Ethiopian Taste closes; Nigerian restaurant opens

A vegetarian platter at Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Charleston has lost its only Ethiopian restaurant -- but simultaneously gained its only Nigerian restaurant.

Sweet Savor this weekend opened in the North Charleston strip mall space recently vacated by Ethiopian Taste (Reader Pinaki Santra spotted the changeover).

"It was personal problems that came up here and there," Ethiopian Taste owner Nitsuh Woldemariam says of the restaurant's closing, which occurred around the time of its first anniversary. "It was too stressful for us to keep up."

As Woldemariam was deciding to shut down her operation, her husband's colleague was looking for a space to open a Nigerian restaurant.

"My wife, she loves to cook, and a lot of people love her style of cooking," Adegbuyi Ogunbule explains. After a successful run as a caterer for home parties and church socials, "her business grew so big we had to register it."

The Ogunbules remodeled the Dorchester Road restaurant so customers would feel as though they were paying a visit to Nigeria. "We're not only selling food, we're selling culture," Ogunbule says.

As for Dayo Ogunbule's food, Sweet Savor serves a full menu of Nigerian specialties, including meat pies; jollof rice; pepper stew and ogbono soup, served with pounded yam, cassava flakes, yam flour or semovita, a kind of semolina that resembles pounded yam.

"We eat a lot of vegetables, but we make vegetables tasty," Adegbuyi Ogunbule says of traditional Nigerian cuisine. "We marinate our soup with melon seed and spices. Most Caucasians and African-Americans that try our soup, they come back."

As Charleston's first Nigerian restaurant, Sweet Savor has encountered some provisioning problems: The Ogunbules make regular inventory-stocking trips to Atlanta.

Sweet Savor offers a variety of items by special order, such as peppered gizzard; peppered snail; spicy cow foot and sautéed gizzard with plantains.

"The Nigerian population in Charleston is exploding," says Adegbuyi Ogunbule, whose family owns restaurants in his native Lagos. But he emphasizes that his wife's talents are appreciated by "everybody that eats."

"We're open for everyone who likes good food," he says."

Located at 5060 Dorchester Road, Sweet Savor is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. every day but Sunday. For more information, call 469-2559 or visit sweetsavorafricanrestaurant.com.