Mary’s African Cui­sine makes moves

Af­ter three years of search­ing for a res­tau­rant space, Sea­port Mar­ket star Mary Nkrumah has a home on Bar­ring­ton Street.

The Coast - - FOOD + DRINK - BY IS­ABEL RUITENBEEK Mary’s African Cui­sine 1701 Bar­ring­ton Street

Two months ago Mary Nkrumah, the en­tre­pre­neur be­hind Sea­port Farm­ers’ Mar­ket sta­ple Mary’s African Cui­sine, took over own­er­ship of Baba Ghanouj Cafe.

Those who’ve eaten there since then might not have no­ticed—falafel, shawarma and eggs benny are still served. It was only two weeks ago that the green Baba Ghanouj sign above 1701 Bar­ring­ton Street changed to yel­low, now read­ing Mary’s African Cui­sine.

Nkrumah is tire­less. She’s been at the res­tau­rant since 7am, and like most days, won’t get home un­til 8 or 9pm.

“I can’t think right now,” she says as she flops into a chair near the back of the res­tau­rant, open­ing a bot­tle of San Pel­le­grino from the drink fridge. She’s still wear­ing her hair­net and a bright patch­work apron.

The pre­vi­ous owner, Roy Khoury, spent two weeks with Nkrumah back in Au­gust, when she learned the en­tire menu. She’s keep­ing it in­tact, and plan­ning new items as well—what­ever sells will stick around. Right now her own dishes, like lamb curry and goat stew, grace the chalk­board below the old menu.

The new ven­ture, she says, is “so far, so good,” though it’s not yet set up ex­actly how she’d like. She wants to bet­ter dis­play her food, which is now hid­den be­hind a bar­rier atop the counter. She’s also plan­ning on ex­tend­ing the res­tau­rant’s evening hours. When she’s not work­ing at the new lo­ca­tion, she’s work­ing at the Sea­port Mar­ket, at her cater­ing com­pany or at her other res­tau­rant, Kick’s Cafe.

“Ev­ery food that goes out, I like touch­ing it be­fore, that is my prob­lem,” she says with a laugh.

Nkrumah’s been search­ing for a new res­tau­rant space for over three years. The Sea­port mar­ket slows down in the win­ter, she says, and cus­tomers often ask if she has a res­tau­rant in town. Now, she can fi­nally say yes.

Since the sign went up, cus­tomers who know Mary’s African Cui­sine from the mar­ket have been drop­ping by. Some­one asks about her daugh­ters; an­other wishes her well in her new ven­ture.

She isn’t ner­vous about the new busi­ness, but she’s wor­ried about keep­ing in touch with peo­ple she’s met through the mar­ket. Her stall’s still open at the Sea­port from Fri­day to Sun­day, but she can’t be there her­self as often any­more.

“I just miss them,” she says. “My cus­tomers will think, ‘Oh, Mary has left us’—no. I’m still think­ing about them.”

LENNY MULLINS

At Mary’s, Nkrumah kept the for­mer Baba Ghanouj Cafe menu in­tact, and is adding new items.

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