"I love Togo"
"Mé Lon Togo" translates to "I love togo" in Ewe, a prominent language native to the region of West Africa Togo is located.
an excerpt from DownEast Magazine
Chef-owner Jordan Benissan is from Togo, a sliver of a country on the Gulf of Guinea, where he grew up practicing traditional drumming techniques. He came to Maine in the 1990s to teach music at Colby College. Living in Waterville and craving both a sense of community and the food of his childhood, he started dabbling in cooking at home, then hosting dinner parties, which grew and grew as word of his West African feasts spread.
Three years ago, with the encouragement of friends, and a small loan from one of them, he opened the first installment of Mé Lon Togo — “I Love Togo” — in a ramshackle former tavern along Route 1 in Searsport. The place was rarely packed, but it became enough of a destination for midcoast eaters that Benissan was able to open another location, in Waterville, last year.
Soon, the pandemic arrived, and Benissan was denied a Paycheck Protection Program loan. Amid an economic downturn that hit restaurants hard — and Black-owned small businesses particularly hard — he closed the Searsport location indefinitely (although hopes to eventually use it as a brunch venue), and he couldn’t make rent at the Waterville location. With his Waterville landlord threatening eviction, he decided to close for good. Then, Maine food Instagrammer Jake Cryan (eatingthroughtheseacoast) and some Portland restaurateurs launched a GoFundMe to help revive one of Maine’s few Black-owned kitchens and one of its rare outposts for African cooking (among the GoFundMe organizers were Peter and Orenda Hale, who subsequently closed their own restaurant, Drifters Wife).
In less than two weeks, the campaign raised more than $16,000, enough to help Benissan plan a new restaurant in downtown Camden. “It was remarkable,” he says. “I was about to see my dream collapse and fall apart, but then it turned out that, out of that whole thing came a new beginning, a new birth.”
Check Out our
Yelp, Trip Advisor,
Google, and Facebook