Carving a Slice of West Africa in Brooklyn

Buffet options at African Cuisine Restaurant in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. (Photo by Aaron Leaf via Feet in 2 Worlds)

Comparing Census numbers may tell you that the West African population in Brooklyn has doubled within the last decade or so, but Feet in 2 Worlds‘ Adam Leaf gives us more appetizing evidence. He heads to a buffet at African Cuisine Restaurant at 1139 Fulton St. in Bedford Stuyvestant, where Senegalese, Malians and Guineans go for dishes reminiscent of back home.

DJ and producer Chief Boima spoke to reporter Aaron Leaf about the food and the culture of West African immigrants in Brooklyn. (Photo: Aaron Leaf)

Leaf sets the scene at the restaurant, where food and sport nourish workers after a long day. He spoke to one of the customers, Chief Boima, a local DJ and producer.

Once you select your food from the steaming buffet table, the attendant puts it on a scale. You can get West African drinks such as the juice of the baobab fruit mixed with sweet milk. Soccer plays on the TV in the background and late at night many of the patrons are cab drivers or security guards taking advantage of the constant stream of fresh food.

One of the dishes Boima keeps coming back for is atcheke, a starch sort of like cous cous made from roasted cassava root, grated and eaten with a meat or fish dish, vegetables and a hot pepper sauce.

It’s not just food that sustains this diverse chunk of Africa. There’s also the Muslim religion. The faith intertwines not just West Africans, but also Americans and worshippers from the Middle East.

At the center of the community is the Al Taqwa mosque. If you stay in the neighborhood long enough you can hear the call to prayer.

“That mosque has been integral to the neighborhood…” says Boima. “It’s really become a Muslim neighborhood. You’ve got Egyptians, Yemenis, West Africans, African Americans. Everyone congregates around this area because of the efforts of that mosque.”

In Bed-Stuy, you won’t find just one restaurant catering to Africans but a vibrant enclave serving a growing community.

To get to African Cuisine Restaurant, take the C Train to Franklin and Fulton. There are various African video and music shops, grocery stores and even a Fula speakers association. If you head west on Fulton street into Fort Green/Clinton Hill there’s a place called Buka that serves excellent Nigerian specialties.

Many nearby groceries carry both African and West Indian products. There are also a handful of Halal meat butchers and stores selling West African fashions.

Head to Feet in 2 Worlds to listen to Leaf’s conversation with Boima as the reporter gets a taste of West Africa.

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