Cuisine: West African and American
6140 Cleveland Avenue (Atrium Center)
Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner
Adding to the increasing diversity of West African restaurants in Columbus is this Sierra Leonean inspired spot, serving an intriguing mix of West African and American dishes.
Tropical Spice is owned by Isatu “Florence” Gbaya and her mother, Zainab. Their primary business is catering, though dining walk-ins are welcome for lunch and dinner.
While we mostly sampled the West African specialties, we did try the wings – which were nicely crispy and surprisingly well cooked.
Of the West African dishes, we were particularly taken by the lamb dibi, which comes with a mountain of either rice, couscous or salad. It is pictured below with the jollof rice which was flavorful but perhaps a bit greasier here than at some of the other West African restaurants.
The pepper chicken (pictured below) was also very tasty and well prepared. Just beware of the heat! It looks innocent enough on the menu, but the pepper in question is habanero, not black pepper as one might expect. Also made from habanero is the excellent house hot sauce, a seductive mix of onion, bell pepper and habanero that has a considerable after-burn.
We also enjoyed the much milder spinach stew with contains chunks of chicken and was fragrant with ginger.
A couple of items on the menu that might need translation are attieke, fufu, and egusi. Both the attieke and fufu are made from cassava (a starchy, tuberous root) but fufu has a heavy dough-like texture and attieke has more of a couscous like texture. Egusi sauce is made with ground up melon seeds and has a distinctive and sometimes polarizing flavor.
I ate there a couple of weeks ago and it’s the real deal! The food was great and they used regular china and silverware.