Nigerian cuisine is known for its rice dishes and soups. Given the country’s tropical climate, an abundance of rainfall, and green vegetation, the food, though full of variety, makes use of local base ingredients like tomatoes, leafy greens, and root vegetables in many of its most popular dishes - including many soups and stews. Most Nigerian soups come packed with greens like spinach, bitter leaf, pumpkin leaves, water leaves, and scent leaves. These soups are also filled with chunks of meat, fish, or seafood, and have a thick, almost casserole-like consistency. While they’re typically spicy and eaten with starchy cassava-based swallows like fufu or pounded yam, you can also have them without. Along with popular options like egusi soup and pepper soup, some of Nigeria’s most beloved dishes include jollof rice, red tomato stew, moi moi, suya, and bean cakes made with black-eyed peas known as akara.
In the last few years, an increasing number of Nigerian restaurants have popped up around New York City. These places have done a great job of staying true to the flavors and traditions of Nigeria while also continuing to adapt. Nigerian food is spicy, so understandably, most of these restaurants reduce the spice level of dishes so everyone can enjoy them. While there are many popular Nigerian restaurants to try in the city, these are seven of the best.
Between the yellow Danfo (a van as ubiquitous in Lagos as cabs are here) parked inside, African art hanging on the walls, and a bar stocked with Nigerian beers and palm wine, Buka in Clinton Hill is one of the best spots to enjoy a little slice of Nigeria without ever leaving the city. This place has a comprehensive menu with many Nigerian dishes, including the classic jollof rice, fufu and vegetable soup, and moi moi. Besides serving great food, Buka usually has a busy bar on the weekends, DJ-hosted Friday parties, and a mini stage for comedy nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Newly opened in Midtown, Lagos Lounge is already cementing its place as one of the best Nigerian restaurants in New York. A little more upscale than most other spots on this guide, this place brings the fun of Lagos nightlife with a groovy atmosphere, elaborate cocktails, and a DJ playing popular Nigerian music like Burna Boy, Davido, and Wiz Kid. The jollof rice with chicken, moi moi, beef suya, and the small chops appetizer that comes with various light snacks like meat or fish pie and akara fritters are all delicious. And while we haven’t tried them yet, we’ve heard excellent things about their lamb chops and Lagos smash burger (at least, according to one of the restaurant’s security guards). Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, it’s also great for late-night drinks and group dinners as they have plenty of seating in the back.
Named after one of Nigeria’s popular street foods, Brooklyn Suya in Crown Heights sells just two things: suya and suya bowls. Suya is roasted and skewered beef (or chicken) marinated with suya seasoning - a dried spice made with ground cayenne pepper, peanuts, salt, and a few other unique (and secret) ingredients. The bowls include a base of rice or kale, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, red onions, and suya beef or chicken. You can customize yours with fried ripe plantains or avocado and you also get to choose how spicy you want your suya seasoning, with three levels from mild to very spicy. Keep in mind that this place only does pickup or delivery orders, but they’re available on most delivery apps.
Hills Place is a loungey restaurant in Marine Park with a full bar and good music. The jollof rice with chicken is a head turner and it tastes just as great as it looks. Jollof is the star dish of Nigeria, so if a restaurant gets it right you can be sure everything else will taste good too. The jollof at Hill’s Place has a rich, savory flavor of blended tomatoes, peppers, and spices like garlic, nutmeg, and bullion. It has the perfect rich red color and comes with a generous side of fried plantains, which is a pleasant surprise since you normally have to order them separately. The egusi soup, okra soup, efo riro, and bitter leaf soup (all of which can be paired with pounded yam) are popular choices here too. The pepper soup with chicken or goat is also done really well - it’s spicy but not overwhelming and comes with plenty of meat.
This Bushwick spot is owned by the same people as Hills Place. And just like their sister restaurant, Hills Kitchen serves signature Nigerian dishes like jollof rice, chicken with fried plantains, and egusi soup with pounded yam. It has a casual and friendly feel and is a great place to split a bunch of dishes with friends over lunch. The menu includes other Nigerian soups like okra with beef or goat meat and spinach soup, but the beef or chicken red stew paired with white rice is the real star. The beef and chicken are both cooked in a spicy broth, fried, and then added to the tomato stew, which has a savory richness that pairs really well with the white rice.
Festac Grill, a West African restaurant near Broadway Junction, is known for its Saturday Lagos Nights where a DJ plays afrobeat, reggae, and soca music. You can get any of the classic Nigerian dishes the rest of the week, including their signature buka stew (red stew) and asaro, which is a porridge dish of slightly mashed yams mixed with a tomato sauce, palm oil, and leafy vegetables. They also serve spicy suya, which is just about the best thing we can think of to go with a bottle of cold Nigerian beer.
Located in Astoria, Nneji is part takeout/delivery-only restaurant and part grocery store. They have a short but comprehensive menu that includes classics like jollof rice, okra and spinach, and egusi soup with a choice of chicken, salmon, or goat meat. The egusi soup, which usually contains beef, dried fish, or chicken, is also sometimes made vegetarian-friendly. Meaning it contains chunks of tomatoes and caramelized onions that provide a little sweet zing to contrast with the spicy and savory soup. Nneji also carries a fine collection of bread and rolls, and a selection of international groceries like olive oils, sheer butter, and organic soaps.