By Mike Hazlip—
A West African cuisine restaurant is the latest business to open in the largely vacant food court of Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights.
Naija Cuisine had previously operated out of a “ghost kitchen” next to Yalla Yalla bakery at 7800 Sunrise Blvd., but owner Adeola Adedayo said customer demand prompted her decision to move to the Sunrise Mall food court.
“At the ghost kitchen, there was no room for my customers to sit down and eat their meals,” she said, referring to the commercial kitchen space she rented part-time for preparing to-go meals and catering orders. “Most of my dishes the customers want to enjoy right away; they don’t want something to take home.”
Adedayo called her new location “very good” for business, saying she’s seen a lot of traffic coming through the food court. She says some of that traffic is customers looking for fufu, a West African staple made from pounded root vegetables such as yams. It is difficult to find in the West, and Adedayo says the fufu she serves has gone viral on social media.
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Fufu is typically served with egusi soup that Adedayo makes with melon seeds, spinach, bell peppers, onions, and habaneros that she says has also been popular on social media.
Naija Cuisine serves a variety of West African dishes that can include beef, chicken, or goat meat with soup and rice entrees. The online menu features rice entrees, beans plates, yam plates, and plantain plates. Customers may also choose side dishes, or a kid’s meal.
Originally from West Africa herself, Adedayo works the restaurant with her partner Mo Rahmon. Naija Cuisine now operates in the space previously occupied by PizzaAmerica. The former restaurant served Italian food and closed soon after the pandemic began.
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Businesses at Sunrise Mall continue to come and go, while plans to guide redevelopment of the nearly 100-acre mall property were approved by the city last year. Development requires partnership with private developers and is expected to take 20 years to complete, likely coming in four phases starting with the unused parking areas around the mall.
The first phase aims to develop the unused parking areas over the next five years. The second phase would incorporate office space, retail, dining, and an extended stay hotel. The third and final phase includes redeveloping the existing mall into a 21st century main street.