NOTE: Tee’s Liberian Dish, 529 Fifth Ave. SE, is open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12:30-8 p.m. Saturdays. Call (319) 364-0105 for catering and special orders.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It’s definitely not another fast-food joint.
Tee’s Liberian Dish uses totally fresh ingredients in its authentic West African cuisine, making the resulting meals worth the wait.
The locally owned restaurant opened Dec. 5, 2022, in its new location at 529 Fifth Ave. SE, after moving from its original site in the former Brewed Awakenings across from Coe College.
Owner Teepeu Pewu said their previous site was missing a vital piece of kitchen equipment, according to health inspectors, necessitating the move after just a year. Their new location had been home to Runt’s Munchies, which reopened this summer in the former Blue Strawberry location, 118 Second St. SE, in downtown Cedar Rapids.
Runt’s Munchies survived months of road construction that enveloped the site on both Sixth Street and Fifth Avenue SE before moving to their larger downtown location.
Fifth Avenue continues to be closed in front of Tee’s Liberian Dish, as construction remains underway on a four-story apartment complex in the former Banjo Block, across from the Cedar Rapids Public Library.
Portions of Pewu’s authentic Liberian cuisine — she notes that West African food varies from country-to-country — are more than generous, reflecting pricing in the $16-$25 range.
A dish featuring an entire tilapia, plentiful plantains and exquisite salad of cucumbers, peppers and onions perfectly seasoned and accented with avocado oil, for example, could provide two or even more servings.
Pewu suggests the jollof rice, with chicken, onions, sweet pepper and sausage, as a popular item.
“Everyone knows it,” she said, adding that the dish is prepared differently in Liberia than Ghana, for example. “We like people to try the rice so they know the difference.”
Special orders include baked goods, such as rice bread made with banana and rice. The restaurant also offers catering for weddings, parties and other special events.
Pewu and her husband, Momolu, moved to New Jersey from their home in Liberia on the West African coast, after winning a Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery.
She works as a caregiver, while her husband serves in the Iowa National Guard and works at Discovery Living.
During two years in their New Jersey apartment, the couple didn’t even meet their neighbors, but were sold on Iowa after visiting a friend.
“The few days I stayed in Iowa made me want to stay,” Pewu said, citing the conversations she had with Iowans. “We have kids and we wanted a better life for them.”