When Simileoluwa Adebajo was homesick for Nigeria, she started a restaurant to recreate her childhood home through traditional cuisine
Simileoluwa Adebajo missed the fiery stews she grew up eating in Nigeria. She missed her mothers smoky jollof rice.
Adebajo lived in San Francisco, where dozens of stylish fast-casual restaurants churn out every kind of rice bowl and ethnically inspired sandwich you can imagine but theres not a single jollof joint to speak of. So Adebajo had little choice but to follow in the footsteps of so many homesick expats before her: She opened a restaurant of her own.
Well, not right away, of course. When Adebajo first launched Eko Kitchen last summer, she still worked full-time as a financial analyst and spent her weekends hustling orders of suya chicken and fried plantains to customers via Postmates and Uber Eats. Before long, she was hosting pop-ups at a restaurant space in San Franciscos SoMa neighborhood, a few blocks away from Twitters headquarters and city hall. And two months ago, when she was presented with the opportunity to take over the space on a permanent basis splitting the lease with a Mexican restaurant that serves lunch there on weekdays Adebajo quit her day job and went all in.
Starting in May, Eko Kitchen became San Franciscos first Nigerian restaurant. There isnt any place quite like it in the city. Its the kind of stylish spot where, on a recent Sunday afternoon, Afrobeats played infectiously over the speakers; a couple of twentysomethings flirted over a pot of jollof rice; and a family with two young children dressed in their Sunday finest, made short work of an order of puff-puffs, or fried dough dusted in cinnamon-sugar.