Fork in Nigeria and The Gripper offer quick but flavorful bites on Livernois’ Ave of Fashion.
Dining in hit the brakes, but food trucks and mobile eateries are revving up to dominate the culinary arena with creative, delicious and – most importantly – portable meals. The Livernois Avenue of Fashion hosts a variety of fun and unique Black-owned businesses and restaurants, so grab a mask and beat feet to one of these incredible food trucks while you sightsee.
Prej Iroegbu was the second-to-last in a family of seven from Abia in Eastern Nigeria. They didn’t have electricity or fancy cooking equipment, but they did have fresh ingredients and a passion for eating well. “We lived raw and natural. When I came to the States for school and opportunities, I wanted to find and deliver that taste from home that’s lacking here,” Iroegbu says.
Iroegbu laughs when he sees American restaurants branded as “African” or “Caribbean,” because he says there’s no one taste or flavor from those regions. “You can’t say you’re an authentic African restaurant if you aren’t specific. Is it Ghanaian food, or food from Cameroon or Nigeria? In Nigeria alone, you can travel eight hours and run into 20 different ethnic groups. There’s not one Nigerian who says he knows how to cook all Nigerian food.”
Iroegbu says he wants to bring the culture of Nigerian street food and cart hawkers to Detroit, and he won’t compromise on quality, despite COVID making it harder for him to import his spices from home. “The people appreciate it. We’ve only been open four months and we’ve gotten so much support. We’re looking into starting another truck downtown, but right now, we’re focused on quality,” he says.
19910 Livernois Ave., Detroit
Rytonie “Chef Tony” Durden says he started cooking at 16 years old and spent the next 16 years figuring out how to make a big name for himself in the industry. “I always knew that I wanted my own. I always had that dominant personality to potentially become better than myself. The biggest influence was my grandfather – he was a great cook and always pushed me,” Durden says.
He started Durden’s Catering in 2009 and was very successful with it until the “chicken sandwich craze” and an offhand suggestion from a friend changed everything. “Firstly, thank you, Popeyes! The chicken sandwich craze really gave us the idea. A friend suggested I make my sandwiches and sell them. I put it online, and when I say the line started forming at 10 a.m. the next morning, it did,” he says.
The tagline for The Gripper Food Truck is “chicken so big, you gotta grip it!” They offer Durden’s signature chicken sandwich creations, like the classic Yung Gripper, as well as options featuring catfish, salmon, barbeque and vegan ingredients, and Durden says aspects of his original catering menu will reappear soon.
“I could drive across the city, but I love it on the Avenue, and I wanted people to have a set place to find us while our inside is still shut down. We didn’t want to compromise people’s health,” Durden says.
20504 Livernois Ave., Detroit