African cuisine has been part of this couple’s story — from their days as high school sweethearts in Cameroon to their life now as married Lenexa residents with a 6-year-old son.
“When we were dating I used to cook. He would say, I like this, or maybe the one you did the first time was better,” said Stella Musongong of her husband, Neba Ngwa. “He would tell me how he felt about it, not to put me down, but to make me better in the cooking life.”
They would host get-togethers for friends and family, and Musongong would receive more compliments. Then she started to get requests for special orders.
They have full-time jobs — Musongong as a nurse, Ngwa as an account manager — but they had long talked about opening a restaurant. Ngwa did a Google search on commercial locations and discovered Lenexa Public Market, a food hall and farmers market at 8750 Penrose Lane, just five minutes from their home.
In June they did their first pop-up there, planning to open the second weekend of each month on the second level of the market.
“We named it African Dream Cuisine because it was a leap of faith, live the American dream,” Musongong said. “We want to use the food to tell our African story to America.”
Items include spaghetti, fajitas, pork, Banso potatoes, barbecue ribs, fried plantains, bacon rolls, coconut rice, and shrimp with fried cabbage. Ingredients in their Spicy Dream Sauce are a secret: “You know here and there,” she said.
Customers build their own plate — $10.99 for adults, $5.99 for children ages 5 and under.
But there tends to be a run on the puff puff (sweet deep fried dough). Musongong stands ready to quickly whip up more. (She wants every customer to try it.)
“Back in Cameroon, the women would sell them to help support their families and for tuition, uniforms, pencils for their kids to go to school,” she said “ We wanted to pay respect to these women.”
Customers didn’t want to wait a month to try the pop-up again. They are there this weekend, Aug. 9 to Aug. 11, and will start twice a month in October and November. They hope to continue in the public market even if they decide to open a permanent restaurant.
“This is where we started,” Ngwa said.
Lenexa Public Market will have another pop-up, Mediterranean Madness, Aug. 23 to Aug. 25. That pop-up will return in September.