Lookman Mashood with his family (229958)
Credit: Contributed

“Anyone can dream of having their own business,” said Lookman Mashood. “But it takes dedication for your dreams to thrive.” Mashood is the owner of one of the eminent Nigerian restaurants in New York City.

With the title on the awning “An Authentic Nigerian Restaurant,” Buka is located in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, close to the block where rapper Biggie Smalls grew up, and has been thriving for more than seven years. “I believe in the notion of having an authentic Nigerian restaurant. I am a proud Nigerian, and I want other Nigerians to have a taste of home. I also want to introduce other people to our rich traditional menu.”

A visit to Buka is indeed a journey to the continent. Buka is a Hausa word which literally means “side of the road” or even “hole in the wall.” Buka is like one of those widely kept secrets, and those who know of it hold on to this jewel with pride. It’s like going to the family homestead to grab a plate or two. Most of the food that is on the menu is spicy and heavily seasoned. The food ranges from jollof rice to snails (igbin) and fufu. My family favorites when we dine there include akara, fried crispy bean cakes served with spicy tomato dipping sauce; of course there is the forever popular suya, thinly sliced grilled beef in Nigerian spices; grilled tiger shrimp with suya spice; and moi moi, cooked their way with ground steamed honey bean cake with hard-boiled egg and flaked fish. The main dishes include eba and ogbono soup, pounded yam and egusi or amala and okra stew.

Hungry yet? How about a feast for your eyes?

Buka frequently hosts African fashion, art and music shows. Some of the artists even hang their works that are for sale. In the summer, Buka often has a DJ and karaoke nights. They also cater African events. Especially when there are soccer games, Buka is packed with enthusiastic soccer fans. Mashood smiles, “Buka is mostly busy during the weekends!” There is always fun to be had. Where else can you sit in an imported Nigerian “kabu” taxi and eat a delicious meal, or watch the DJ spin Afrobeats and the latest African tunes out of the shorn-off back of the van?

Before coming to America in 1996, Mashood was an ice cream merchant in Lagos, Nigeria. Although he is originally from Kwara State, Nigeria, he lived in Lagos all his life. He knew he wanted to work in the culinary field because he was always told how good of a cook he was. After working arduously, he moved to New York.

“I wasn’t impressed with other Nigerian restaurants, so I decided to have my own,” Mashood stated. Within eight months of reconstructing an abandoned law firm to what it is today, he had his grand opening. “I’m glad to see what I have accomplished” he remarked. “I have just opened up a second restaurant up the block—although it is more of a buffet-style eatery.” Mashood explained that he always wanted to run a second business. With trays of prepared meats, rice, pounded yam, patties, soups and stews, his second restaurant provides a buffet where you can pick and choose. “I always wanted to combine all West African countries’ food under one roof,” he said. “Instead of being divided, we can feel united again through culinary.”

Mashood can often be seen behind the bar at Buka or even in the kitchen if it is very busy. He is a family man and wants success for his family as well. He shows them that hard work is what brings success. “I have a family of three kids. Although they are all teens and young adults, they often help me at the restaurant when they have the chance.”

Buka is located at 946 Fulton St., Brooklyn (347-763-0619)