“I guess it really hasn’t dawned on me what I’ve done yet,” says Tina Fahnbulleh. But it’s about to dawn on everyone: Fahnbulleh’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Gold Coast Ghal Kitchen, opened in First Hill on Tuesday, November 8.
The West African restaurant fills a vacuum in the local culinary landscape as one of the only places to find traditional Liberian and Ghanaian dishes in the Seattle city limits. It’s been in soft-open mode since last Friday, November 3, and Fahnbulleh, who has been running pop-ups since 2017, says the response has been both logistically and emotionally overwhelming.
“Just having a single gentleman come in on Sunday and order fufu and soup and eat with his hands, wash his hands, and leave… that’s how it is back home,” she says. For her, witnessing this solo diner grabbing a quick meal at the counter evoked the chop bars of Ghana, casual eateries that are woven into the fabric of everyday life. “It was just a joy to see that,” says Fahnbulleh.
The newly renovated space on Boren Avenue, formerly Little Neon Taco, is bright and airy, accented with decorative woven baskets and blue kente cloth backrests. One wall is lush with faux greenery that frames a neon sign which reads “Akwaaba” — welcome.
You wouldn’t know from a look at the gleaming new dining room that Fahnbulleh undertook many of the renovations herself, with nothing but Reddit and YouTube videos to guide her as she painted floors and repaired windows.
And renovations haven’t been the only challenge. Sourcing certain ingredients, like cassava pearls and prekese, a tree fruit typically used as a savory spice in soups, requires some resourcefulness. Fahnbulleh has relatives back in Ghana send her much of whatever she isn’t able to find at Roba’s African Store in White Center.
The elusive prekese finds its way into Gold Coast Ghal’s spin on an Old Fashioned, which is just one of several West African–accented cocktails. (Drinks are $2 off during happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays.) There’s also a late-night menu in the works that will include hand pies, cassava fries, and gizdodo, a dish made with stewed chicken gizzards and plantains. Fahnbulleh plans to run this menu on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. as soon as she’s able to fully staff the kitchen. For now, the restaurant will close at 10 p.m.
Fahnbulleh, attuned to a dearth of quality post-midnight food options in the city, wanted to provide an “after-hours” experience reminiscent of late nights back home in Ghana, when people gather at neighborhood eateries to continue drinking and share bowls of gizdodo. In fact, everything on the menu at Gold Coast Ghal Kitchen is meant to be shared, which feels like a neat encapsulation of the new restaurant’s ethos.
Gold Coast Ghal, at 1009 Boren Avenue in First Hill, is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.