The owners of the Waka food truck, which offers East African cuisines from the award-winning Baobab Fare, will have a permanent home in Eastern Market.

Waka, a sister brand of Baobab Fare, will debut later this year in the space formerly occupied by Russell Street Deli at 2465 Russell St. Russell Street Deli stood for decades and was known for its big selection of sandwiches and soups and loyal following.

The new venture is from James Beard Award nominees Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere, the Burundian couple behind the popular restaurant Baobab Fare and Waka food truck.

Once open, Waka at Eastern Market will serve East African-style stewed meats and vegetables wrapped in chapati, a flaky East African flatbread. Other menu features at the new brick-and-mortar location will be street food dishes like grilled skewered meat kabobs, called brochettes. While Waka at Eastern Market pays homage to Burundi, it will have a different concept than the Baobab Fare.

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Mamba said the couple is thankful to Detroit to be able to grow their businesses.

“We didn’t want to go anywhere else to start this,” said co-owner Hamissi Mamba, in a news release. “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.”

Hamissi Mamba, co-owner of Waka by Baobab Fare

He also called the new Eastern Market location a “fitting location” for its brick-and-mortar Waka food truck. As a child, Mamba’s mother sold chapati and brochettes at the bustling markets of Bujumbura to feed her family.

At Eastern Market, Waka will seat about 30 people for dine-in. The restaurant expects to also offer prepared meals to-go and a selection of coffee, chocolate, beverages, and other items from the couple’s retail line, Soko, according to a news release.

Waka food truck offerings.

“All of the flavors that people love from Baobab Fare are here, but Waka is even more fast and accessible,” Nijimbere said in a news release. “We are proud of what we’ve done with the food truck, but a permanent kitchen and a place you can always find Waka is so important. We are so excited to bring even more tastes of our culture to Detroit.”

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