I once heard the artist, Erykah Badu, describe Brooklyn as heaven. For the Raggamuslim clan, it is quite heavenly. The abundance of culture, art, and energy is beautiful and inspiring. Were the caravan to settle down in New York, Brooklyn would have to be home but affording that dream is highly unlikely (for us, at least). Only there would you find a popup vegan, Ethiopian restaurant and vegan, organic artisanal doughnut shop and ice cream parlor. The occasion for all this gastronomic greatness was meeting my brother for lunch. I discovered Bunna Cafe when researching places to see during our summer vacation. From Oman, I drooled over the enticing website, nearly memorizing the concise and simple menu. Because we are foreign to Twitterville, I’m glad we didn’t have to hunt to find where the restaurant was popping up around town. Recently, the mobile restaurant found a temporary home at Mama Joy’s where they serve lunch daily, Tuesday to Friday from 11 to 4 pm.
Bushwick is not the most attractive face of Brooklyn. The factories and storage houses give it a clearly industrial feel. As we drew closer to 1084 Flushing Avenue, we saw signs of urban rejuvenation, passing by yoga studios, craft shops, and vintage clothing stores. Located across from a large multipurpose building called the Loom, we spotted our destination. The Mama Joy’s website is bright and airy, like a Sunday dinner on a sunny afternoon. The location, however, is much like a basement den on a Friday night. The dim lighting, exposed brick and piping, and colorful Nintendo-inspired art pieces are a far cry from your grandmother’s dining room. A large bar is central to the restaurant, making us feel very out of place upon entry. Nonetheless, our loyalty to Ethiopian food would make leaving before eating an insult, and the warmth of the curious yet endearing staff beckoned us to stay.
While waiting for my brother to join us, we enjoyed Espris, a layered fruit smoothie cocktail that we hadn’t enjoyed since last year’s trip to the motherland. For our meal, we enjoyed shared lunch platters that included all the dishes on their menu with extra helpings of injera on the side.
Each dish was exceptional in its own right—Gomen (steamed kale), Misir Wot (stewed red lentils in berbere sauce), Yeter Kik Alicha (stewed split peas), and Keysir (sauteed beets). The Kedija Selata, or kale salad with tomatoes and large chunks of avocado tossed in olive oil vinaigrette, was a first for us and very satisfying. However, I would be remiss if I did not highlight the Yesuf Fitfit. Usually, we’re not thrilled by fitfit, which is torn pieces of injera soaked in sauce but this version was soaked in a homemade roasted sunflower seed milk which was absolutely sensational. Our good opinion of fitfit has officially been restored thanks to Bunna Cafe. While the location didn’t thrill us, the food left us reeling. Our meal for four totaled $26 USD which is really reasonable for the wholesome, high-quality food served. Even our stomachs returned the smiles of the warm Ethiopian staff, and if we’re in the neighborhood when Bunna Cafe pops up in a more family-friendly, well-lit destination, consider it a date.
To round out a delightful meal fit for herbivores and omnivores alike, we inquired about vegan bakeries or ice cream parlors in the neighborhood. Lil’ Z always sees others eating in ice cream in Oman, and I wanted her to have the real deal— non-dairy ice cream atop a vegan cone–as opposed to my homemade sorbet in a dish. We made our way to Dun-Well Doughnuts at 222 Montrose Avenue, an old-fashioned doughnut shop with a tasteful, antique decor and music fit for a Woody Allen movie. Lil’ Z and Urbndervish shared a butter pecan ice cream cone, while my brother and I shared a doughnut sundae. (Yeah, I had no idea that existed either.)
Choosing from the freshly baked selections was a challenge but we settled on a chocolate coconut doughnut topped with good ole’ fashioned vegan vanilla ice cream. Drizzled in fudge, it was a delicious challenge trying to eat a doughnut with a spoon, but we persevered. After paying about $10 USD for our shared desserts, we bade farewell to Bushwick and realized our reignited love for Brooklyn.