"Have you been to Jerry's Place yet?"
"Oh, you mean you don't know and haven't heard about it?"
"No, I haven't! What's that, and what are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the latest Nigerian joint in town. There, the food is great and you will love it. You will be glad you did.
"Oh yeah, man!"
"Hmmmmm, so, where is this new restaurant located? Is it around my neck of the woods?"
"Yeah man, in Hawthorne!"
"Where in Hawthorne? I know the one on Imperial and Hawthorne Boulevard run by the Cameroonian lady had been out of business a while ago. So, which one, and where exactly in Hawthorne?"
"It's 'past' the one on Imperial and Hawthorne, all the way past the police station, on the corner of El Segundo and Hawthorne Boulevard."
"That use to be my hood until the spooky bad cop image Hawthorne Police began their tussle with civil society to raise money by all means for a desperate, broke, City of Hawthorne, remember?"
"Yeah, long time ago, I remember."
"So, you want us to go there now, on your tab?"
"No, I'm busy, maybe next time."
"No wahala! Nothing spoil!"
"I'll let you know when I'm ready."
"Ok now, we go holla!"
That was the 'kinda' chit-chat I had on the phone with structural designer, Ben Tokumbo Obafunwa, who had in the past called me all sorts of names when I criticized the horrible services of Ronke Bernadette's Lagos Cafe.
A couple of days after our chit-chat on Jerry's Place, Obafunwa called me again to find out if I had stopped by the newly arrived Nigerian eatery in Greater Los Angeles everybody is talking about:
"You don go the place?"
"The place wey I bin tell you naw."
"Nooooo, u know say na money now for dis kain economy wey don dabaru kpatakpata!"
"Ah, you wey be baba nla."
"I see say you won begin run your mouth again! Basket mouth!"
"Ah, make man no talk o before you begin your wahala."
"Ok now, we go yan!"
It was like a must that I should visit Jerry's Place even though for some reason -- doctor's warning of high cholesterol, greasy Nigerian dishes -- that my intake of anu ewu, goat meat, nkwobi and all that ngwongwo stuff be limited. But 'man must wack,' you know! Also, there was no mention of a do-nothing, jumbled and bellicose Nd'House of Los Angeles gathering in this new eatery, which showed an indication of originality.
However, as it happened, and for a new eatery much had been said and talked about, I made up my mind to check it out. Not much of a drive though, and placing my order of okra soup, midly spiced, coupled with mixed meat and a bowl of pounded yam, I called Obafunwa to join me, on my tab, at Jerry's Place. Obafunwa ordered olugbo soup, bitter leaf and a variety of meat with dried fish and said "I will be there shortly." He arrived in about twenty-five minutes and his food was ready. Mine, too, was in order as justice was done the normal way -- eating with our fingers and swallowing the pounded yam, orishirishi soup pasted. It's tasty, Obafunwa would say, and I would agree.
Jerry's Place Restaurant, located at 12631 Hawthorne Boulevard in the City of Hawthorne, is run by Nnobi, Nigerian-born Geraldine Chinwe Okafor. Growing up in Uruala where she attended secondary school, she was friendly, showing an element of dignity on how to operate an effective and efficient eatery by way of engaging her customers into relative discussion, knowing who they are, and getting to ask questions about her service.
On my second visit, I had called and ordered a combination of okra and egusi soup to be swallowed with cooked, ground oat flour. "Your food will be ready in twenty minutes," she said. I arrived on time and my food was ready. Without a doubt, I liked the food and service, which is what I had looked for in a typical African-related restaurant, excellent customer relations. Practically, customers were trooping in picking up their orders of rice and stew, Jollof rice, fried akara, olugbo soup, porridged yam, ogbono soup, cooked, sliced cassava roots, what we Nd'Igbo call akpunkoro or abacha depending on dialect, and other varieties of menu too numerous to mention.
So far, Ms. Okafor, owner of Jerry's Place Restaurant is not doing badly, and for a start-up, and in these hard times, a B+ in my assessment.
Jerry's Place Fine African Cuisine is open from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. For contact:
Jerry's Place Fine African Cuisine
12633 Hawthorne Boulevard
Hawthorne, CA 90250