Aburi Gardens, Ghanaian restaurant in Woodbridge
My wife and I went to Ghana on vacation a few years ago and were surprised by how good (and how spicy) the food was. We hadn't managed to find many Ghanaian restaurants in DC, which is surprising since there are a fair number of Ghanaians in the area. We knew about three -- Ghana Cafe near Adams-Morgan, which is too bland; Akosombo, at 5th & K Streets, NW, which has pretty good food but is too dirty (and we don't have picky standards for cleanliness); and Rainbow Restaurant in Gaithersburg, which we haven't tried because it's a long hike for us and because there are some strong customer complaints online about being ripped off there.
So we were pretty excited when a Ghanaian waiter at Dixie Bones Barbecue restaurant in Woodbridge told us that there were TWO Ghanaian restaurants right there in Woodbridge.
We tried one of them, Aburi Gardens, recently, and I can report that we have now found a source of very authentic Ghanaian food, in a sparkling clean setting.
The Ghanaian community in the DC area (around 11,000 as of 2006, according to an article in the Post) has largely left Alexandria, where they formerly lived, and relocated in Woodbridge. Driving down Route 1 you can now see Ghanaian grocery stores and even a Ghanaian wedding hall.
I can recommend Aburi Gardens pretty highly, as two of the three dishes we had were delicious -- an appetizer of chicken gizzards and peppers, sprinkled with ground cayenne pepper (pictured below), and the peanut soup with goat meat and fufu (which was one of our favorite foods when we vacationed in Ghana back in 2007). Both were blazing hot, but within the zone of tolerance.
Unfortunately, I can't be as enthusiastic about the third dish, a whole tilapia with red pepper sauce. This was my favorite dish in Ghana. When we had it there, the tilapia was fresh caught from the Volta River or Lake Volta and charcoal grilled and the fiery red pepper sauce, which is made from a mixture of tomatoes and peppers. The wild tilapia is far better than the farm-raised tilapia we get here.
The tilapia at Aburi Gardens tasted ... not really fishy, but old. My guess is that the owners don't like American tilapia and have imported Ghanaian wild-caught tilapia, which suffered from the journey. Also, and this is probably just a matter of taste, the tilapia was literally covered in a quarter-inch thick layer of the pepper sauce, which easily placed it among the five hottest dishes I've ever eaten from any cuisine (including Thai and Sichuan). That was okay, but I prefer the serving style I saw in Ghana, where the pepper sauce was on the side and you could modulate the heat on a bite-by-bite basis.
Aburi Gardens' address is 14830 Build America Drive, but it's really on Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1), near the intersection with Maryland Avenue. The other Ghanaian restaurant (that we know about) in Woodbridge is Rahama at 12744 Darby Court. We looked in and it also looks very authentic (all the customers looked African), but we didn't eat since the portions at Aburi Gardens are absolutely huge.
For pictures of Aburi Gardens and the food, see the links below.
613 K St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Thanks for this exciting post. Now I can accompany my family on trips to Ikea and actually have something to look forward to.
Many times in places like this, it is the grilled or smoked meats/fish that suffer. They are just not set up to do it properly. Did the fish look like it was charcoal grilled?