From the outside, it looks like an average two-family house on Warren Street in Boerum Hill, one of dozens just like it on the surrounding blocks. The doors and windows are rimmed in black like the decorative cornice along the roofline; a chain link fence encloses a small front area of poured concrete. But look closely at that fence and you'll see a sheet of paper taped there. On closer inspection, you'll notice that it's a menu, boasting soul food classics like mac and cheese, chicken wings and fried fish. This is Mama's House.
The Mama here is Eva Williams, the chef and operator of the year-old eatery she operates out of her own home. Though raised in Harlem, Williams was born in Brooklyn and has lived at the unit at 445 Warren Street for over 20 years. The origin of Mama's House goes back 17 years, when Williams and her family first started throwing an annual summer BBQ for their neighbors. Following the death of her mother, "Big Mama," in 2013, Williams set out to be her own boss, gravitating towards something that's always come naturally to her since the age of five: cooking.
So that's what she does every Friday and Saturday—and soon to be Thursday—with her home-run eatery. In her own kitchen she fries up tilapia, stews collard greens from a local farm and bakes up big batches of creamy mac and cheese. While she cooks, gospel music sings out from the speakers in what she calls an "integral" part of her process.
Whatever the process, it's definitely working; photographer Sai Mokhtari said her mac was some of the best she's ever had. It's also incredibly reasonable, with a dinner of two pieces of tilapia plus two sides—potato salad, collards, mac, yellow rice, candied yams or sauteed cabbage—just $16 and four wings plus a side of chips $7. Customers should call in their pickup or delivery orders and expect to wait between 10 and 20 minutes for their food to be prepared, as many of the items are prepared fresh with each order.
As referenced in the name, Mama's House is a family-run operation. Williams is a literal mother to daughter Serina and son Darius, both of whom act as PR/marketing rep and driver/"taste tester" for the business, respectively. Williams's partner of 22 years, Tijuana, also helps out when she's not on the job as a metal forewoman and when she's not manning the stove, Williams works in home health management.
The family home is still a central meeting point to share meals, including elaborate the Thanksgiving Dinners that's held at the house every year. Much of the family, including son Darius, still live in the house, but Williams's daughter Serina and her partner Kiara commute from New Jersey to help mom on serving day. That family connection is unmistakable during a meal at Mama's House, which is just as it should be.
Mama's House is open at 445 Warren Street in Boerum Hill on Fridays from noon -10 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. with Thursday service coming soon. For more information, check out Mama's House on Facebook or call them at 347-423-6274 or 718-629-7386.