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Hamilton’s Sankofa Dining serves up comfort food with a West African twist

Over the past year, it’s felt especially hard to keep track of all of the new restaurants and food spots opening throughout Hamilton.

However, there’s one particularly unique new restaurant that – despite the daunting struggles of launching a new small business in the middle of a global pandemic – has nonetheless found a way to carve out a devoted patron base and a strong reputation in the city.

That restaurant is Sankofa Dining, which opened almost exactly a year ago in a tucked away spot within the Corktown neighbourhood that was previously home to another notable, longstanding staple of the local food scene.

Sankofa Dining is located at 95 Jackson Street East, standing solo just a few blocks away from the bustling food scenes in more established areas of town like James North; and local foodies who have been around a while will recognize the restaurant as the former site of Claudio’s Ristorante, a spot known for its traditional Italian dishes that has since set its sights on a new space along the James North strip, expected to open in the near future.

While Sankofa Dining has a pasta dish or two on their rangy menu, the new restaurant’s offerings are decidedly a departure from the homey Italian eats its location’s veteran predecessor was known for.

On top of offering some reliable, modern pub-style fare like fresh burgers, chicken wings, wraps, nacho platters, salads, pastas, and more, Sankofa – a name which means “to retrieve” in the Akan Twi and Fante languages of Ghana – helps to fill an underserved niche in Hamilton’s food scene by offering dishes that take notes from West African cuisines and flavours.

Take for example the Beef Suya, one of Sankofa’s signature main dishes and one you won’t easily find at most other restaurants in Hamilton. A dish of Nigerian origin, Beef Suya is a grilled meat skewer with a rich, umami flavour profile that is predominantly smoky, spicy, and nutty from the use of a peanut-based spice rub.

The menu is adorned with other regionally-inspired dishes like jollof rice, a traditional single-pot rice dish with tomatoes, onions, and a melange of spices; and fried plantain, which is served accompanied by fried turkey or fried chofi.

West African flourishes also show up throughout much of the remaining food selection, including offering the choice to use their suya spice on an order of Sankofa’s rotisserie chicken, which can also be dressed in barbecue or jerk spice.

Serving up its sizeable menu of diverse dishes would be enough for a lot of other restaurants, but Sankofa Dining has made use of its relatively large space and further expanded its operations to offer special events and entertainment on top of its delectable food offerings.

The restaurant has turned its downstairs space into a spot for what they call “Sankofa Vibes,” with an ongoing series of special events – many of them free to attend – with a laidback, fun atmosphere paired with dancing, a live DJ spinning hip-hop and Afrobeats, and more.

Sankofa is even hosting not one, but three different Halloween costume parties on October 29th, 30th, and 31st, each one with a different theme and all offering some extra spooky fun.

But events aside, it’s clear that Sankofa Dining had readily earned its noteworthy reputation for its menu of comfort foods among Hamilton’s food lovers; and here’s hoping their first year in the city is just the first of many to come.

Check out Sankofa Dining at 95 Jackson Street East, and follow them on social media for more. 

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