Eat.Drink.Lagos: An Oral History
We’ve told our origin story a bunch of times: Nosa couldn’t find places to eat and Folly said they should start a blog. But that’s really an abridged version of how it really went down.
On our third anniversary, it’s probably a good time to share what really went down. How we went from a joke website to quarter to blown.
NOSA: I’d done a couple of things on the internet before. Had this one blog where I made fun of Noble Igwe’s memoirs all the time and for a summer, ran an Afro Candy parody account before she reported it.
FOLLY: Before EDL, I’d written two blogs - three if you count my stint as a contributor for my university on this nationwide university fashion blog. The first was a fashion blog - Style Delivered Daily - lol. The second was a food and lifestyle blog.
NOSA: What I really wanted was a food blog. When I moved back, I think I pitched the whole “let’s start a food blog” thing to a couple of friends. None of them was really interested.
FOLLY: I cannot say I was particularly keen on starting yet another blog.
NOSA: Folly wasn’t in my original plan, you know? She was just my NYSC friend. She was friends with the only person I knew in that Local Government.
We had our little crew - Folly, myself, and two other girls. Our little crew hadn’t really hung out outside the Local Government. Well, the girls had, but I hadn’t. Folly didn’t even invite me for her birthday. So one day, we agreed to get brunch at The Foundry
FOLLY: The other two in the crew bailed at the last minute and I had to have breakfast alone with Nosa and I barely knew him.
NOSA: I think they did that on purpose. Matchmaking and stuff. Well, it worked... 😉
FOLLY: I was pretty familiar with the Foundry menu because it was similar to Casa Lydia’s (same ownership) so I walked Nosa through the menu.
NOSA: And we had this long discussion about “struggle bacon” in Lagos.
FOLLY: I have to confess I can’t remember a lot about the conversation we had at Foundry. I know we spoke about bacon but I can’t remember the details. At the end of the day, I know we liked the food except for the bacon.
Giving the Blog a Name
NOSA: If it was up to me, this blog would probably be called The Gastronomist or something terrible like that.
FOLLY: Thank God for me then cause I named Eat.Drink.Lagos. I actually saved the screenshot where I suggested the name so that if he ever tried to dispute it I’ll have receipts. The challenge is that now I’ve cleared my iPhotos to a hard drive and I don’t know how to find the screenshot.
NOSA: If I remember correctly, she texted me the name in the middle of the night. I was in America with my girlfriend at the time. Got in big fight and dumped over it. You can never say I didn’t make any sacrifices.
FOLLY: That was all you boo.
NOSA: Folly also built the first version of the site. On Blogspot too. It still exists
FOLLY: Can you please stop saying that? All I did was create a blogspot account. I didn’t actually expect our site to live there forever.
NOSA: She’s denying it now.
FOLLY: Do y’all remember how the site looked then?
NOSA: It took us a little bit before we actually bought the domain. It was still "eatdrinklagos.squarespace.com"
FOLLY: Nosa and I learnt a few lines of code from the experience of designing that site and creating our first online shop(s). We needed to shop to sell lunch club tickets and EDL merchandise.
NOSA: We still handle a lot of things ourselves. The only thing we don’t actively manage is the Bot and we’re not completely hands-off with that either. Shout out to the internet for having tutorials on everything.
The First Signs of Traction
JOLA (first fan of the blog): My earliest proper memory is you guys sharing the first link to the blog and me being excited because it was so nice to see that you guys had legit started it and were doing it so honestly.
TW (friend of the blog): Basically sharing the links and wondering whether you guys typed the reviews while sorted together
NOSA: I remember when I tweeted out the link, some actor guy was being a hating ass hater. Dude tweeted out a link to another food blog in Lagos. Like, dude, let me have my moment.
IJEOMA (friend of the blog): I think was following your blog first, but somehow missed the first Lunch Club
OKI (friend): My earliest memory was in December 2014 when I met Folly. It wasn’t an eat drink event but that’s when I knew the other half of the duo
NOSA: I think it was a brunch event at 355. We were media partners or something, but they never included us on the flyer because we weren’t popping enough. We hadn’t thought about doing events then.
FOLLY: I was very pissed off. Since then and till now I sometimes take “business” things more seriously and more personally than Nosa. Nosa’s MO is that someone is always trying to cheat us so he stays woke. I’m always looking for new business and acknowledgment.
NOSA: If you don’t talk, Lagos people will cheat you silly.
CHUKA (friend): [Heard it from]...Aris (Nosa’s friend), I think. I vaguely remember the words…Nosa…Eat drink Lagos… and Babe in the sentence
FOLLY: Obviously, that babe must have been me.
NOSA: I never really shared it with my friends when we started. Just tweeted it out and that was it. Didn’t even tell my family. Our first posts were pretty rough and I was really shy.
UCHE (friend of the blog): I think the first article I ever read on the blog was one about how fruitcake sucks
NOSA: My favorite thing about it so far has been growing organic. I never sent out a whatsapp blast for people to read or asked people to follow us on Instagram. It just happened. More importantly, it happened when it should have happened. So I got to enjoy 1,000 followers on Instagram as much as i got to enjoy 20,000
FOLLY: We got 1,000 followers 6 months after we started the blog.
We also had a Google sheet where we recorded our Alexa ranking on a weekly basis. We were trying to crack 500. We finally did and we stayed there for a while as one of the top 500 sites in NIgeria and something happened - we still don’t know what - and we tanked.
We got asked to jump ship and join a Lagos based media company as one of their assets. Thankfully, we didn’t. If we had, EDL would look wildly different than what it is today and I prefer what we have going for us now than what could have been.
NOSA: Another one tried to buy the blog for N50,000 lmao
Then Came the Events
NOSA: Before we ever thought about #EatDrinkFestival, we started the Lunch Club. Our plan was to put together one of those underground supper club things with random invited guests. But, this is Lagos so you can’t really get things exactly how you want them. For starters, I wasn’t really allowed to stay out so late so we opted for lunch.
FOLLY: I also told Nosa we always had to collect reservations money up front cause Nigerians are flaky and the food could go to waste.
NOSA: I know my people
JOLA: I cant even remember the restaurant but I remember being like "FINALLY". And then the first lunch club which I thoroughly enjoyed... RSVP was it?
NOSA: Yup, RSVP. Boj (of WJGB) took the most amazing pictures that day. Also, shout out to Nahi and Maya for hearing us out in the first place.
FOLLY: Those first few lunch clubs were so exciting for us, selling out in minutes and ticket trades happening for those who couldn’t buy immediately.
TW: TBH should be called the TW Lunch Club
NOSA: The festival, on the other hand, came up when Lost in Lagos beat us to Restaurant Week. It was such a bummer when they announced it because I had been doing so much research on how restaurant week works in other countries.
FOLLY: I dragged Nosa to help me sell my “wares” at Mente De Moda in July 2015. We left that day with the general idea for #EatDrinkFestival.
At first, we wanted to use Muri Okunola park but the rental fee of N300,000 was a bit daunting to us at the time.
NOSA: And I won’t lie, talking to Lagos State and LASTMA was something I didn’t think we had the hands for.
FOLLY: We explored a couple other options before agreeing with Mode to use her studio. Once we got the venue, everything else sort of fell into place. It was really small scale - or so we thought, I’m sure y’all know how that turned out - so the logistics honestly weren’t that challenging. One funny story was that I started reaching out to supplier to get quotes and this one person gave us a quote for N1 Million Naira for speakers. I was certain he was having a laugh.
NOSA: The turnout was ridiculous. There was sooooo much traffic on Bourdillon. I remember my aunt complaining when I got home and she had no idea that we caused it.
FOLLY: I denied knowledge about the traffic too to my coworkers too but they caught me when the CNN interview came out.
Getting vendors for the first festival was VERY HARD. There’s a vendor I begged to participate but they refused - they told me they would never make their money back. Another just kept giving his assistant to answer my calls.
NOSA: So many vendors rejected us sha. I remember the Ginger Tapas owner called me like a day before and asked me to justify why she should participate. That she had some other event or something like that.
FOLLY: The great thing is that I’m lowkey proud now and I don’t beg vendors to do Festival - I hope I don’t regret saying this but I believe you get my drift. We’re fortunate to now have vendors look forward to participating in our events.
NOSA: Seeing all the vendors sell out made me so happy because our first set of vendors took a massive risk with us. Seeing them make their money back was like vindication of sorts
FOLLY: On the attendees side, we’re very lucky to have been able to convert our online audience to event attendees. In my opinion, we pioneered large scale food festivals in Lagos.
NOSA: Maybe not large scale food festivals, but we definitely pioneered free entry.
FOLLY: EatDrinkFestival was not the first food festival in Lagos (or the second) but it’s been the most successful. Once the other festival organizers saw people turn out en masse for our first two festivals, the approach switched.
NOSA: *sideye GTB*
FOLLY: Heels in the Kitchen, Cocktailville & Chops, Limehouse Bars. Imoteda, Eze, Wura y’all are the real MVPs as you’ve participated in every EatDrinkFestival as well as Jollof too. Your reward is coming in December.
Banned from Restaurants
FOLLY: In three years of doing this, we’ve only been banned from one Lagos restaurant. I think that is pretty impressive.
NOSA: All I did was say her tacos were tasteless.
FOLLY: Even if she didn’t ban us, I’d never have gone back there to give them our hard earned coins. I don’t even recommend it as a place that anyone should go to on this blog or in real life to my friends and colleagues. Craft Gourmet doesn’t exist in my sphere of influence.
NOSA: I won’t even mistakenly order on Jumia Food. She makes great food, but she’s not getting a kobo of my money. You can’t half-ass beef.
BLD is another one. I didn’t get my food and they really came on here to say I didn’t look like I had food in my house. A big man like me?
FOLLY: Sugarcane Gate was another ridiculous outpouring of venom as a result I’d never go back to Sugarcane. On why I’d never go back to Sugarcane that one is definitely personal. I don’t want to go back and possibly endorse it and as a result contribute to the generation of revenue for a business that its supporters/friends/family etc. are so venomous.
NOSA: I’m afraid the Chef will spit in my food if i go back to Sugarcane.
FOLLY: There are a couple other small beefs like hearing that a couple of restaurant owners want to beat us up but I usually shrug at those.
NOSA: I go to the gym way too much to be threatened by civilians.
NOSA: Abuja? Accra? Johannesburg? That’s the goal. We want to get the festival to Taste of Chicago levels too. A proper tourist thing.