With a cover story focused on Ismail Mohamed and Somali politics, one of our food writers offers a guide to the culture’s cuisine
Columbus is home to the second-largest Somali population in the U.S., ranking behind Minneapolis-St. Paul. With the continually growing Somali presence in Central Ohio, more and more authentic Somali eateries are being established — particularly in the northeast quadrant of the city. This gives local residents myriad opportunities to experience the cuisine. Here are five highlights!
5788 Columbus Sq. North Side
“Hoyo” is Somali for “mother,” which indicates the kind of familial welcome you'll receive at Hoyo's Kitchen. The casual spot provides an easy introduction to Somali cooking. Start with hot, spiced tea and an order of triangle-shaped sambusas filled with meat and veggies, plus the bijaya – mashed and fried beans. The combo plates let you try a variety of meats and sides; Hoyo's is known particularly for its tender goat.
2263 Morse Rd., North Side
Like Hoyo's Kitchen, African Paradise offers a laid-back entry into Somali cuisine, with servers who are willing to help you explore the menu. Favorite choices here include flatbreads, house-made tea and the suqaar, a signature Somali dish that features a protein like chicken or beef, which is then diced and served in a light gravy. Most meals are served with rice and a spongy sour bread called anjera (or canjero), with which you scoop up bites of food.
2285 Morse Rd., North Side
Ginevra is located close to African Paradise; many eager diners have discovered one while seeking out the other. The casual Ginevra features sandwiches and platters of lamb, beef and chicken with rice, all served family style. Popular dishes include sambosas and lentil soup, and don't forget to order a sweet tea.
3764 Cleveland Ave., North Side
Darbo Restaurant provides another welcoming entry to Somali cooking. The eatery features modern decor and televisions tuned to sports. Dishes are served with pasta, curry rice or jabati, a grilled flatbread. Greatest hits include grilled goat cubes, chicken kalankal (diced chicken that's been marinated and grilled) and chicken ala-diabla (spicy grilled chicken legs).
1784 Huy Rd., North Side
Like Darbo, Hamdi Grill's premises are polished and modern, while the inexpensive menu offers dishes that should appeal to both long-time aficionados of Somali cuisine and newcomers. The goat is a hit here, whether roasted or served in curry stew. Other favorites include the kebobs and the chicken suqaar.