The dedicated customer has always been something for which Nafisa’s Kitchen can count on. But, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Nafisa, owner of the West Philly-African restaurant, has heard from them now more than ever.
“Sometimes, people will call me: ‘Are you open?,’ says Nafisa. “When I say yes: ‘Oh, thank God, you’re open! Thank you for opening!”
Nafisa’s Kitchen has served the Kingsessing section of West Philly for 3 years. With the exception of some salads (which have been substituted with steamed vegetables for the time being), Nafisa continues to offer almost all of the same dishes she became locally renowned for since shifting to an exclusively to-go menu.
“Customers are very understanding,” noted Nafisa. “They adjusted to [social distancing guidelines and wearing masks] very well—and so far, so good.”
“People want to eat... if they like your food, no matter what distance they come from, they will find a way to come,” added Nafisa. The restaurant’s own motto even shares a similar sentiment, simply stating, “The Food Speaks For Itself.”
Shortages of all kinds throughout the service industry have made it difficult for many restaurateurs to keep a regular inventory, and Nafisa’s Kitchen has been no exception to this.
“At the beginning, prices for ingredients went up so high,” said Nafisa. “Some were hard to find, but when you did find them, it was very, very high.” According to employees, lamb, fish, and especially tilapia, have been the hardest ingredients to find.
Despite the shortages, prices at Nafisa’s have seen little change since the pandemic. However, Nafisa has temporarily discontinued their signature “2 for $20” and “2 for $25” platters due to elevated operating costs.
Because in-person dining experiences are so imperative for Nafisa, she says, “most people like to sit and eat, listen to good music, and have conversation… they like to ask about Africa and ask me questions, they feel at home.” Once COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease in Philadelphia, Nafisa says she’s most excited to see her older customers, many of whom she hasn’t seen since the shutdown began.