Bea is the oldest of 8 children and a transplant from Ghana. Dinner growing up meant a big pot of food that everyone ate out of at once, the smaller children inhaling what they could before the bigger siblings sucked it down. She knows how to feed people.
At her restaurant, Mabovi’s in Matteson, Illinois, (moving soon to East Hazel Crest), she cooks the food, takes your order, serves it to you, and may make you dance after you’re too full to move like a fat American let alone a joyful Ghanaian.
She will eat a piece of pineapple or fish off of your plate as she clears the table. She may eat dinner with you if all of the other patrons have left. She will even invite you to eat off of her plate IF you wash your hands first.
I won’t bother describing the strip mall hole in the wall environment since she’ll be moving in several weeks, but the bright red, green, and yellow walls and perfect white tablecloths are the first sign that she puts exuberance and care into her cooking and her service. Although traversing between cooking duties and serving mean you might have to wait a while for drink refills or extra napkins, you don’t mind, because eating at Mabovi’s is something akin (and I use that word in the most familial sense) to eating at your favorite aunt’s house.
My children love this place, not just because the food is unlike anything they’ve eaten before—not a lot of oxtails and curried goat served at our house—but more because of Bea, because she makes us all feel loved through her food and her hospitality. And if they experience even a little bit of Ghanaian culture through her, they have learned more than from any website or textbook.
We’ve ordered off the dinner menu, which can cost between $11-15 or so. You can also get a very reasonably-priced lunch. But this afternoon for Mackenzie’s birthday we went for family style, which is a pricier $15/person, but you also end up leaving with at least $30+ worth of leftovers (or about 7 take-out containers).
This feast for the 10 of us included fresh-out-of-the-oven fruit bread, spinach salad, buttery cabbage, red rice, brown rice with beans, lamb shank, curried shrimp (which Bea insists is not spicy), grilled tilapia (best fish we’ve had anywhere), jerk chicken, and oxtails in brown gravy. Plus pitcher after pitcher of ice cold white tea with wild raspberry…or hot tea served in a chipped, handpainted teapot, because Bea said tea must be served in china.
Oh, yea, and cake that is somewhere between pound and sponge…I know, how is that possible? But you don’t really care about the mechanics once the first bite hits your mouth and seems to melt and explode with deliciousness all at the same time. The fresh strawberries, pineapple, and mango are kind of good, too.
She gets a lot of take-out orders, but to me, those people are missing at least half of the goodness. Visit the website at: mabovirestaurant.com (may or may not work), but better yet, visit Mabovi’s (and eat something while you’re there).