Strawberry Mansion: The Bus at the Hut

The first customer approaches the bus to make her order

In times of economic troubles, it seems counter intuitive to start a business, but that is exactly what Kenneth and Dee Foreman did. “Times are hard and we need extra money to help supplement our income,” explains Dee.

Dee Foreman, co-owner of The Bus At the Hut, sits under the shade of the hut behind the eatery.

Business is at the top of Dee’s mind these days both in practical terms and theoretical. “I am finishing my degree in business management and I figured why not put my knowledge to work,” says Dee.

The Foremans’ business plan is an unusual one. Starting a restaurant is a difficult undertaking, even for a seasoned entrepreneur, but the Foremans believe their idea has legs. The Bus At The Hut is a Jamaican and soul food restaurant run out of an old bus and out back stands a hut for patrons to eat under. “We wanted to put Ocho Rios in the heart of North Philly,” says Kenneth.

Ocho Rios is a popular destination for tourists in Jamaica and the aesthetic embodies what most people think of when they think of Jamaica. Calling the corner of 33rd Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue “Lil’ Ochi,” Kenneth hopes to bring laid back island culture and cuisine to the people of Strawberry Mansion.  It is located next to Vernon Hill, a senior residential community.

The idea for the business started on a whim according to Dee. “We saw this bus sitting on the side of the road,” Dee explains. “the next thing you know, we are starting preparations to open in the summertime.”

The first customer approaches the bus to place her order

Kenneth, an immigrant from Jamaica, also has ambitions beyond financial gain in starting this business venture. “I hope to do something for the seniors in the area. Too many times the older people in this country are ignored and I want to make sure they have somewhere safe and fun to spend their time,” Kenneth explains.

Kenneth, an accomplished singer and songwriter, has tried in the past to volunteer his time at facilities for seniors, but was denied. “I want to come in with my group and entertain the people. Have you been to a nursing home? They are so sad and the people there need to smile more. I offered to come in and sing gospel music,but they said they didn’t want me,” says Kenneth.

Kenneth knows what it is like to be stuck in a nursing facility. In 2000 Kenneth was in a horrific car accident, which left him with a broken pelvis and hip. “I spent time there, for a while, learning how to walk again. It was a terrible time,” Kenneth says.

Planning to hold events for the seniors in the area is one of his top priorities and the eatery is located next to a senior home called Vernon Hill. Some of the events planned include domino games, karaoke, live music and DJs planning music geared toward the older crowd.

Workers prepare for opening day.

While Kenneth spoke of helping the seniors in the community, he hasn’t left out the young people. “I want to get a basketball court here in the parking lot for the neighborhood boys and girls to come and play. I also want to have live music so people, the young people, can come out here and dance,” says Kenneth.

The goal according to Dee is to make a place where everyone in the neighborhood came come and dine on delicious Jamaican and soul cuisine. Topping the list of entrees is jerk chicken, curry goat, ox tails and ribs.

The most interesting listing on the menu is manish water. Manish water, as Dee describes is “good for the male libido. If you have some, you are definitely going to please your mate.” The actual ingredients are chopped goat’s head, yams, flour, potatoes and various spices. Naming the dish “water” is also inaccurate, according to Dee. “The consistency is actually not watery at all. Think of it more like a thick stew with lots of roots and veggies,” says Dee.

While all the menu items may not be for everyone, the vibe of the restaurant is definitely universal. “We wanted to make a place where people could sit down, have a nice meal, a nice conversation, listen to some wonderful music, play some games and spend an afternoon relaxing under the cool shade of the hut,” says Kenneth.

A side order of ox tail

Relaxing may be the vibe they are striving for, but watching Dee and Kenneth in action one would be surprised at the frantic pace in which they work. “We work hard to make sure this place is ready for people to come and enjoy, and I hope it shows,” says Dee.

Hard work ethics intact, the Foremans are starting a business that they hope to grow over the coming years and make a place where the community can begin to start changing. A local resident, Douglass Redd, says, “Look right here. You have a wonderfully painted up bus with a colorful place in the back and right next door you got a building that looks as beautiful as they come. Right in a row…you got change coming, and, maybe, it’ll spread right down the block and through the side streets.”

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