3380 Holcomb Bridge Road
Peachtree Corners, Georgia 30092
Open Since: April
Owners: Matthew and Catherine Owusu
Location: At the edge of the Corners Court Shopping Center near the intersection where Jimmy Carter Blvd. meets Holcomb Bridge Rd.
Hours: Monday: Closed
Tuesday through Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to Midnight
Saturday: Noon to Midnight
Sunday: Noon to 9 p.m.
Atmosphere: Atmosphere: Like the fictional nation of Wakanda featured in “Black Panther,” Cafe Songhai seems to be one of the best kept secrets on the Gwinnett County dining scene.
Married owners Matthew and Catherine Owusu describe the restaurant’s atmosphere as “modern West African dining” and a great place to bring a family. Tribal masks and artwork from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria serve as decor throughout the restaurant.
High-backed booths and polished wooden tables give this location an upscale feel without upscale prices. The walk-up bar is decked out with multiple TVs and makes a great place to come grab a beer and watch a game.
The outdoor patio is another gem. When the temperatures are right, it’s the perfect spot to have dinner with family on a cozy Sunday afternoon or link up with friends after work during the week.
“We wanted it to be very homely, welcoming and a place that you could come and feel free, eat with your fingers, chat with your friends, hang around and listen to good music,” Matthew Owuso said.
Cafe Songhai’s staff adds to that down-home feel. Since many folks on this side of the Atlantic ocean aren’t familiar with West African cuisine, the staff is well-versed on the menu and more than willing to help you select a dish to satisfy your taste buds.
Speaking of music, Owusu has likely assembled one of the best music playlists in the business.
The playlist seamlessly switches from catchy, uptempo African pop to a bit of reggae, pop, rock and roll, and even old school and modern R&B without feeling out of place.
You’ll randomly catch yourself toe-tapping to the beat of West African Kizomba music or Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.”
Even the staff appreciates it as you’ll notice them moving around the restaurant to the rhythm of the beat.
If you’re looking for a place to unwind during the work week, be sure to bring your significant other or a friend from 7 p.m. to midnight on every first, second and fourth Friday for Kizomba Friday.
Kizomba is a popular style of dance and musical genre originating in Angola. The dance style is West Africa’s version of ballroom dancing.
“People enjoy it, and it’s definitely a sexy, electric vibe,” Catherine Owusu said.
Cursed with two left feet? Don’t worry. There’s a free Kizomba dance class that starts at 7:30 p.m.
The cover is $5, and the restaurant offers happy hour drink specials as well.
If dancing is not your speed, come and have a laugh as Cafe Songhai features family-friendly comedians each month.
Menu: Matthew Owusu’s motto for Cafe Songhai is “West African cuisine for the discerning.” You’ll certainly feel wise after having a meal here.
Owusu learned how to cook many of the menu items from his mother as a child and his love for cooking carried on to adulthood.
“I’ve always cooked, I started almost from infancy with my mother, and it’s something I’ve always known how to do,” he said.
If you’re not familiar with West African cuisine, you’ll regret having missed out for so long.
Many of the dishes are similar to what you would find in Caribbean food but with a different flair.
On the appetizer menu, the Beef Suya is the way to go for your protein. The grilled chunks of beef brisket are seasoned to perfection and served with sliced onion slivers and a powdered spice for added flavor.
If you’re craving something a bit sweeter, the Puff Puff is the way to go. Immensely popular in West African countries such as Sierra Leone and Nigeria, Puff Puff is lightly sweetened fried dough balls that make a great snack before or after your meal.
One of the biggest hits on the menu is the grilled tilapia. Served whole, the wild tilapia is seasoned with an array of mild spices, coated with a tomato-based Ivorian salsa, topped with slivers of steamed tomato and onions, then served with a side of fried sweet plantains.
Chef Owusu prepares the dish so well that the flaky white meat of the tilapia literally slides off the skeleton making it worth getting your hands dirty.
It’d be a shame to dine at Cafe Songhai and not join the Jollof rice debate. Cafe Songhai offers both the Nigerian and Ghanian styles, and if you haven’t heard already, there’s a big rivalry over which country makes the better version. The Nigerian version of Jollof is made with parboiled rice, while the Ghanian version is made with Jasmine rice. Both are cooked in tomato sauce and served with a side of fried sweet plantains with your choice of chicken, beef or fish.
“Everybody who tries it loves the Jollof,” Owusu said.
Since Owusu was raised in Ghana, he’s admittedly biased toward the Ghanian version but won’t judge you if choose the Nigerian style.
For diners on a plant-based diet, Cafe Songhai caters to you as well. The menu is littered with delicious veggie-based soups and stews. One of Owusu’s top orders is the Red-Red. This Ghanian dish is a ground black-eyed pea stew cooked in palm oil and served with fried plantain.
Something you might not know: Palm wine is served at the restaurant. It is a West African alcoholic beverage made from the sap of palm trees. Think of aloe vera water with a little bit of a kick. Cafe Songhai’s version is imported directly from Ghana.