If you’re looking to grab African or Caribbean food downtown, the options are pretty slim — but one duo of soon-to-be restaurateurs are changing that.
Bouche Bae is the name, and it comes from the duo of Prisca Um-bayiha and Gema Honesta, both of Afro-Caribbean background. They explain to Eater that they’re hoping to hit upon an untapped market.
“When we go to a food court downtown to eat something that reminds us of where we come from, we don’t find anything that caters to what we’re used to having...there’s a whole continent that’s missing...we want to respond to that need that we have ourselves.”
“They’re all in east Montreal or the south west and that’s the thing and you have to travel out of downtown to get that food.”
They’re planning a “fast food version of African food, Caribbean and African-American food.”
That entails a number of different culinary traditions — the duo say to expect dishes from fried chicken, to fried plantains, Haitian griot, or Guadaloupean sandwich bokit.
“Because I myself am mixed, from different African countries and different Caribbean countries as well, so we wanted to make sure that we cover most of the Caribbean and African countries, so it’ll be very varied, it won’t be representative of one country and one part of the world; places where there’s black culture,” explains Um-bayiha.
The pair are hoping to feature a particularly wide range of dishes from across Africa and the Caribbean (their social media has highlighted dishes from Martinique right across to Madagascar), but are conscious of the fact that covering dozens of countries will call for rotating menu items.
Um-bayiha says she believes Bouche Bae will have dual appeal — it’ll fill a gap for black Montrealers who are familiar with Bouche Bae’s offerings, and will be something new for others who are less aware of different Afro-Caribbean cuisines.
“Montrealers are known to be kind of curious so we’re going to bank on that...we’ve talked to other people within the black community and all came up with the same reaction that when we want to eat something that reminds us of where we’re from, we have to make a trip.”
Honesta and Um-bayiha are still working on finalizing a downtown space — in the meantime, they’re putting together a second project, Bouche Bae Grocery, that matches grocery store specials with recipes, both Afro-Caribbean and beyond. Best to follow their Facebook or Instagram to keep track of that — Eater will keep you informed on all Bouche Bae restaurant developments.
Update (February 2021): Prisca Um-bayiha is no longer affiliated with this project.