hudson Ave.
While Chef Paul’s was more Southern cooking and definitely worth a future visit, it was Naija’s that caught my eye, as her ever-changing menu consisted of nothing but Nigerian food.
I was absolutely sold...
A small line of hot dishes served out of silver buffet food warmers, when she lifted the tray-lids and that billow of steam rushed out, it wonderfully filled my senses with an otherworldly goodness that I hadn’t felt in a long time; when she offered us a few small samples, it was even more so, as the little taste I had at that moment was the whole world.
With only three or four items on this week’s menu—she told me that it changes week-to-week—I ordered the two most interesting lunch dishes, the Ayamase Stew and, without question, the Peanut Butter Soup. As she ladled the items into my disposable bowls, she told me how she used to be married to a Nigerian man and in the divorce only got the recipes from him.
She got the better deal, I told her.
The Ayamase Stew—better known as Designer Stew, I was told—with Chicken ($10.00), contained, as best as I could tell, bell peppers, onions, a hardboiled egg and, of course, delicately cut pieces of chicken—I’m sure there had to be a few more items involved—combined in a thick brew on a bed of rice that teased and taunted me as Jodie and I looked for a table to eat it.
Table found around the corner, this was the first bowl we dug into and, Lord Almighty, it was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more. With a bit of unexpected heat, it was absolutely delightful, as the chicken and peppers stewed nice and neatly as it cruised down my belly creating a warm nest for the next dish to rest in.
Honestly, at first I wasn’t sure what to make of the Peanut Butter Soup with Chicken ($10.00) when I saw it bubbling in the food warmer, but, at the moment, as it sat in front of me, after a large spoonful and then a second and a third, as the warm and creamy body caressed my insides even more, all I can truly say is to Hell with jelly, as this is the new lunch standard.
And while it is a bit harder to make out the ingredients—I think I saw some tomatoes and onions in there—this is one of those glorious recipes where I didn’t need to know what the ingredients were because, as I realized, Naija Wife is truly an artist and this kitchen is her studio; she is an artist that makes food concoctions that I never knew I needed in my life and, now, I am more than willing to be a patron of her culinary arts. Cómpralo ya!
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