Ghana has come into its place as the Jewel of West Africa. Much safer and more stable than its neighbors, the recent discovery is bringing in new development and foreign investment, resulting in a boom in tourism. Direct flights now come in daily from the US on United and Delta. The Accra Mall, opened in 2008, has several South African chain stores, a movie theater, an Italian furniture design store, Nike, Puma and a food court. An easy introduction to Africa, Ghana is full of some of the friendliest people on the continent.
Accra, Ghana’s capital, is full of volunteers, expats, and business executives. You can find traditional Ghanaian culture alongside Western accommodations, an eclectic mix of food, and enough activities to keep you busy for days. You will find that many of Accra’s nightlife spots also serve excellent food during the day.
Bella Roma. This new restaurant has quickly become the place known for the best pizza in the country. At night the restaurant turns into one of the most popular spots to see and be seen. Wednesdays are Salsa Night, Thursdays are Jack Daniels nights, and the weekend is a free for all. With three different bars and two dance floors you can find anyone and everyone at Bella Roma.
Monsoon. Monsoon offers one of the best outdoor patios in the city, which seem to be always busy. The menu includes sushi, tapenyaki, and unique game meat such as ostrich and alligator. The bar inside gets hopping after 10pm and the DJ always plays an eclectic range of music from 70s disco to hiplife and top 40.
3121/Tantra. Recently remodeled, 3121 serves the largest sushi menu in an elegant upstairs lounge. After midnight the downstairs club becomes filled with everyone from volunteers to oil executives.
Chase. A new addition to Accra, this Lebanese chain restaurant offers a variety of options. The fast food section has excellent Sharma, Lebanese bbq plates, and sandwiches (though the pizza should be avoided). The adjacent Chase Lounge goes for an upscale western atmosphere with sushi, steaks, and continental dishes. The nightclub has yet to draw big crowds, but the outside sheesha lounge is very popular.
Duplex. An Accra favorite, Duplex is not much more than a dive bar. However, the small place is packed every weekend with regulars and visitors alike. The drinks are cheap and the kitchen stays open late, serving surprisingly tasty food. Definitely the most down to earth place you will find.
Most Ghanaians traditionally eat out at Chop Bars. Chop Bars range from a woman serving dishes out of a bowl on the side of the road to sit down spots with full kitchens. In general be careful when eating at a Chop Bar, as conditions are sometimes not as sanitary as a Western will be used to.
In Ghana bars are known as “spots.” Going to a local spot you will find the prices of alcohol much lower than at Western bars and resultants. Though Ghanaians are big drinkers you can always strike up a conversation at a spot and find yourself drinking into the night with new friends.
Beer- There are three main beers in Ghana:
- Star– Actually, a Nigerian lager, it is bottled in Ghana, and is the nation’s number one beer;
- Club– Very similar in taste to Star, Club is “The Nation’s Beer,” as it is owned and bottled by Ghanaians. Club recently came out with a premium beer, “Club Gold,” which is considered more flavorful by most; and
- Guinness-Not the same taste of Guinness you will find in Ireland, but the prominent dark beer available in Ghana.
Akpeteshie– The local spirit, also known as bitters, is made from distilled palm wine. Quite strong and fiery on the way down, Akpeteshie has a black liquorice-like taste.
Water– The drinking water in Ghana is not safe and it is always advised to drink bottled water, of which Voltic is the most popular brand. “Pure Water” is purified water sold cheaply in sachet bags. However, is advised not to drink sachet water, as a recent study found a very high percentage of the sachets contaminated.
Ghanaian and West African Food
West African food is a new and interesting experience to all those who haven’t tried it before. Though each country puts it own spin on dishes, most of the them can be found throughout the region. Ghanaian food is flavorful and has a lot of spice.
If you a vegetarian be careful, as it’s a idea foreign to most Ghanaians. There are very few vegetarian options at restaurants. By way of example, once a friend ordered the vegetarian pasta only for it to come out with chicken, when she told the waiter that it had meat on it he replied “That’s not meat, it’s chicken.”
Fufu. The most well known Ghanaian dish, fufu is made with cassava, plantain, or yam, mashed until the starch breaks down. The fufu then becomes a gooey mash that is usually served with light soup.
Banku. Banku is similar to fufu, but is made with fermented cassava and maize and is usually served with an Okra stew.
Where to find: Buka (Osu). An airy open-air dining area on a back street in Osu, more upscale than a chop bar, but not overly expensive. A great place for an introduction to West African food.
Red Red. Rice served with delicious plantain fried in red palm oil. A favorite of those who aren’t a fan of other West African food
Tante Marie. Considered the most upscale of the African restaurants in Accra, Maquis Tante Marie has two locations, one in Labone and one at the Accra Mall. Excellent red-red with Senegalese rice.
Wakeye. The Ghanaian version of Rice and Beans made with papaeye, giving it a smoky taste, served with your choice of ingredients like a boiled egg, fried tilapia, or avocado.
Aunt Muni’s (Cantonments). Though it looks like little more than a roadside stand Aunti Muni’s is one of the most popular spots for weekend Wakeye brunch for all walks of life in Accra.
Tilapia. Lake Volta in Ghana is the world’s largest man made lake with a thriving fishing community. Combine that with the costal fishing and you find a lot of seafood in Accra. Fried, grilled, and smoked versions of the fish can be found in many different places in the city.
Duncan’s (Osu). A small spot where you sit outside in plastic chairs, sipping Star beer. They only have one thing on the menu, tilapia. The fish is grilled on an open bbq, and you eat it traditionally with your hands. You might not have a better authentic meal with in Ghana.
Rice: Omu Tuo/Jollof. Rice is a staple in Ghana, the main component of any meal. A more interesting way of eating it is Omu Tuo, sticky rice balls that are usually served with groundnut soup or other stews. Jollof is rice fried with red palm oil, chicken, onions and green peppers. You can find jollof at any chop shop at any eatery in the country.
Asanka Local (Osu). Voted “Chop Bar of the Year” in 2004, this is the best place to go if you are a tourist and wants to taste a very local experience. The best omu tuo with groundnut soup you can find in town.
Written by Will Holton