Once I find a door that actually opens at Safari DC, I walk in and ask for owner, William Mukabane. The older man who greets me says the owner’s here but is not feeling too well. So he directs me to Mukabane’s wife, Alice, a gracious woman who, despite a crowded bar and dining room, tries to explain to me why Kenyans love to stay up so late. It has to do with family values and late-night business deals. I’m afraid I don’t quite follow.
Regardless, the main thing you need to know about Safari DC is that it is the area’s only Kenyan restaurant, and as such, it has embraced Barack Obama as one of its own, even if the president has spent little time in the country and barely saw his Kenyan father before he died in an auto accident in 1982. The restaurant has dedicated a corner of its bar to Obama pictures, knickknacks, posters, paintings, you name it. There’s even a homemade welcome banner with empty spaces where Obama and family can leave their autographs, should they ever step foot into Safari DC. Not that Alice or William Mukabane have asked Obama over, but they have hopes that he and Michelle may stop by during one of their evenings out.
True to the Kenyans’ habit of staying up late, Alice Mukabane tells me that she had to skip the inauguration today because she didn’t get home from work until 7 this morning, after cleaning up from last night’s pre-inaugural party at Safari. Saturday and Sunday nights were just as rough, she says, with about 250 customers crammed each night into her place at 4306 Georgia Ave NW. Tonight will be more of the same.
If she was disappointed to miss the inauguration, Alice Mukabane doesn’t have time to express it. She excuses herself for a minute to take care of some customers in the dining room. That’s when a man at the bar asks me if I write for a newspaper. I tell him I work for the City Paper. He asks if I’d like to interview him. He smells of alcohol, and his eyes have all the focus a stoner staring at a textbook. He says he’s Alice’s husband.
But before William Mukabane goes too far off on a tangent with me, whatever that tangent may be, a kindly friend escorts Mukabane outside for some cold air. Yep, he’s not feeling too well. He’s suffering from excessive celebration.