Levels Nigerian Cuisine - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Levels Nigerian Cuisine

This restaurant, art gallery, and nightlife hot spot is a love letter to Lagos from St. Louis. 


After moving to St. Louis, Missouri from Nigeria as a teen, Ono Ikanone longed to stay connected to his homeland. In 2023, that desire led him to trade in a career as an engineer and marketing consultant to become a restaurateur.

Levels is a dream that Ono has turned into reality along with his wife, Justice Johnson. The establishment is not only a restaurant, but also a bar and lounge spread across a gigantic, 2,000-square-foot space across two stories.

The name refers not only to its layout, but also a popular term in Nigerian slang. If something is “Levels,” it’s trendy and upscale. And rest assured, the restaurant delivers, providing a modern drinking and dining defined by cool, buzzy vibes.

Opening Levels was a real challenge, given the gut renovations necessary to bring the dilapidated space up to code. Today, the stylish space boasts wooden booths and wall decor featuring lush botanics and West African landscapes. Upstairs, the couple has transformed a 500-square-feet, water-damaged area into an industrial-chic loft for private gatherings and art exhibitions.

Beyond the interior eye candy and fashionable crowds of night owls, a carefully curated menu of Nigerian cuisine underpins the experience. Ikanone’s mother weighed in on the menu to make sure dishes were cooked according to tradition. Popular heavy-hitters including pepper soup, fried plantains, and jollof rice are all present, along with regional specialities less often seen this side of the Atlantic. 

Try the egusi soup, a West African specialty made from melon seeds, spinach, and a tomato broth. It’s served with a side of pounded yam, known as iyán in Yoruba, which is meant to be pulled apart and used as a scoop. And of course, there’s the tilapia; it’s Ono’s personal favorite course. Dig into a whole grilled fish, generously topped with sautéed bell peppers and onions—and feel free to use your hands.

Know Before You Go

Come for dinner, stay and party ‘til the wee hours afterwards. Levels hosts parties with DJs and dancing, as well as lively art exhibitions.

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April 18, 2024

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