Jun 14, 2022
Elijah Bah opened his vegetarian and vegan-friendly cafe, Nûrish, on Washington Avenue just four months before the pandemic shut the city down.
“During the time when we’re supposed to be busy and flourishing is when the pandemic hit,” he told Inside Hook in 2020. “So it’s like, whoa, but it does make it a lot easier for me just because everyone else is going through the same thing, so it’s not like I’m alone in this. The whole world is going through it.” He pivoted to takeout and curbside just like everyone else who muddled through, plus he teamed up with World Central Kitchen to provide meals for healthcare workers at nearby hospitals.
Bah is nothing if not resilient. Born in Guinea, he immigrated to the Bronx at 14 before ultimately landing in Brooklyn. Since high school, he’s worked in kitchens at predominantly vegetarian places that relied on local resources. The menu he’s crafted at Nûrish — just on the border of Crown Heights and Prospect Heights — does just what the name promises. There are hearty yet simple salads, sandwiches, wraps, smoothies, breakfast platters and grain bowls that lean into his veggie-centric West African heritage, plus sustainable meat options so carnivores don’t feel left out.
His survival in an industry rife with failure is a testament not only to his cooking, but to his personality. Walk into Nûrish today at any given time and you’re likely to find him working the espresso machine or schmoozing with his patrons.
“People walk in here all the time and look for the owner while I’m standing right there. I want to be visible and show that yes, we are able to do this as young Black men,” he told Black-Owned Brooklyn, adding, “A guy like me — you know, an immigrant from Guinea with a high school diploma — is not supposed to have something like this in a neighborhood like this.”