Albany’s Keobi Cooks up West African Specialties in the Capital Region

Versie Dortch
Photos by Obinna Nwagboso

Nestled along Lark Street, Keobi serves a fusion of traditional Nigerian cuisine and dishes that span from Africa to the Caribbean.

When was the last time you really tried something new?

In Albany, Obinna Nwagboso saw a need for something new in the Hudson Valley, and so he filled it. He and his wife Kelechi own the West African fusion restaurant Keobi on Albany’s Lark Street. They moved to the Capital Region after a tenure in Manhattan. When they arrived, Nwagboso wanted to test out the viability of a Nigerian eatery. He surveyed offices, college campuses, and businesses throughout the Valley to collect information.


“I interviewed people, and spent about a year collecting data on local restaurant businesses. I was a little scared at first, as the results seemed too good to be true. People here wanted African food. They wanted to expand their palates and introduce new spices into their diet,” Nwagboso explains. “People wanted to gather and sample this kind of food, and there wasn’t a place around to do it. There was a real need and a desire for this.”

His scientific approach for gauging interest in Keobi isn’t too surprising. Prior to opening the restaurant, Nwagboso built a long, successful career as a chemical engineer.


Jollof rice with goat

His employment spans from Nigeria to Brooklyn, working for companies like US Energy Group and Albany Molecular Research, Inc. Before moving to the United States, Nwagboso spent a lot of time taking care of his siblings. He got regular practice cooking local staples and West African specialties. In Manhattan, he managed several food establishments, ranging from chains like Papa John’s to more independent, urbane eateries. His involvement in the food industry was always in a managerial capacity, and in support of his career.

“My schooling, engineering skills, analytical skills, and Masters of Business Administration have all helped to compose a good business plan [for Keobi],” Nwagboso explains.


Ogbono soup with Fufu

In contrast, his wife Kelechi lives and breathes food. She started, like her husband, at home in Nigeria. Her mom taught her how to cook at a very early age. Next, when she was old enough, Kelechi worked in her mother’s restaurant. The couple has a combined 40 years of experience in the food industry, according to Nwagboso. Now, Kelechi crafts specialties she’s made her entire life in a new setting (specifically, dishes from northern and western Nigeria).

Albany’s Keobi Cooks up West African Specialties in the Capital Region

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