Apr 20, 2023 - Food and Drink

Meet the new owners of Booker's restaurant

Tracey and Cheri Syphax inside their new restaurant. Photo: Courtesy of Booker's

Trenton makes, the world quakes.

Driving the news: Trenton power couple Tracey and Cheri Syphax acquired Booker's restaurant in West Philly and the adjoining Bayou Lounge for $3.3 million from Saba Tedla last month.

Why it matters: Booker’s has been an anchor of Philly's Black dining scene since it opened in 2017, and the sale means the community doesn't lose a high-profile Black-owned business.

Who they are: Tracey, a Trenton-based real estate developer, wrote a book about his transformation from a street hustler selling drugs to an entrepreneur. He spent seven years in prison, but was granted clemency for his convictions in 2017.

  • Cheri, a San Francisco Bay Area transplant who moved here in 2015, has long worked in the medical device industry and just published her own book about her life and the couple’s whirlwind romance.

The intrigue: What’s love got to do with it? Everything, actually. The self-described foodie couple met online and dated by Zoom before meeting IRL. Cheri got one of her chef friends to make a multi-course meal for the date at her house and hired a violinist to set the mood.

  • And one of their first dinner outings was at Booker’s.
  • A mutual friend of Cheri and Tedla helped broker the deal after months of negotiations.

The appeal: The Syphaxes fell for the Southern comfort fare and jazzy vibes, reminiscent of the Harlem restaurant Red Rooster, Tracey tells Axios.

  • They were also hooked by the restaurant's homage to Booker Wright, a Black waiter who spoke openly about the racism that he experienced working at a whites-only restaurant and was murdered in 1973.

What we’re watching: The new owners — who split time between Trenton and Philly — plan to keep the menu staples that have defined Booker’s, but will add new items as specials, such as jambalaya-stuffed cornbread. They’ll also make cosmetic upgrades to the restaurant.

What they’re saying: “We want folks to come in and stay awhile. Not a long time," Tracey jokes, "but at least feel at home for that hour and a half that they’re there.”

🧠 Be smart: Tedla, who also previously owned Aksum Cafe in West Philly, sold Booker’s to have more flexibility and time with her family, per the Inquirer.


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