HOZA Restaurant Brings African Culture and Experience to Downtown Easton | Regional News from Lehigh Valley
EASTON, PA – Few of Lehigh Valley residents will visit Africa, but culture and taste can be experienced in downtown Easton, just off Center Square.
Sibu Mafundikwa’s HOZA restaurant is what she describes as ‘Pan-African,’ featuring starring products from across the continent: Nigerian-style grilled chicken, West African Jollof rice and boiled recipe from Zimbabwe, his country of origin. The ingredients are American; the cooking style is distinctly African.
Entrees such as “peri-peri” (marinated) chicken and fried beef with peanut sauce range from $ 16 to $ 25. Vegan entrees including jerk lentils and vegetables mixed in a peanut sauce are available, along with several side dishes at $ 7 each, and a few American standards: mashed potatoes, white rice, and fries.
The lunch menu, available Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., includes steak sandwiches, three-tier sandwiches, and burgers.
HOZA, which in Africa means “Thank God it’s Friday,” has around 70 seats and is decorated with African masks and baskets.
Mafundikwa’s experience in restaurants and hotels spans from Europe to New York via the Lehigh Valley. She has a second African restaurant, Braai Hut, at 216 E. Broad Street in Bethlehem, but Easton has a special appeal. The city is growing, hundreds of apartments are being built downtown, and festivals attract large crowds.
“For me, it’s about supporting the Easton community,” she said in an interview last week. “Community helps a business open up and stay open.”
That support starts at city hall, she said, as Mayor Sal Panto is interested in hosting businesses, and community organizations and newsletters promote new businesses.
This support is helpful as restaurants and the hospitality industry in general are going through huge changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is a change in this industry that we have not yet determined,” Mafundikwa said. “Restaurants can be open for fewer hours or days. Much of this industry is dependent on labor,” and labor has been hard to come by.
Takeout orders could continue to rise across the industry in the future, she said. Takeout has helped keep businesses operating during the pandemic, and now some restaurant chains are changing the layout to accommodate pickup orders.
Mafundikwa said its customers will discover authentic and unusual dishes, such as peri-peri chips, peanut butter spinach, vegan curry and lamb dibi, popular in Senegal.
“I want to provide customers with the African experience,” Mafundikwa said. “Not everyone will have the chance to travel there, but when you come here you can taste the food and experience the African culture.”
HOZA, at 349 Northampton Street, just west of Center Square, is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4pm to 9pm; Friday from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and from noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is located in the building that housed the Gino pizzeria.
Guests can bring beer or wine (no hard liquor). The inauguration of HOZA will take place next month. Check the the restaurant’s social networks for updated menu information and times.