Afrique RESTAURANT & ENTERTAINMENT31 March 2019 Written by By Tunde Falase
Published in April 2019 Articles
African Cuisine for east County Diners
Our Afrique Restaurant & Entertainment venue offers an alternative to the standard Italian, Asian, and Mexican choices for East County diners who wish to indulge in ethnic cuisine. Our menu offers entrees and dishes with the genuine flavors and tastes of Nigeria, presented with warm African hospitality. Diners are served in an upscale tablecloth-covered style.
We wished to bring a genuine ethnic experience to the world as a corrective to the misconceptions many Americans have about Africa as a place of poverty and strife. We wanted to show a side of African culture marked by good food, music, and fun that is spread across the continent.
A visit to our restaurant provides a genuine taste of Nigeria — an opportunity to briefly explore the African culture that doesn’t require a visa or lengthy airplane ride. "e dining experience can be more than simply getting a tasty meal because it can also provide an opportunity for learning something about the ingredients and flavors that make up authentic African cuisine.
For most first-time diners, our simple appearing menu requires some explanation. When new people come in who are interested in making their meal a learning experience, I might spend ten minutes or so explaining the items on the menu and providing them with an opportunity to not only see what the choices are, but to give them a chance to “digest” some idea about the food in their minds before they begin to digest it in their stomachs. As a result, diners who visit Afrique Restaurant leave with more than a satisfying experience of Nigerian-style dining, but with some new understanding of the character of African cuisine.
Our food is prepared with farm-fresh vegetables and served with the leanest cuts of organic beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. Other dishes include fish and seafood, that were bred and nurtured in fresh water. We cook our meats slowly in a rich African Palm Oil sauce, seasoned with herbs and spices to create tasty nutritious authentic African dishes.
The menu offers several rice platters including the traditional Jollof, Rice, Plantain, and Meat dish, which is a highly nutritious and healthy combination of rice mixed with tomatoes, tomato paste, palm oil, onions, and spices, served with beef, fish or chicken. Our Shrimp Fried Rice is served with chunks of crab meat and mixed vegetables. Our Goat Meat Pepper Soup includes seasoned onions, ground pepper, garlic, and other spices to create a delicious and tantalizingly exotic choice for diners looking for “something different.” Even though, goat meat is not a standard ingredient in western restaurants and family kitchens, it is a popular choice for knowledgeable diners who prefer meat to be tasty but without much fat. "e soup is a wise choice for connoisseurs of good food.
Fufu is a staple African dish. Our Fufu Platters are pounded yams with seasoned spinach. Our Egusi Stew, another popular African entrée, includes kale and ground melon seeds with vegetables, seasonings, and meat. Our Okra and Ogbono soup is another traditional African dish prepared with assorted meats, vegetables, and seasonings. The ogbono seeds give a black coloration to the dish.
We are open seven days a week. We have our own high-speed internet. On weekdays we open at 4:00 p.m. and close at 10:00. We open at noon on Saturday, and at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The “Entertainment” part of Afrique Restaurant & Entertaining kicks into high gear throughout the weekend. At 10:00 each evening, from Friday through Sunday, the restaurant transforms into a nightclub. !e dancing, music, and fun goes on until 2:00 a.m. People enjoy getting down on our full-size dance floor. Our DJs play some Afrobeat, but their playlists include blues, old school R&B, and reggae. We feature live bands for holidays and special events. For example, we recently had an evening of hopping and happening music with Nat Bolden, who is 90 years old but with more energy and a livelier entertaining style than some singers half of his age. We can’t wait to get him back on our schedule!
Our banquet facilities, seating up to 65, are available for classes, events, meetings, birthday parties, or any group event. Last month, for example, the space was used for a “Sip & Paint with Pete” event, hosted by a Berkeley artist named Keith “Pete” Burnette.
My father designed our open and spacious 6,000 sq.ft. venue that features large windows, in-ceiling lighting, large screen video displays, and an elegantbut- casual decorative style using whites, grays, and blacks.
Dad, Mom, and I spent a whole year of loving and intensive work to move my father’s vision into reality. !e facility had been vacant for ten years. When we first entered the building, it looked like it had been in a terrible flood. We had to replace everything — from the plumbing in the floor to the panels in the roof, and the wiring in the walls. It was a big job. Everyone is delighted with the result!
Everyone calls me Tunde, which is a shortened version of my actual name, Babatunde, which in our Nigerian yoruba dialect means My Father Returns. !e name came to me because I was the first child born into the family following the death of my beloved grandfather. Mom had not been able to attend her dad’s funeral, so when she got pregnant with me, she asked her five sisters and two brothers what she should name the child. !ey all said “Name him Babatunde!”
“What will I name the child if I have a girl?”
Mom asked. They all replied, “You aren’t going to have a girl!”
I’m the oldest of five children, so beginning at age six I became the “big brother” who would care for the little kids coming up after me. !e fact is, I was perfectly delighted with the role because I believe myself to be partially responsible for the number of children mom had and their gender.
It’s an amazing story, because when I was five years old, I began begging Mom to have two children — specifically two boys — because I wanted some brothers that I could play with and who would follow my lead as I taught them the things that their older, wiser brother knew and that I was convinced they would be glad to learn.
I was serious about my desire for brothers. I was raised in a family who believes in God, and I shared their faith from earliest childhood. I was taught that God answers prayer, so for a whole year not a day passed during which I didn’t pray that God would cause Mom to have more children and, specifically, that she would have boys, so I could have the brothers that I longed for. Sure enough, Mom got pregnant and gave birth to a set of twins — both of them boys. As a special sign from heaven that God had performed the miracle in answer to my prayers, the twins were born on my sixth birthday
After the boys were born, I decided that I needed a sister, so began praying that Mom would get pregnant again and would have a girl baby. Sure enough, she soon got pregnant and gave birth to the girl I had been praying for. However, I had prayed for a “sister,” singular, instead of the “sisters” plural. As a result (according to my confident belief in how this was all working out) Mom gave birth to a single girl. However, the little infant was part of another set of twins, so a third brother was thrown into the sibling mix.
Six kids are enough, I thought, so I quit praying. Coincidentally (or not), Mom stopped getting pregnant.
Our Afrique Restaurant is the brain child of my father Olakunle Ayodeji who is both a dreamer and a practical man of action. Dad always went by the nickname “Flash” because he played soccer in his younger days and apparently was really quick running down the field with the ball. My mother Elizabeth is a spiritual and loving woman who moves through life in a state of grace, without worry or anxiety. Both of them passed down their character and attitudes to me, their firstborn son.
Father was born in London but grew up in Nigeria, moved to Oakland when he was in his 20s, and became a DJ doing gigs in night clubs. He also helped my mom with her catering business, delivering Nigerian cuisine to hungry clients. When he was in his 30s, Fathergot a job in the Port of Oakland as a longshoreman. However, for 20 years he dreamed of one day opening a restaurant that would permit people to enjoy the tastes and charms of the African cuisine that he grew up with.
Dad is still working as a longshoreman, so he turned over the restaurant management to me. I was born in Oakland and joined the U.S. Army as a reservist. I did my basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO and advanced training in Fort Lee, VA, where they trained me to be a Petroleum Specialist. My military training taught me important lessons about discipline, awareness, alertness, and courage. However, I have also been developing my interpersonal, communication, business and management skills through the services of a motivational organization called Worldwide Dream Builders that offered me personal attention by an amazing mentor together with resources designed to help me be successful in any business.
When my father decided to actually put his dream into action and open a restaurant, the timing was right. I felt that I was ready to test my skills, discipline, and determination in the real world. I was prepared to become a restauranteur and help my father succeed in this adventure that meant so much to him.
I’m still a young man and it will be a genuine pleasure to make a success of our Afrique Restaurant adventure so that my father can retire and live the life he deserves, with perfect freedom to do whatever he wants.
Photos by Ron Essex