When most kids were playing with dolls, Theresa Barnes was playing chef and running a restaurant.
“It is a childhood dream. Ever since I was 10 years old, I thought one day I would have a restaurant and cook with my mom in a kitchen,” Barnes said.
Barnes said the dream lived within her heart until Eden Spice, an eatery that features African, Caribbean and African-American cuisines, was born.
The Centerville resident and her husband Samuel and daughters — Samyatta,age 20, and Samenah, age 13 — opened the restaurant at 501 E. Dixie Drive in West Carrollton on Jan. 5, about three decades after her childhood dream formed while she pretended tomato cans were pots.
The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.
Barnes said she vowed from the beginning not to open on Sundays.
She decided to name the restaurant for the Biblical Garden of Eden after one of her daughters nixed the name “Destiny” because it didn’t sound like a restaurant to her.
“It is the garden of spices,” she said of the restaurant. “It is more for me to say thank you to God for everything. I didn’t really do this. God did this.”
Born in Sierra Leone, Barnes said showing love with food comes naturally. Food is the center of celebrations in her culture, which was influenced by Jamaicans who settled in Freetown, Sierra Leone around 1800.
“I came from a family where everyone loves to cook and eat, my mother, my aunts, my grandmother,” she said. “We cook your favorite meal for your birthday. That is your gift.”
The menu includes jerk and curry goat, red snapper, oxtails; pink jollof rice, Mac and cheese; pepper chicken marinated with peanut butter and spices and goat stew, Barnes favorite made with African flavors marinated in tomato sauce.
There are also chicken wings, breast and tenders.
Meat flavors include BBQ; bourbon; jerk; Samenah’s Hot Buffalo and Samenah’s Mango Ginger Coconut.
Barnes and her family moved to Dayton about 12 years ago from Columbus after Samuel began a medical training program here.
Barnes said her cousin Florence Freeman of Figs Cafe and Bakery Catering helped her find the West Carrollton location.
“One day I am just minding my business, and she said ‘do you know anything about West Carrollton?” Barnes said. “We came and saw the building, and it was a blessing.”
The restaurant has about 30 seats.
Barnes said she is not one to boast, but the restaurant has been received very well thus far.
“From what everyone is telling me, it is it is pretty good,” she said.
WANT TO GO?
What: Eden Spice
Where: 501 E. Dixie Dr. in West Carrollton
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.