“Communities of Hope” features Detroiters from communities of color who have been looking for ways to persevere during the pandemic.
A new restaurant in Warren is bringing Bangladeshi street foods and specialty dishes to town. Adda Music Café and Restaurant is the new hangout spot for family or friends to gather.
During a Bangladeshi Food Festival, the restaurant featured a row of pithas or Bangladeshi rice cakes in aluminum trays on display: handesh, nun gura and bhapha pitha. The rice cakes are intricately hand-mixed and designed and then either deep-fried or steamed.
Sharmin Tanim of Adda Café tells me these treats are specialty foods.
“It’s pretty much very famous in Bangladesh, especially during the time of winter,” says Tanim.
Bhapa pitha is made with rice flour mixed with molasses and coconut, then steamed in the shape of a bowl. She says not everyone can make them well.
Adda Café is serving these foods to give those who grew up in Bangladesh a nostalgic winter treat while introducing the foods to others. The restaurant’s namesake, Adda, means to “hang out” with family or friends in Bangla.
Rossi Mir is an owner of Adda Café.
“We just come together and like gossiping, and then make fun with each other, make some jokes.”
Building a family-friendly business
Mir came to the US in 2012 on a diversity visa. He says he and his wife Sharmin Tanim found a way to live the American dream, with he as an IT specialist and she as the director of an allergy institute. But the couple craved something more: connecting with others.
“We did our job, day-to-day life. And then end of the day we decided to do something else,” says Mir.
Mir’s friends Hasan Khan and Jaffrey Al Kadry also missed their friends, family and food in Bangladesh, so they decided to recreate that family-friendly, homey vibe. They pooled their resources together and opened Adda Café in Warren in July 2022, off 9 Mile Road and Ryan.
Mir says it’s a growing space for Bangladeshi businesses in Warren. He says they get together every day at the restaurant.
Owner Hasan Khan moved to the US in 2016. He is a computer software engineer.
Khan says he was looking for a place to eat out with his family but found it difficult in Hamtramck and Detroit, which tend to have male-dominated spaces in restaurants. He said he’d drive out to Dearborn, Farmington Hills or Sterling Heights to eat out with his wife.
He says part of creating Adda Café was to provide a space for families that includes an area for kids to play.
“I can sit down, enjoy my food with my family… They can have the food and they can go over there,” he says, pointing to a corner where his son is playing with a few customers’ kids.
The pandemic has changed how people gather
Khan says during the pandemic, the business partners had the opportunity to purchase the restaurant and renovate it. Adda Café began with carryout options, gradually opening dine-in as COVID restrictions changed. He says that now, people come out to the restaurant on weeknights or weekends.
Zannatun Alim is a senior at the University of Michigan. She’s visiting on a Friday night for a Friendsgiving gathering. She is trying the butter chicken, something familiar on many Bangladeshi restaurant menus.
“I can really taste the yogurt. And the chicken seems to be tender, more on the soft side. Very creamy. I’m tasting a lot of more tomato than spices though,” says Alim.
The restaurant also serves unique items like bhortas, mashed veggies with spices, and mogoj bhuna, dried beef brain curry.
Alim says it’s nice to see more businesses in Macomb county.
“After the pandemic, it’s really nice seeing the rise of small businesses, especially Bangladeshi-owned businesses.”
Bangladeshi specialty and street food with music and culture
Nasreen Meah is another customer who came out from Ann Arbor. She especially likes the restaurant’s design. It is her first time visiting the restaurant.
“I like how open, spacious, the open floor where there is no division where male sits and women sit,” says Meah.
Meah is excited about the live musical performances.
“The fact that they included music part of it, that’s very important for our culture. I think that’s what makes it so welcoming,” says Meah.
Owner Jaffrey Al Kadry works as a technical specialist by profession. He oversees the music programming at Adda Café.
“This is something that will add value to the society and that will stand out from other restaurants that that’s here in Michigan as a cool place,” says Al Kadry.
Al Kadry says that Adda Café has become a bucket list destination when people visit Michigan from out of state.
Khan says Michigan Bangladeshi businesses operate off of the learn-as-you-go business model.
“My one is very niche. There are some advantages too because you have a specific audience, they’re going to come back and come back and come back, but there is a certain audience that you will never reach out to.”
Rossi Mir, Hasan Khan and Jaffrey Al Kadry felt homesick. They miss their friends, family and homemade Bangladeshi food. They created a space that brings those elements together to have adda — or hang out — at Adda Music Café and Restaurant.