It’s been a tough couple of years for Marco Senghor, the owner of the Mission’s popular Senegalese restaurant/nightclub Bissap Baobab, neighboring cafe Little Baobab, and a second Bissap Baobab in Oakland — fraught with stressful events like an eviction threat and an arrest on alleged immigration fraud. It seem these crises have taken such a toll on his health that he feels compelled to close the Oakland branch of his business, a decision Senghor announced in a Facebook post this week. The closing leaves him with just one spot remaining in his portfolio.
Two years ago, the original Mission location of Bissap Baobab had already been in business for 19 years when landlord/controversial restaurateur Owen Van Natta, a Facebook exec turned Mission real estate magnate (perhaps best known for his role in the controversial closure of Hapa Ramen), reportedly threatened it with eviction. Senghor managed to pull together the $1.6 million Van Natta sought for the 3372 19th Street building, Mission Local reported at the time, ensuring the restaurant’s future.
That all changed in 2018, when Senghor was arrested for immigration fraud. Prosecutors alleged that he gained his U.S. citizenship by way of a “sham marriage,” and threatened him with a 10-year prison sentence. Senghor vowed to fight the case and eventually took a plea deal that entailed a year of probation and a $1,000 fine. The battle was a costly one, and Senghor sold his newly-purchased building and shuttered Bissap Baobab to help pay his legal bills.
At the time, Senghor told Eater SF that though the Mission Bissap Baobab was done for, he would be reopening an Oakland branch of the restaurant that he’d shuttered in 2018. The spot, at 381 15th Street, opened in May, offering the same Senegalese lunch and dinner dishes known to Mission patrons, as well as late-night live music and dance parties.
That stint was destined to be brief, however, as in his Facebook message this week, Senghor said, “We have been developing a wonderful relationship, but my health and energy today has pushed me to really downsize our operation.” That means that Baobab Oakland will close at the end of the year, with an “official ‘Au Revoir’ Baobab Oakland Party” planned for Saturday, December 28.
The decision leaves Senghor with just one venue: Little Baobab (3388 19th Street), which serves cocktails and Baobab dinner items like seafood coco (a coconut and prawn dish) and mafe (peanut and vegetable stew). Senghor hasn’t made any statements on his final restaurant’s fate, and he hadn’t responded to an email and call from Eater SF as of publication time. Presumably, Little Baobab will remain in business — and there might be hope for the Oakland spot’s eventual revival, too. Senghor writes that the closure is “just an ‘au revoir,’ so that means when we are stronger again, we will come back if the Universe is willing to.”