Zweli Restaurant is the first known Zimbabwean restaurant in the United States. The co-founders, Zweli and Leonardo Williams, got the idea of opening the restaurant in their quest to find other restaurant owners who specialized in southern African cuisine.
So initially, the duo wanted to gain insight from someone who had done it before them.
“We wanted some mentorship on how receptive people are in the United States,” Leonardo told the Durham Eater. “The closest we found was a Zimbabwean chef who owns a South African restaurant in Charlottesville.”
They couldn’t find anyone, even after asking for help from the local tourism board and the National Restaurant Association.
That’s why they created their own in Durham, North Carolina in 2018, despite being denied bank loans and no business model to follow.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to open a business,” Zweli added. “I come from a very entrepreneurial background and family. My dream was to one day work for myself, and my true passion is food. I’ve always loved cooking and sharing with people.”
Located at 4600 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd, you will find chicken Piri Piri platters, sandwiches, samosas platters, and avocado and chickpea mash.
Two years after opening, the pandemic began, which has impacted Black-owned businesses more than any other minority group. The two were special guests of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden during his debate in Nashville, Tennessee in October 2020 as Face2Face Africa points out.
The couple was invited by the Biden campaign as an example of how the ongoing health crisis has hurt small businesses.
“We were there to represent our state,” Leonardo tells Spectrum News. “It was an honor, it really was.”
For more information, visit the Zweli restaurant by clicking here.