Preparing Ghanese delicacies like fried plantains, banku with fried tilapia and boiled yams with spinach stew is second nature to Aisha Adams, owner of downtown Killeen’s new Akwaaba Cafe.
Adams grew up cooking in Ghana — catering was the family business. For her, opening Killeen’s first African restaurant was a natural extension of her upbringing. And she has ambitious plans for the spacious cafe she opened in late December.
“I was looking for a place that could be a banquet room, a grocery store and a restaurant,” Adams said. “I looked at a location in Harker Heights, but it was too expensive, and I wanted to be in Killeen anyway. I found this place on Craigslist, and that is how we started. It took three months to find the right location.”
The restaurant consists of three large rooms, including a dining room, a banquet hall and another smaller dining room.
Adams plans to turn the smaller, adjoining dining room into a grocery store that specializes in African products.
She hopes the banquet hall will draw from Killeen’s African community to host events such as weddings and birthday parties.
Once she has established her base clientele, she hopes to attract customers from every demographic.
“We want everybody to feel welcome here,” she said.
So far, Adams said, the restaurant has been fairly quiet during the week. But on the weekends, her husband, Mohammed Adams, sets up his DJ equipment and the restaurant becomes a hangout for the local African community.
“There are a lot of Africans in Killeen, and most of them are single soldiers,” Adams said. “Africans don’t really have anywhere to hang out on the weekends. We want this to be a place for them to feel at home.”
Adams booked her first birthday party, which will take place in mid-February. She is in the process of applying for a liquor license so her business can grow into the multipurpose cafe she envisions.
“We will concentrate on hosting events for the African community, but again, we hope to host events for the entire community,” she said.
In her effort to offer authentic African cuisine, one of Adams’ biggest challenges is finding properly aged goats to provide meat for Ghanese delicacies.
Adams said goats need to be at least 1 year old before they are slaughtered to provide the taste she wants. She said it is hard to find local goats for slaughter that are more than 6 months old.
“I have to go to Houston or Dallas all the time to find goats,” she said. “I had to go to Austin just yesterday.”
Unfortunately for Adams, it isn’t as easy to find a good goat here as it was in Ghana.
“In Ghana, everything is fresh,” Adams said. “The fruit. The produce. If you need a goat, you just go to the market and get it slaughtered.”
Adams said she has a family member on the way from New York to help with the restaurant.
But for now, Adams can only depend on part-time help from her husband, a computer programmer.
“We have a lot of stuff planned, but right now it is just me,” she said. “Right now, I am just doing what I can.”