At POST Houston, a popular food hall, the lines stretch long for ChòpnBlọk, where the Nigerian American owner Ope Amosu offers a familiar customizable template — rice, vegetables, protein — that are deeply influenced by his West African pride, and his London-born, Houston-raised identity.
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The traditional West African restaurants that dot southwest Houston are cozy, dimly lit spaces and often family-owned. But at restaurants like ChòpnBlọk, which regularly appears on the city’s dining lists and is lauded on social media by celebrities like the “Insecure” star Yvonne Orji and the rappers Jidenna and Wale, the West African flavors and staples are quicker, more casual and — their owners argue — more accessible to non-African diners.
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In food halls, strip malls and shopping centers across the United States, fast-casual West African restaurants are proliferating, and the second-generation owners behind them are at once showcasing the range of these cuisines and debunking reductive myths about them.
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Citing a psychology construct called “openness to experience,” which is a high predictor of whether someone would try different cuisines, Germine Awad, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, said that it’s not how something is served that draws patrons in, but rather their natural curiosity levels.
The growing interest in West African food within the restaurant industry aligns with immigration trends. “The more folks that come, the higher the demand for food that’s authentic and a true reflection of that community,” Ms. Awad said.