Rockville-area foodies looking for a new type of dining experience can turn to Eko House, marketing itself as an upscale, pan-African restaurant serving patrons cuisine from Nigeria and other West African countries, which held its grand opening this summer.
Inside Eko House, in Rockville Town Square, booths and tables surround the bar, with large flat screens displaying news on sporting events, paintings by Nigerian artists hang on the walls, while African music plays.
“It’s a place that we hope to have Nigerians, Africans in the diaspora and lovers of West African culture come in and enjoy the taste and the environment,” said co-owner Francis Odiase.
He recommended the jollof rice, a popular West African dish, and the eko rice, a dish unique to the restaurant that includes goat meat bites. Partner Yomi Ajao recommended items featuring seafood, such as tilapia, or their various “suya” items, similar to kebab.
Odiase comes from a family of restaurateurs that owned establishments in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and it had long been his dream to have a restaurant of his own. He partnered with longtime friend Ajao, and the founded Eko House together.
Ajao and Odiase said there was both a lack of and desire for an upscale Nigerian restaurant. They chose Rockville Town Center for the area’s affluence and diversity.
Since the soft opening in February, Eko House has seen around 1,000 customers a month, said Ajao.
Regarding the name, Odiase explained that Eko is the original name for Nigeria’s capital, Lagos.
“So it’s a home environment, that’s why we call it ‘Eko House,’” Odiase said. “So when a customer comes in we want them to feel comfortable, like you’re home. You’re going to eat [a] home-cooked meal.”
Eko House leverages its West African food choices, artwork and selection of music to transport diners to Lagos, which Ajao called the “New York of Nigeria.”
“So it’s trying to take them back into that environment so they can re-experience it, if they are already Nigerians and they are familiar with the environment,” said Ajao. “And for the folks who maybe have not been to Nigeria before or been to Lagos before, it is a little bit of a window for them to experience it with us before they can make their way down there.”
Odiase said that as a pan-African restaurant they are also looking to include cultural aspects from other African nations. For instance, Odiase hopes to bring in visiting chefs from other parts of Africa and artwork by artists from other African countries.
Last summer, Eko House hosted a party for Senegalese patrons that featured a Senegalese DJ.
“We feel, by doing that, we continue to push that story of one Africa and pan-Africanism,” said Odiase.
150 Gibbs Street, Rockville