1. Country Kitchen – Osu
The covered outdoor Country Kitchen is in the Ringway Estates area, traditionally an enclave of rich Ghanaians and civil servants. Current president John Mahama’s father, a politician himself before the 1966 coup, once owned a house here.
Omo tuo — rice balls in groundnut soup — is a Sunday special, but come early for lunch; once the church opposite has turned out the place becomes packed, and the crowds clear the kitchen of everything other than chicken and jollof rice. Portions are huge, but just take your time — the location makes this an interesting place to linger and people-watch.
2. Asanka Local – Osu
Asanka is really a chop bar on a grander scale, with certain refinements — printed menus, sufficient seating, cutlery if you ask for it — that make it more accessible. Go for a soup here, either thick groundnut or spicy, tomato-based “light soup.” If you aren’t ready for fufu, plain rice is the best accompaniment.
The high, vented ceiling keeps it cool, and there’s a lively soundtrack from a set of ancient speakers in a corner, but you may find you have the place to yourself in the evenings. Many restaurants around the local market are busiest at lunch and close up relatively early. Aim to be there by 7pm at the latest.
3. Maquis Tante Marie – Labone
A relaxed garden restaurant in the affluent Labone district, this one is popular across the spectrum. You might see Ghanaians on a date, well-off family groups, or volunteer teams on R&R. The extensive menu includes dishes from all over West Africa, and the waakye — a mix of beans and rice, served with grilled meat, shito pepper sauce, and salad — is great.
Gari foto, a preparation of fried, spiced cassava chips that’s often described as “Ghanaian couscous,” is also good here, but it’s worth asking for extra sauce as it tends to come up rather dry. Go for a seat upstairs, on a wooden balcony surrounded by leaves and cooled by a light breeze.
4. Blue Gate – Osu
Some say the best banku and tilapia in Osu is at Blue Gate; others claim Duncan’s. But Blue Gate has the nicer environment, with an airy upstairs bar looking out over the bottom of Mission Street, complete with pool table and blaring TV. There’s also a small terrace out front, flanked by a barbecue cooking up chicken and fish.
Your tilapia will come fresh from the grill, with a relatively sensible portion of soft, sourish banku, a salad, and dishes of hot pepper sauce. Unlike soups, this is a meal easier to eat with your hands, even if you’re a beginner — a whole tilapia is a bony thing, so a little manual dexterity goes a long way.
5. Home Touch – Labadi
This long-standing favourite’s new home in Trade Fair — literally inside the Trade Fair complex, the northern part of which operates like a surreal gated retail park — lacks the atmosphere of the old site near El Wak stadium, but it’s still large, friendly, air-conditioned, and tasty.
Try their belting light soup, with fat green chili peppers bobbing around in the spicy broth. It’s also a good place to try akrantie, the large, vegetarian rodent Ghanaians love, better known as “grasscutter.” It’s flavoursome, if a little tough, and best sampled at a professional restaurant that buys farmed meat.
…and where to cop out, if you must
Tam Tam, in the Afrikiko development next to Flagstaff House, and Buku, in Osu, are two up-market options. Both are perfectly fine, but will do little for your understanding of how and where locals eat. Tam Tam in particular is aimed squarely at the international market — at time of writing, Tuesday is salsa night.
A better idea, particularly if you’re short on time, is to tick off several dishes in one go at a Sunday buffet. Most of the large, upscale hotels in town run one, and by 2pm they’re full of Ghanaian families in church finery. The African Regent has the best.