The familiar aromas of spicy tomato sauce and ginger will soon waft out of Appioo and onto Ninth Street NW, signaling the return of longstanding West African restaurant in Shaw. A Ghanaian staple for the past seven years, Appioo will reopen for half-capacity indoor seating on Friday, August 21. Reservations will be required for spread-out seats, and the restaurant will log customers for contact tracing so they’ll know who to notify if a guest tests positive for COVID-19.
Owner and chef Prince Matey says Appioo will be serving its full menu of staples like red red, jollof rice, and egusi stew while introducing two new dishes: a minced goat burger and seafood okra stew. Made with goat ground on-site, the burger gets spiced with a blend Matey developed that includes hints of cinnamon. The burger comes with yuca fries.
“At the core of our brand is tradition, and I didn’t want our diners to return fearing their favorites would be discontinued,” Matey says. “So, I made sure we had the ability to still serve the items that attracted our regular clientele along with a couple new recipes I developed during the hiatus.”
Seafood okra adopts a low and slow method. It starts with salt-encrusted tilapia Matey prefers to dry out in the sun. A standard base of tomato, onions, and habanero cooks with portions of grilled shrimp, octopus, and crab. Fresh okra is the finishing touch. Matey says he uses sustainably sourced palm oil to give the stew a signature flavor.
For diners following a vegetable-heavy diet, Matey suggests the spinach stew or vegetarian akrako, a seasoned plantain dumplings served with black eye peas. People who want more protein in their stew have a choice of chicken, croaker fish, oxtail, beef, or goat.
Matey has always taken inspiration from his grandmother’s Ghanaian recipes while attempting to create flavors that cater to native Washingtonians. Before the pandemic, Appioo had been a communal spot for expats to gather and dance to Afrobeat music late into the night. For the past four months, the restaurant has been missing its regulars while offering takeout and delivery through Grub Hub, Post Mates, and Door Dash.
Appioo is open from 4:00 p.m. until midnight on Friday and Saturday and 4:00 pm until 10:00 p.m. Sunday, Tuesdays, and Thursday.