Akara House, which opened in 2023, was inspired by the street fritters in Funso Akinya’s hometown in Nigeria. Photo by Ambar Castillo

For Funso Akinya, cooking was an act of rebellion while growing up in Nigeria. His mother wanted Akinya and his siblings out of the kitchen to avoid cuts and burns. So when he went away to boarding school on a farm, he would stow away salt and other ingredients. He and his schoolmates would pool together ingredients and cooking know-how. They would start a fire with sticks and fry eggplant and other vegetables they found on the farm. 

Akinya’s mother, who passed away before he started Akara House, never learned about her son’s undercover cooking. He likes to think she’s laughing from heaven while watching him run his restaurant, Akara House, in Crown Heights.  

When he immigrated to New York in the late 1990s, a twentysomething Akinya took these culinary skills with him to the apartment he shared with his father in Bushwick. On his second week in the city, Akinya found a job at McDonald’s doing food prep, sweeping and taking out the trash. Chicken McNuggets were his favorite.

Funso Akinya’s first job in the city after immigrating was McDonald’s — where we loved the food. Photo by Ambar Castillo

He later enrolled in Kingsborough Community College’s IT program. Learning what went beyond the black screen, Akinya saw possibilities that would show up again and again in his businesses: after selling used cars from the United States to Nigeria, he ran a medical supplies store (which he still does part-time), and later started an online delivery platform for Nigerian groceries. They all required an online interface.  

The Nigerian grocery delivery app was born during the pandemic lockdown. As Akinya took daily walks with his dog, he noticed delivery services everywhere in the city, but saw a gap with Nigerian food.

The Lekki Burger at Akara House is an akara fritter with sauteed mushrooms, fresh basil, avocado, and the works. Photo by Ambar Castillo

He took his camera around to all the African restaurants and grocery stories he knew in Brooklyn and posted photos on his Shopify website. Orders started trickling in from outside the city — as far away as Florida and California. 

With an eye towards food trends, Akinya noticed people were buying a lot of meatless burgers in supermarkets and on delivery apps. He decided to try one. 

“I was like, ‘this doesn’t look real to me, and when I tasted it, I was like, ‘wow, that’s not good,’” he said. 

He decided to make his own with a taste of home: street fritters made of beans known as akara. He would call family back home for the recipe. The veggie akara burgers of Akara House were born. It’s not fast food per se; Akinya and his two-person staff start preparing the beans at around 6 each morning. They make the akara burgers fresh, something Akinya hadn’t found in other Nigerian restaurants in Brooklyn.   

It was tough to find a space with a commercial kitchen already built in. But last year, Akinya found and leased a former Kennedy Fried Chicken spot in Crown Heights. Since then, Akara House has expanded from the basic Akara veggie sandwich to soups, salads, and other sandwiches, as well as traditional jollof rice. 

Akara House has expanded its offerings from the Akara veggie sandwich to soups, salads, jollof rice, and more. Photo by Ambar Castillo

Recently, Akinya found his small restaurant receiving a steady stream of visitors for Iftar, the fast-breaking meal of Ramadan, after West African migrants found out about Akara House from a food influencer. 

“I see a lot of people within the community that come here and make the place theirs,” he said. “We talk about family, and we remember each other’s faces. They’re not here just for the food. And that is something wonderful to me.”

929- 610-3732

642 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216

Location Hours:

Monday – Tuesday 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Wednesday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

Sunday 12 – 8:30 p.m.

Order schedule varies 

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