Marco Senghor opened Bissap Baobab in San Francisco 18 years ago. I first discovered the Senegalese restaurant over a decade ago, when I was in grad school.  It was eye opening to see how the restaurant brought people together. This is fitting because the “Baobab,” or hibiscus tree, symbolizes the center of community in many Sub-Saharan African traditions.

In San Francisco, Senghor saw “gentrification happening before [his] eyes.” As business was getting better and better, his artist friends were leaving the city. They kept asking him to go to the East Bay too, but Senghor didn’t act on it until he spent time in Oakland.

After a fire last year, Senghor had to close his restaurant and deal with 10 months of bureaucracy from the city. During that time, he became a silent partner in Hi-Life Pizza, and that’s when he started to feel the Oakland Love: “There was no pressure, no stress.” He started watching the area and noticed it was quiet, “and then this space opened up.” He approached the landlord, and the working relationship was good from the beginning.  It was destiny.

Oakland Bissap Baobab had a soft opening/community celebration last week, with free samples from the menu, homemade juice and live music. Watch the video here.

The new location offers the same favorites served in San Francisco, like Yassa (lemon, onion mustard sauce) and Mafe (curry peanut sauce), but the owner also added several wraps (Tofu, Chicken, Tilapia, Beef, $8.50) to the Oakland menu for lunch on the go. Senghor was inspired by a fusion Indian restaurant: “I add flavor to whole wheat tortillas.” The Tofu is homemade with black-eyed peas, and all of the meat is natural and halal. People looking for a quick lunch in Downtown now have another option: “It’s possible to have a delicious lunch in 20 minutes or less.”

Oakland Bissap Baobab is now open at 381 15th Street for lunch, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.  Dinner and cocktails will be added after the liquor license goes through.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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