Ayesha Abdullah owns and operates Accra, a restaurant business started by her father in their apartment more than 35 years ago. He was an African immigrant, her mother a Harlem native. They both loved to cook, putting out dishes that blended their cultural food roots. Growing up, Abdullah was always involved “No matter what I did, I never left the business.”
In 2020, Abdullah and other family members were running two Accra locations, in Harlem and the Bronx, when the Covid pandemic overwhelmed New York. The family shifted gears and kept the restaurants, providing take-out and delivery.
In July 2021, Abdullah was excited to reopen to guests. Covid restrictions were finally lifting: “Everything was beautiful. We painted; we set up a whole system … for taking customers’ temperatures and distancing.” Then everything fell apart with a 4 am. phone call. The gas had been shut off to Accra’s Harlem restaurant because of a leak in an upstairs unit. There was no choice but to shut down.
Accra fans, however, inspired the family to get creative. Abdullah describes a “crazy response from customers in Harlem; we want you back!” Knowing the Bronx location was too small to handle all the cooking (“It would have brought everything down”), a brother suggested a commercial kitchen. Abdullah was delighted to discover the newly-opened e.terra Kitchen nearby.