Tupac-themed Powamekka Cafe opens for one night only on Fulton Mall

Tupac Shakur illustration.
Tupac Shakur illustration. The Fresno Bee

In truth, Sam Hansen was always more of an East Coast rap guy.

But as an avid follower of hip-hop, especially the hip-hop of his youth in the Bay Area in the 1990s, there was no denying Tupac Shakur.

“There was no way around Tupac, his influence, his impact,” says Hansen, the Fresno Grizzlies marketing ninja and the guy behind Powamekka Cafe, a one-night only, pop-up restaurant that will open at 7 p.m. Tuesday inside Take 3 Burgers. It will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Shakur’s death. The rapper died from a gunshot wound on Sept. 13, 1996.

The cafe is a collaboration between Hansen and Desirae Washington-Reed, who owns Take 3 with her father, Brian Washington. The concept is based on a restaurant Shakur was planning to open in Los Angeles before his death. So, branding and menu come directly from Shakur himself, taken from sketches Hansen first saw in the early 2000s in the book “Tupac Shakur Legacy.” Hansen was doing design work for several rappers at the time (including Kanye West in his “College Dropout” days) and remembers thinking it would have been cool to have worked with Shakur.

Powamekka Cafe is his chance.

“The elements he left in those sketches, you can see what he was going for,” Hansen says.

It is clearly visible in the cafe’s name and branding.

“A lot of people forget that he was profoundly poetic and had a deep connection to those Afro-centric elements,” he says.

Pop-up dining has become something of a trend recently, though most of the culinary one-offs – Fresno’s Underground Supper Series, for example – tend toward eclectic locations like the Forestiere Underground Gardens and can come with a steep price tag.

The menu at Powamekka Cafe incorporates Shakur’s ideas, while staying true to what Take 3 does daily, Washington-Reed says.

He had a very diverse view of the world.

Sam Hansen, on the legacy of rapper Tupac Shakur

There will be a California Love Chicken Sandwich (obviously), Hennessey Apple Butter chicken wings and a Mac-and-Cheese Burger. Each item is priced individually.

Then there are the Thug Passion cake pops – that’s champagne cake with Alize liqueur-flavored frosting – a nod to Shakur’s life in “gangster” rap.

“To have a Tupac tribute without that wouldn’t be right, either,” Hansen says.

There will also be a display of Tupac-themed art and local musicians doing covers.

This is actually the second time Hansen and Take 3 have teamed up for a hip-hop-themed, pop-up restaurant. In March, the restaurant hosted a tribute to New York rapper (and Shakur rival) Notorious B.I.G. The event was held on the rapper’s birthday and took inspiration for the song “Big Poppa.”

The restaurant opened at 5:46 a.m. and served the so-called biggie breakfast – a T-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s grape juice.

Given Shakur’s status and appeal, Powamekka Cafe has appeal to those outside of Fresno. It could have been done in any city, Washington-Reed says: “It’s cool that we’re doing it here.”

It’s indicative of the growth of “cool stuff” happening in the city and especially downtown. The tribute will expose Take 3 to patrons who might not come in otherwise, it also allows Washington-Reed to be part of the music and art scene in the area.

And she’s eager to do more. A Johnny Cash night would be really cool, she says: “The restaurant is kind of an outlet to me.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

Powamekka Cafe

A pop-up restaurant tribute to Tupac Shakur