DETROIT – One of Detroit’s newest upcoming restaurants is gaining national recognition for its food offerings and its “tenacity.”
Eater, a food website that focuses on cuisine and dining options in several major U.S. cities, recently named Baobab Fare in Detroit as one of its 11 best new restaurants for 2021. The East African restaurant, located in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood, is ranked among highly rated restaurants in cities like Chicago, New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
Baobab Fare is not only being applauded for filling a gap in Detroit’s restaurant offerings with its East African dishes, but also for doing so during a tumultuous time.
Restaurant owners Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere, a husband and wife duo from Burundi, opened their doors officially in March of this year amid the coronavirus pandemic -- arguably a daunting era to get into the restaurant business. But Mamba and Nijimbere weren’t completely new to the game: Before opening Baobab Fare, they served food at pop-ups at Brooklyn Street Local in 2017, according to Eater, getting on the radar of Detroit diners.
Apart from opening a restaurant at a time when many are closing their doors for good, the couple are being acknowledged for not giving up on their entrepreneurial dreams despite facing many obstacles.
According to Eater, Nijimbere fled to the U.S. from Burundi around 7-8 years ago after facing persecution as a human rights worker. She arrived in Michigan, where her sister lives, but her partner Mamba struggled to get a visa at first. He arrived in Detroit in 2015, and together they dreamed up plans to build something of their own.
The pair were officially granted asylum in 2017, and decided to focus on bringing the flavors of their home country to the people of their new home: Detroit.
“Now that Baobab Fare has a vibrant, permanent home, the couple’s take on the quintessential East African comfort dish ugali, a dense corn-flour ball served once a week alongside savory hot okra stew, is fast becoming a signature alongside the mbuzi, a dish of slow-roasted goat that parts effortlessly from the bone. Meanwhile, servers let folks know that the divine smell drawing them in from the outside comes from the nyumbani, beef slowly simmered in a tangy, ripe tomato sauce,” wrote Monica Williams, Eater Detroit editor. “The bustling restaurant employs fellow refugees and asylum-seekers, making a beacon of the bright-yellow slogan on its window: ‘Detroit ni nyumbani,’ meaning, ‘Detroit is home.’”
- See Eater’s list of 11 best new restaurants for 2021 here. (Note: the web page scrolls horizontally.)