Public Market Updates: Minnie Bell’s Signs Multi-Year Lease, ‘Mama Lamees’ Middle Eastern Pop Up Announced

Published On May 13, 2019 | By Rob Arias | Food & Drink, In the Neighborhood, Restaurants

Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement proprietor Fernay McPherson announced the official signing of a multi-year lease at a new Public Market stall recently. She hinted previously of her desire to stay put after the success of her ‘pop up’ period which began about a year ago.

The Public Market also announced Minnie Bell’s pop up space replacement, a middle eastern concept called ‘Mama Lamees’.

La Cocina Partnered Pop Up Space Churning Out Hits

The dedicated pop up food stall where Minnie Bell’s helped established itself is a partnership between La Cocina and Public Market Owners City Center Realty Partners. La Cocina’s mission is to help jump-start the business ventures of women of color and immigrant women food entrepreneurs.

The Public Market’s first pop up, Chef Nite Yun’s Nyum Bai, went on to open a brick & mortar restaurant in East Oakland at the end of her term. Nyum Bai has been acknowledged with a variety of accolades including a Bon Appetit Hot 10 recognition for best new restaurants in 2018. McPherson appears to be following in Yun’s footsteps by being voted a ‘Rising Star Chef’ by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2017.


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Minnie Bell’s quickly curated a following within Emeryville and the greater Bay Area. The lines at their stall were consistently among the longest of any of the Public Market’s purveyors. “The journey has been amazing. We’ve developed a great following and are blessed to have the opportunity to continue doing so,” McPherson noted. “Opening a permanent space at Public Market is both an opportunity we’re grateful for and a sign that we’ve got the tasty food and welcoming vibe that resonate with people.”

“A central part of La Cocina’s mission is to lower the cost of entry to help food entrepreneurs transition from informal business settings to more formal ones. That’s exactly what Public Market is helping to make possible,” noted Caleb Zigas, Executive Director of La Cocina. “We applaud the example Public Market is setting and hope to inspire other developers to see a model for their projects.”

La Cocina will recognize Public Market Emeryville at its annual gala in May with the organization’s Opportunity Award.

“A central part of La Cocina’s mission is to lower the cost of entry to help food entrepreneurs transition from informal business settings to more formal ones. That’s exactly what Public Market is helping to make possible,”

McPherson has stated her intentions all along to open an establishment in her native Fillmore District in SF. There was some concern that she might follow Yun’s path to culinary stardom outside our city. Thankfully, she’s found a home in Emeryville and is staying put. McPherson hasn’t completely given up on the idea of opening a second location in the Fillmore District in the future.

Minnie Bell’s will occupy an interior stall formerly occupied by Mayo & Mustard. The new permanent home will offer Minnie Bell’s the opportunity to expand their menu including candied yams, fried chicken salad and other rotating specials.

Mama Lamees ‘Feast from the Middle East’ On Deck

Lamees Dabhour, another graduate of the La Cocina incubator program, will step in to open ‘Mama Lamees’ at the rotating pop up stall.

Mama Lamees will serve the home-style foods that Dabhour has cooked for her entire life, building on her Palestinian heritage and experiences across the world. She has had her food featured at Off the Grid Fort Mason, the Mission Community Market and, most recently, as a caterer for companies across the Bay Area.

“We’re thrilled to see Minnie Bell’s thrive and can’t wait for Food Hall customers to meet Mama Lamees, another talented La Cocina eatery,” said CCRP President and Co-Founder Mark Stefan. “It’s great to see Public Market grow into a vibrant gathering place for both locals and visitors from throughout the Bay Area.”

One of the many delicious looking items off the Mama Lamees website.

Menu items on her catering website include Kofteh Bitahiniyyed (seasoned meatballs), Shorabet Sabanikh (Grilled chicken and Basmati rice served with stewed spinach), and Mansaf (Labaneh braise lamb).

Both Mama Lamees and Minnie Bell’s anticipate mid-summer openings for their new spots. Baby Cafe Hong Kong Cuisine is also slated to open a stall this year.

You can watch a touching video segment on Lamees Dabhour on the KCET YouTube Channel:

Juneteenth Celebration For Minnie Bell’s

Minnie Bell’s will celebrate this news with a sit-down, family-style supper service coinciding with ‘Juneteenth.’ Juneteenth celebrates the 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas.

“For me, it’s a time to reflect, to gather with family and both to celebrate what we have achieved and to take note of all that remains to be done,” McPherson noted in the invite. McPherson’s family migrated from Port Arthur, Texas to the Bay Area as part of a wave of Southerners referred to historically as The Great Migration.

“I’ve invited some of my favorite chef collaborators for the dinner, and some of my most respected community to share some of their perspectives on Juneteenth and what it means to be black in the Bay.”

Tickets are available on EventBrite starting at $65. All profits will be donated to Dusty’s Fishing Well, in support of their work with black youth in the Bay Area.

Feature Image Composite: Fernay McPherson –  Amy Tam Photography, Lamees Dabhour – Instagram Account, Nite Yun – Vilcekfoundation.

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

5 Responses to Public Market Updates: Minnie Bell’s Signs Multi-Year Lease, ‘Mama Lamees’ Middle Eastern Pop Up Announced

  1. Ty Hudson says:

    Wait, does this mean the minimum wage hasn’t shut down the restaurant industry in Emeryville?

    • Rob Arias says:

      Keep in mind that the La Cocina/Public Market partnership provides a subsidized stall to help kick start the tenants. I don’t know how much, but I’m guessing at least half the rent the others are paying. I think if the city can step in and incentivize small business by offsetting commercial rents, this would be a huge incentive!

      By the way Ty, maybe you should identify yourself as a union organizer for UniteHere:
      https://www.unitehere2850.org/contact-us/

      • Anonymous says:

        Nice catch Rob. Ty and the rest of the unions care about one thing: union dues.

        They cost thousands of Emeryville workers their jobs. Do they care? No. Not at all.

        Because it’s not about the workers. It’s never been about the workers.

        It’s about funding the con game of driving union dues to union organizers who pay off politicians.

        Half of non-union, entry level workers in Emeryville could lose their jobs (and we may already be there), and it would be fine with the unions as long as there are a handful of restaurants left they can point to and say “see, we only killed most, not all.”

        You guys screwed Emeryville’s workers. You raised the minimum wage too high, too fast and cost a lot of people their jobs.

        So Ty, maybe, give it a rest, and let us clean up the mess you made.

        And feel free to draw as much attention to what’s happened in Emeryville as you’d like. It would be good to get the word out so no other city ever makes the same mistake.

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