OMAHA, Neb. — The recent revival of a soul food restaurant that closed in 2003 is bringing life back to its north Omaha neighborhood.
The Fair Deal Cafe has reopened in its original location through the efforts of the Omaha Economic Development Corp. The restaurant first opened in 1953 and was nicknamed “Black City Hall” because politicians would stop there frequently to hear from African-American voters, the Omaha World-Herald reported .
Fair Deal owner Jon Nielle Allen hopes to continue that tradition by launching Black City Hall conversations during lunch on the first Friday of each month.
Allen said she’s excited to share the restaurant as former Omaha residents return to the neighborhood for the 21st biennial Native Omaha Days, a weeklong homecoming meant to celebrate north Omaha culture and community.
“It’s nice to see what 24th Street used to be, and what 24th Street is growing back to,” Allen said. “We’re bringing life back to the neighborhood. We want to keep up that Fair Deal legacy that everyone has come to love.”
North Omaha activist Preston Love Jr. plans to host a Native Omaha Days meeting called Talk Down Memory Lane at the cafe Friday. Love said that older members of the neighborhood see Native Omaha Days as a celebration of the past and what was, but that younger people view it as recognition of north Omaha’s present and future.
“Our parents have died, our schoolmates are dying,” Love said of his generation. “They’re gone, and we’re less likely to come back. The younger generation has to create their own stuff, and keep culture and history in the forefront.”
Precious McKesson, a regular customer at the cafe, said the feeling of Black City Hall is already strong in the reopened restaurant.
“My generation, people in their 40s, we’re now able to experience what our grandparents experienced,” McKesson said. “When you go in, it’s like you’re hugging everybody.”
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com