I had the honor of covering the "soft" opening of the new Bissap Baobab restaurant in Oakland last weekend for Zagat. It felt like a friend opening up a place for the community to gather together.
Marco Senghor, owner of Bissap Baobab (check out this SF Chronicle profile story on him), also runs Little Baobab and Bissap Baobab in the Mission District of San Francisco. Two years ago after having a fire at Little Baobab, the landlord talked about selling the building instead of rebuilding.
Marco found a lot of his friends and community moving from San Francisco to Oakland and they encouraged him to set up shop in Oakland. With the status of Little Baobab up in the air Marco decided to search for a location in downtown Oakland. He found it at a former Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant on a quiet and overlooked block of 15th Street between Franklin and Webster Streets.
With the lease signed a little over 3 weeks ago they worked quickly to get the restaurant opened by the beginning of May.
The menu will be limited to start, featuring the Yassa Tofu Wrap (front left) consisting of pressed black-eyed peas, tomatoes, onion, and garlic wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla. Yassa is a traditional Senegalese marinade consisting of mustard, onion, and lemon.
Marco made sure to add his personal touches to the sign going up outside the restaurant...
...while inside old friends and curious newbies came by to check out the food and the new location...
...and joke around with a Baobab sign.
When Baobab opens up for dinner in a few weeks the menu will expand to include all the Senegalese dishes from the SF location.
As Marco received a hug from a neighbor during the opening, you couldn't help but hope that the restaurant is a success for everyone involved.