There’s a takeout window on Putnam Street in Bed-Stuy, fronting a space too small and shallow for anyone other than the proprietors to really even enter, that Ayo Agbede has somehow managed to transform into a neighborhood hangout, first as the coffee shop Brooklyn Kettle and now, with his longtime friend and self-taught chef Seun Ade, as a fantastic little West African to-go kitchen, Rodo Foods.
“It’s an enjoyable small space. I think we will keep it this small,” Agbede tells Brooklyn Magazine. “That way we can have a relationship with everybody that comes here to order food. We can talk to them as part of the process, and they can hang out and enjoy the music. It’s become a part of our Rodo culture. We’re doing this for the community.”
The menu here is short but mighty, led by Ade’s two main dishes: Suya, the traditional West African grilled meat that he makes with top sirloin; and grilled salmon, which he drizzles, untraditionally, with hot honey sauce. Both are excellent, the suya tender and loaded with yaji (a mix of ground peanuts, cayenne, garlic, and ginger), the salmon juicy, sticky, and spicy-sweet.
Grilled salmon plate with plantains, akara, salad, and jollof rice; $16 (Scott Lynch)
You can get either proteins as a “plate” packed with all four of Rodo’s side dishes, and these, too, are terrific. There’s some lively jollof rice, a kale salad bright with a ginger citrus dressing, a couple of chewy black-eyed pea fritters, known as akara, and some notably perfect fried plantain, which come encased in a perfectly caramelized exterior.
You can also order the suya or the salmon on top of a big pile of that salad. Or just get a few sides. There is really no way to go wrong at Rodo.
Suya; $16 with side dishes (Scott Lynch)
The Moringa Ginger tea is light and refreshing as well.
There’s no seating, just a couple of makeshift benches that make for a good perch while you wait for your food to be ready. To that last point, preorders are suggested, especially on Sundays, when this stretch of Tompkins Avenue turns into one of Brooklyn’s most enthusiastically attended Open Streets block parties.
But really, it’s always a party at Rodo. Or, rather, here in front of Rodo. “One of the great things about this neighborhood is the sense of community,” Ade says. “Everyone knows each other and everyone is rooting for each other so there’s an energy here that’s undeniable, whether there’s a street festival going on or not. We’re just doing what we enjoy doing. We don’t have customers, we have guests, and we want to create an ambiance for people to connect with each other, with good music and good food.”
Rodo Foods is located at 420 Putnam Street, just west of Tompkins Avenue, and is currently open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m.