Food & Drink

East African Food Truck to Open in Old Russell Deli Spot in Detroit's Eastern Market

May 17, 2024, 9:15 AM by  Allan Lengel


A casual east African restaurant is moving into the spot previoiusly occupied by the beloved Russell Street Deli in Eastern Market, Metro Times reports. They plan to open later in the summer.

Waka, an east African food truck, is making its move into the brick and mortar space on Russell Street. The truck and the new restaurant are owned by Hamissi Mamba and his wife Nadia Nijimbere, refugees from Burundi, who  have run the African restaurant Baobab Fare on Woodward in the New Center area since 2021.

Waka initially launched during Detroit’s Noel Night celebration in 2022, serving as a street food offshoot of Baobab Fare, Metro Times writes.

“We didn’t want to go anywhere else to start this,” co-owner Hamissi Mamba tells Metro Times. “People here in Detroit take care of us, so this idea of bringing East African street food to America has to start here. This is home, and we are so thankful to be able to grow our business and build on our story right here in Eastern Market.”

Russell Street Deli closed in August 2019 after the owners had a dispute with the Nelson family, which had acquired a number of properties in Eastern Market. The deli's co-owner Ben Hall had publicly complained about a rent hike and questioned the Nelson family's business practices.

The dispute became a public relations nightmare for the Nelson considering the customer loyalty to the deli, which was known for its soup and sandwiches.

Truth be told, one person familiar with the situation said Hall had been wanting to get out of the Russell Street Deli for a while, and the Nelsons may not have been quite the bad guys they had been portrayed as in the very public dispute.

Read more:  Metro Times

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