- Lenny mullins
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.”