'Ghanaian fusion' restaurant opening soon in downtown Bethlehem

From www.mcall.com
Ryan Kneller

A new restaurant is expected to heat up downtown Bethlehem's dining scene just in time for Musikfest.

Coal Lounge & Grill, offering "Ghanaian fusion" cuisine, is expected to open in early August at 81 W. Broad St., owner Kofi Armah said.

The space has housed many restaurants over the years, including Petra and True Blue Mediterranean restaurants, Cilantro Mexican Cuisine and, most recently, Talavera Mexican Cuisine.

Armah, of Bethlehem, has long been passionate about cooking and is looking forward to introducing Bethlehem to "Ghanaian food presented in an American way."

For example, many American restaurants offer soup and/or salad before the entrée, but Armah notes many Ghanaian restaurants make soup and a starch dish such as jollof rice the main course.

"So, here, we will have many of the traditional Ghanaian foods such as groundnut soup and fufu, but we will make them sides to complement our charcoal-grilled meats, including chicken, lamb and goat, along with seafood and vegetables, all of which will be our focus," Armah said.

Other sides such as yam fries and kenkey, made from fermented ground corn, will be featured alongside traditional Ghanaian beverages such as sobolo (or bissap), made with hibiscus, and asana, a caramelized corn drink.

Local produce and meats will be sourced and spices will be imported from Ghana.

"I want people to say 'I ate Ghanaian food' as opposed to 'I ate African food' because there is a difference in cultures on the continent," says Armah, who was born in the United States but grew up in Ghana. "And it's not just the food. I want to expose people to the entire Ghanaian culture with live music and artwork, which will be for sale."

Coal, which will be BYOB, will offer ­­­­seating for about 200 customers in two dining spaces: a "cozy dining room," featuring couches and ottomans surrounding tables; and a "garden lounge," featuring greenery, a water feature and seating made out of pallets in the building's hallway, Armah said.

"It's not going to be a regular dining experience," Armah said. "It's going to be much more of a relaxed atmosphere where you and a group of friends can dine like you would at home."

Hours are still being finalized, but Armah expects the restaurant will be open most days from about 3 or 4 p.m. until midnight or later. An authentic Ghanaian brunch buffet will be offered on Sundays.


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