In the very first sentence of the "about us" page on Garden City's website, they promise "...dishes from Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, and many more." Later in the text, they add Nigeria and Ivory Coast. Hopes were sky high for treats from nations yet to find their way onto this website.
The restaurant lives in a small strip building on the pleasant main drag of Union, New Jersey. Emblazoned above the door is the word any traveler in Ghana comes to recognize and be greeted with countless times over the course of the day: "Akwaaba," which means welcome in Akan, the language of Ghana's largest population.
Unfortunately in New Jersey, the door was as far as akwaaba extended. A busy man that finally greeted us confirmed that the only cuisine on offer was from Ghana. A list of the other countries from the website was met with shakes of the head. Thankfully the food on other tables looked very promising, so retreating to the table with the menu, we formed an alternate plan.
"Garden City" is a reference to Kumasi Metropolis, the capital city of the Ashanti region of Ghana known for its diverse range of flowers and plants. New Jersey census information does not get more detailed than saying "black or African-American," but it is safe to assume that much of the 29% of the population here is from parts of sub-Saharan Africa based on the prevalence of business owned by West Africans. While we could not find those countries specifically referenced on the menu, Ghanaian food is similar to much of West African food, and I have a feeling the customers' birthplaces probably would have read more like the list on the website referenced earlier.
With our sights set on other West African nearby later in the day, we kept our order short, asking for a meat pie (above), a steal at $1. The ground beef and spice mix inside is moist enough to not need a sauce. Having a shop offering such a quick snack for so cheap would be quite a lucky thing for anyone as just two of these could probably fill a normal human.
Since the goat stew ($11.99, below) was being split, they were generous enough to bring us two balls of banku, a fermented corn and cassava dough used as the starch in a West African meal. Stews and soups are expected to be eaten by hand, and tearing off little balls of banku is the vehicle for making this happen. The stew was excellent and devoured immediately, good portions of tender meat mixed with garlic, hot pepper, ginger, onions, and probably dozens more ingredients.
We washed our hands with the large bowls of water and hand soap provided at each table, asked for the check and left only owing $20 despite feeling quite full.