“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child
Estimated to Read: 8 minutes
A few weeks back, I was asked, “What are the best Nigerian restaurants in the DMV (District, Maryland, and Virginia area)?” He was in love with African food – enjoys fufu and goat meat – in the big cities he was used to, but now lives in the country of Virginia. So I sought to answer the question by going to the different restaurants in the area to find which make the best, authentic food representing the culture (and my new series here on the blog #beeseeats >> one of my favorite things to do!).
First on the stop was Peju’s Restaurant and Lounge (formerly and also known as Peju’s Kitchen) in Baltimore, MD. Founded by Mide Fadiora Johnson 18 years ago and named after her youngest sister, the eatery specializes in staple Nigerian food most families would eat in their homes and what non-Nigerians have come to love about the country’s cuisines. Since its opening, the restaurant has grown from being able to seat 20 people to having the ability to accommodate over 300. From the cleanliness and simply yet beautiful ambiance to the menu options to the customer service shown from the moment I walked in with my date for the day (my honey mummy), Peju’s Restaurant and Lounge (PRL) was the epitome of Nigerian restaurant in America at its best.
Nigerian food tends to be cooked with [lots of Cayenne/red] pepper, and this typically reflected in food catered for events and at restaurants. I sampled quite a few of the items from Peju’s menu and all were honestly delectable. Keeping in mind that everyone’s spice tolerance level is different, this restaurant has options anyone – independent of their ethnicity and ability to eat (and tolerate) pepper – could eat and enjoy. [It’s important for me to note that I am harboring on this because I have a co-worker friend who does NOT like pepper. We literally had a meal that had black pepper in it and while it was undetectable by me, she said she could taste the spice in the seasons. For someone like her who’s extremely sensitive to pepper, I would want to err on the side of caution in what I would recommend for her to try.]
Here are the items mummy and I tried; I have noted my favorites of the day with #BeesesFavoriteThings
Pepper Soup: This spicy soup is not for those who know that they know they do not like pepper. While my mom said she could have handled it a little spicier (typical, authentic Nigerian woman lol), I would not recommend this to my friend I mentioned above – NO. This thin textured, spicy soup full of various pieces of meats, turkey, and chicken. For those of you like me who do not eat red meat or chicken (mommy was my meat eater for the day J), PRL has a Fish Pepper Soup for your taste buds. #beesesfavoritethings
Puff puff: Fried dough balls tossed in sugar. It is always perfect to start off a meal; it is also one of the few items where pepper is not involved so anyone could enjoy it. I am typically not the biggest fan of puff puff (I love its cousin – Buns lol), but mummy loved it.
Fish Roll: Chopped pieces of fish fried in flour. Great taste, not fishy at all, and dough was cooked just right.
Meat Pie: Ground beef and potatoes fried in flour. I didn’t try this, but mummy said it was good – it was not overtly stuffed with meat (that’s a good thing), so it made it enjoyable to eat.
White rice, served with goat meat with skin and stockfish in [tomato] stew, and a side of beans and plantain (mummy’s entrée): Mummy said it was good – the food came out steamying hot, just as she likes her food! The rice was fresh and fluffy. Both the goat meat and stockfish was tenderly cooked and easy to chew; the stew was mildly spiced. She loved the beans – it was filling and rich in taste. Mummy said, though it was good, the plantain was soft for her; she tends to like hers less ripe and a little harder (most people who have plantain would love it as it is). Overall, she enjoyed her meal.
Moin moin: side dish blended black eye beans cooked with ground beef, chopped pieces of fish, and hard-boiled eggs. Mummy also had this, but took it home (and I tried some of it too lol). While she said it was soft for her (she does not like “mushy” food if you peep the pattern), it was good for me. It would pair excellently with the meal she had described above.
Now before I describe what I had, please keep in mind these were sample plates lol, NOT full dishes.
Coconut rice: white rice cooked with coconut and shrimp. It is described to be spicy, but for me it was not; I would have loved for it to have been a little spicier, but it was enjoyable just as it was. Even if you think you cannot handle pepper, I believe you would be perfectly fine with it as is (you could always tell your server to hold the pepper). Unlike typical white rice, this would not need a stew to pair it with; simply a side of meat, chicken or fish would do. #beesesfavoritethings
Fried rice: white rice seasoned with curry powder and baked with vegetable and pieces of meat and shrimp. This was just okay for me; but mummy loved it. Mildly spiced, this rice was fresh tasting and everything blended well together.
Jollof rice: white rice cooked in tomato sauce/paste. Saving the best rice for last – this was super good! This was proper, correct, Nigerian Jollof rice, a staple in West Africa. You just have to try it to understand what I am saying. Just like with the coconut rice, it could have been a little more spiced, but it was tasty as it was. Bearable for the non-spice eaters. #beesesfavoritethings
Efo with egusi stew: spinach cooked with melon seed powder. My personal FAVORITE type of stew period. It was not too dry neither too wet; the perfect balance of all ingredients; mildly spiced. Legit one my favorite favorites of all the things I tried at PRL. #beesesfavoritethings
Efo riro: spinach simmered in tomato stew. This would pair perfectly with white rice because it has the stew texture. It was good, but my least favorite item I tried.
Beans (Ewa riro): black eyed beans cooked in a savory and sweet base stew. I loved this rich tasting bean dish, just like mummy. I paired it with the Jollof rice and plantain. Wonderful combination. #beesesfavoritethings
Plantain: easiest way to describe it – fried ripe bananas. When plantain is ripe, it brings out the sweetness of it. Though mummy found it to be soft, most people like it this way, and I thoroughly enjoyed pairing this with the Beans and Efo and Egusi. #beesesfavoritethings
Fried fish: friend fish simmered in tomato stew. I am not the biggest fan of frying meats of any kind and then cooking them in stew. I prefer it is boiled (or baked) then simmered in the stew. While this was good, I would have preferred fresh fish in stew – I also recommend this for those having Nigerian/West African food for the first time. Fried meats tend to be harder to chew, so fresh/boiled meats will be your best option as an introduction to our food.
So here’s my rating meter:
[Worst] 1. Aight 2. Okay 3. Good 4. Amazing 5. Incomparable [Best]
Customer Service: Incomparable
Let me slide in another note: the customer service was for real top-notch. Lola, who refused to be pictured for my Instagram stories lol, was a wonderful hostess. She was friendly and conversational but not overbearing; she checked in with mummy and me regularly. Trust me when I say a restaurant could have the best food, but if there is bad customer service, that food could taste as bad as dirt. Good customer service is key to any good business, and PRL excelled in it.
Overall: Peju’s Restaurant and Lounge is #BeeseApproved
I highly recommend stopping by this restaurant and trying any dish from this menu. You will not be disappointed. Tell them Adebisi referred you. What dish are you interested in trying from PRL?
I am wearing an Ankara bomber jacket from The Foreign Closet. Visit my Instagram page to get your modern and funky Ankara pieces.