When Eskender Aseged opened the doors of his new upscale eatery Radio Africa and Kitchen in the heart of one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods, it was with the blessing of City Hall. The upscale eatery not only offers modern African cuisine, it’s also serving up a taste of things to come in Bayview. Radio Africa is the latest joint effort between city officials, small business owners, and community developers hoping to transform the neighborhoods of Bayview and Hunter’s Point into thriving communities within the next decade.
The partnership began in 2010 when Mr. Aseged was approached by city officials looking to offer incentives to establishments that could take over the closed storefronts that dominated Third Street, the neighborhood’s main commercial drag. Their proposal was to assist those willing to open their businesses on the ground floors of the planned low-cost condominiums. Although initially skeptical, Mr. Aseged agreed to their proposal. The city incurred the bulk of the expense to build the ground floor restaurant space, at a cost of approximately $600,000. The remaining investment of approximately $50,000 was raised by Mr. Aseged and others.
For now, the $14-$18 entrees on Radio Africa’s menu entice diners from outside of the neighborhood’s working poor, as do other recently opened restaurants like the Peruvian eatery Limon Rotisserie. Reduced menu prices for off-hour dining, the hiring of locals for his kitchen staff, scheduled times to open his doors to local dominoes players, and plans for a community garden across the street are just a few of the ways Mr. Aseged is attempting to give back to this community. While the restaurant is already turning a profit, Mr. Aseged, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Ethiopia in 1986, acknowledges turning the tide of community skepticism will take time.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal.