By: D. Bell/Uptownflavor
A red carpet spills out across the wide sidewalk along Lenox Avenue and 129th Street. Invited guests are greeted at the door with a smile, a handshake, and often a friendly hug. The greeter is smartly dressed in a dark suit, polished shoes, and a white smile.
The scene could be reminiscent of the hey day of the broad boulevard when it was known for its exclusive clubs and speakeasy jazz joints. Jacob’s is neither. It is a six month old family style buffet owned by Rachid Niang.
Niang opened the soul food salad bar this past summer and it has quickly become a neighborhood favorite. Despite being open for such a short period of time, Niang wanted to give something back to the community that was helping him realize his dream of being a restaurateur.
On Thanksgiving Day, Niang opened the doors of his restaurant to the Harlem community and invited his regular customers as well as those in Harlem who can’t afford to eat a hearty meal on a regular basis, to dine for free in his eatery. Doors opened at 9:30 AM and a steady stream of Harlemites strolled across the red carpet and entered the eatery festively decorated for the holidays, ready to enjoy a hot Thanksgiving meal on him.
It was hard to keep Niang’s attention as person after person came up to him to thank him for his kindness, offer him words of encouragement, or send him blessings. One neighbor came rushing over with tears in her eyes thanking him for what he was doing for the Harlem community. Tears trickled down their cheeks as they embraced tightly.
Born in Senegal and educated in France, Harlem was his introduction to the U.S. and the 33-year-old entrepreneur has made it his home. “I love Harlem. The community has been very supportive of me as a young entrepreneur. I live here and many of my staffers are from right in this area. I had no problems putting together a top-notch team,” says Niang.
Having lived and worked in the Harlem community for over 15 years, Niang worked in the food industry for more than 10 years before venturing out to open his own restaurant. The restaurant is lovingly named after his late father and customers often mistakenly address him as Jacob. Family and community are important to Niang and he has incorporated them as an integral part of his business.
373 Lenox Avenue
Visit Jacob’s online at www.jacobrestaurant.com