After being named a 2024 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur, Detroit’s Waka by Baobab Fare has taken up residence inside Little Caesars Arena, sharing their authentic East African street food – including items that are not available elsewhere – with Detroit Red Wings and Pistons fans at home games until January 31.
Co-owners Nadia Nijimbere and her husband Hamissi Mamba, the restaurant’s chef, immigrated to America from Burundi seeking political asylum in 2013. They launched Baobab Fare in 2017, beginning with pop-ups on the street and at festivals, eventually opening a permanent location in Detroit in 2021.
“As a kid in Burundi, just the thought of being at a game was a dream. So, imagine me cooking chapati and bringing East African street food to Little Caesars Arena!” Mamba said. “I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate being there and being able to represent Detroit in this way. It truly represents Detroit Ni Nyumbani. And we bring another halal option to such a large and diverse crowd. It’s amazing and again we’re so grateful to be in this incredible space.”
The exclusive menu items for Little Caesars Arena include:
- Beef Chapati: Tender beef slow simmered in ripened tomato sauce, rolled in flat bread, plantains and beans
- Chicken Chapati: Pan-fried chicken in tangy mustard-onion sauce, rolled in flat bread, plantains and beans
- Eggplant Chapati: Fragrant eggplant stew, rolled in flat bread, plantains and beans
Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park began featuring Detroit-based small businesses as food vendors in 2022, with nine businesses participating to date. This season at Little Caesars Arena has also included Bert’s Marketplace and Cooking with Que.
“We’re proud to host Detroit-based businesses at Little Caesars Arena, offering new and exciting options for our guests,” said Ryan Gustafson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Building these relationships creates connections that unite our community through shared experiences.”
Baobab Fare was awarded The Best New Restaurant in America in 2021, and in 2022, The Best New Restaurant in Metro Detroit and The Best New Restaurant in America. They received the State of Michigan Award in 2021 and 2023. Mamba and Nijimbere received two nominations for James Beard semifinalist for Best Chefs and in 2023, Mamba became a Food Network Chopped champion.