Little Baobab, a former West African restaurant and quirky nightclub at the corner of 19th and Mission streets, will reopen next month in its third reincarnation – a Senegalese-inspired pizza joint that could begin serving in the next two weeks.
“There’s no pizza around here, you have to go four blocks down,” said its proprietor, Marco Senghor. “So I thought about it and said – how about something totally different? We are going to make pizza here.”
Senghor plans to compete with 19th and Mission’s bacon-wrapped hot-dog vendors by serving up a late-night alternative for the area’s bar-goers – a small assortment of slices of pizza, topped with Senegalese spices and specialities.
“With all the bars around here, people want quick food,” he said. “Everybody comes to Baobab and Beauty Bar and wants the hot dogs. I thought, I need something different, but with a little touch of Senegal. “
Little Baobab’s trademark sign will remain, enhanced only with the word “Pizza.” Senghor plans to remain open from lunch until the neighboring bars announce last call at 2 a.m.
Senghor’s love for Little Baobab, his first restaurant and miniature nightclub in the Mission District runs deep. Ever since a 2013 kitchen fire forced it to shutter at 3380 19th St. where it had been since 1998, Senghor has been plotting for its revival.
After the fire, Senghor moved to a larger, adjacent space at 3372 19th St., now operating as Bissap Baobab. He had previously operated another restaurant under that name at 2323 Mission St. – the space is now home to the bar Dr. Teeth.
“Even though it’s a beautiful small space and I love it, it’s really hard when you lose all of your assets. Now what we have is just a space and a right to a kitchen,” said Senghor.
Last year, Senghor made his first attempt at reopening as a lunch and dinner take-out restaurant serving crepes and West African specialties, but soon found that competing with his bigger restaurant nearby did not make sense.
“It would have to be completely different [concept] – a pizza place will be much easier, and it will fit the purpose of what’s happening at night around that corner,” he said.
At the soon-to-be Little Baobab Pizza, Senghor will serve some classics – pepperoni, cheese and tomato – alongside Senegalese-inspired slices topped with chicken-curry or tofu and beans. He also plans to add chicken wings to his new menu.
While the restaurant’s opening is dependent on the installation of a new oven, Senghor projects that pizza will be served in two weeks.