Category Archives: Somali

Ginevra Cafe

mediterranean restaurants columbus Somali

2285 Morse Road
614.475.4880

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At the end of last year we wrote “In the short time it has been open, Ginevra has had an interesting evolution. It started as a Somali coffee shop offering coffee, tea, snacks and desserts but has recently expanded to offer a full lunch and dinner menu. Rather than providing a strictly Somali menu, they opted for mix of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Somali dishes”.  At that time the kitchen was being run by Mo, the nephew of one of Columbus’ well known Middle Eastern chefs – Nasir of Lavash (and formerly of Firdous).

Now Ginevra has transitioned again and they are serving a more Somali focused menu. Based on our recent visit and reports from Somali friends this change is proving very popular with their customers. On the night we visited the restaurant was almost full with large groups of Somali men animatedly discussing politics and soccer.

The menu is small with six entrees and four sandwiches. Entree options are lamb shank, beef or chicken steak, beef or chicken suqaar or fish steak. Each can be served with either rice or pasta. We would recommend the rice. The pasta was linguine in what tasted like jar-sauce.

somali restaurants columbus

The lamb shank was tender and was served with sauteed onions and a mountain of Somali rice and salad. Optional hot sauce is available. We also tried the chicken steak, suqaar and the fish steak. All were well cooked and seasoned.

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As is common in Somali restaurants each entree is preceded by a complimentary bowl of soup. This is usually a mildly spiced meat based broth with vegetables. The soup at Ginevra was very good.

ginevra cafe columbus

I don’t think a visit to Ginevra would be complete without the Somali chai which has a wonderful mix of ginger and cardamon. Our tea came in a teapot to share. I would also recommend the Ginevra special juice, an intriguing mix of dates and milk but quite delicious.

somali tea shop

Service is friendly and Ginevra also has free wifi. Somali desserts and snacks (such as Sambusa) are available from the counter.

Kulan

somali restaurants columbus

CLOSED (as of Sept 2013)

Cuisine: Somali

727 Georgesville Rd, Columbus, OH 43228
(614) 308-7950

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Most of Columbus’ Somali restaurants are found in the NE section of town – in particular around the Morse Road/Cleveland Avenue area – but there are also a small cluster of Somali restaurants on the West side. One of these is Kulan, situated next to Super Torta restaurant. It’s a small restaurant with a spare but clean dining room, and is worth a visit if you are looking for Somali food on the West side.

somali restaurants west side columbus

As with many Somali restaurants there are strong Ethiopian influences. We tried the Sporty dish (Ethiopian) with canjeero (anjera). It was not quite as described on the menu but came with Ethiopian style spicy beef and a bowl of mild yellow dal. $18 perhaps seemed a little steep for this meal, but it was part of a 5-person feast in which we all ended up paying $10 per person and had plenty of food as well as Somali tea and bottled water and the obligatory bananas.

kulan restaurant

The roasted goat was fine, but not up to the level of Solay‘s. The chicken suqaar (chicken stew with small cubes of chicken) was very good. Our suqaar came with a side of the more-or-less typical Somali rice (long grain cooked with some fragrant spices and served with a few sauteed vegetables).

somali food columbus ohio

We also tried and enjoyed the fool (pinto beans cooked with tomato, onion, peppers and spices) which is most commonly eaten as a breakfast dish.

somali food in ohio

Somali Famine Fundraiser Dinners

Thanks to your support, the dinners that we organized in September to raise money for the famine in the Horn of Africa were very successful. We were able to send $2400 to the American Refugee Committee who are working on the ground in Somalia, we also introduced some new people to Somali food, connected with the Somali community and had wonderful feedback on Nadira’s delicious cooking.

fundraiser for somali famine

Sadly the famine continues to claim the lives of innocent children and we wanted to do more to support the victims of the famine. At this time of Thanksgiving when we give thanks for the food on our plates, please consider making a donation to the American Refugee Committee or attending one of our upcoming fundraiser dinners. The ARC are working very hard to improve conditions in the refugee camps and our assistance can help them to make a difference.

Here is a recent update on conditions from the ARC program director in Somalia:

“Fleeing for their life, many of the families have trekked for days before reaching Mogadishu. They left behind almost all of their household effects. They arrived in waves, populating spontaneously created internally displaced person (IDP) settlements within the city. They hardly come with containers to collect and store water, utensils to cook food, or spare clothes to replace the ones they’ve been wearing for days and weeks. Most of the temporary settlements still lack sanitary facilities. The IDPs who ended up in urban settings faced serious problems in finding proper open space to relieve themselves – in fact, women have to wait until sunset to venture out of the squalid settlements to answer nature’s call. Owing to shortage of water and the absence of latrines, many people are unable to bathe for extended periods of time.”

“After four months of sustained relief assistance by the international community, the drought and famine continues to ravage southern Somalia – and Mogadishu. Currently, there are more than 300 IDP settlements scattered all over Mogadishu. The conditions of many of these are quite squalid, crowded and with poor hygiene. The conditions are more stabilized in the major camps such as Badbaado, Rajo, and Taribunka (where ARC is working). In the latter two, many households are still without shelter, water, sanitation and food.  Many of the smaller settlements are without shelter and are not benefiting from regular food and water distributions. There is a huge gap between the resources available and the needs prevailing on the ground.”

The dinners will be held at Solay Bistro on December 7th and 14th at 7pm. Tickets are available online and are priced at $35 per person. There will be plenty of dishes for vegetarians.

The buffet style dinner will (almost certainly) include the following:

- Slow-cooked Somali rotisserie chicken
– Roasted goat
– Sabaya bread (think chapati, but better!), and injera bread (a spongy Ethiopian bread, eaten with a special spicy injera sauce)
– Beef suqaar (similar to a mild chicken curry)
– Solay’s special cardamom rice
– A selection of vegetable dishes including curried chickpeas, lentils, and cabbage
– Fata Muus (a sweet mix of sabaya, honey, butter, and bananas)
– Somali Chai

We look forward to seeing you there, and look forward to sharing some of the best of Somali food in Columbus with you while supporting a great and urgent cause.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS

To learn more about Solay Bistro, see here (alt.eats), here (Columbus Alive review), or here (Urbanspoon reviews). Believe them, it’s that good!

 

Horn of Africa Benefit Dinner at Solay Bistro

best somali restaurant ohioWe’ve come to feel a strong sense of admiration for the large (as in second largest concentration in the US) Somali community in Columbus. Through our experiences with the always-smiling owners and patrons of Somali restaurants, as well as our discussions with documentary filmmaker Abdi Roble and friends, we’ve been amazed by the energy, good cheer, and entrepreneurial spirit found within.

Unfortunately, the extended families of many of these people are hurting. Due to the famine in the Horn of Africa, a staggering number of Somalis and people in bordering countries are unable to access even the most basic of food staples. Starvation is rampant.

During one of our Alt.Eats tours, we made an offhand comment to Solay Bistro’s owner, Nadira, about the desire to help. Vague plans about a benefit dinner were discussed. Later that evening, Nadira called us and excitedly told us she had discussed our idea with others in the community and received nothing but positive feedback. In fact, she had received commitments to purchase 40 tickets for the dinner. So, it’s ON!

best somali restaurant columbus ohio

Here are the particulars: We’re helping Nadira to now promote two fundraiser dinners, one on Sept. 7th, and the other on Sept. 14th. They’ll both be held at Solay Bistro, with a maximum of 80 people on each night. They’ll be buffet dinners featuring some of the best of Somali cuisine and some menu items new to Solay. Nadira will sell half of the tickets to the Somali community for each night, and we’ll be selling the other half to the city at large.

Tickets are $35/person, with proceeds going to the American Refugee Committee (one of the most highly regarded non-profits working in the Horn of Africa region). If you’d like to join us (and really, why wouldn’t you?) you can purchase tickets through Brown Paper Tickets.

We look forward to seeing you there, and look forwards to sharing some of the best of Somali food in Columbus with you while supporting a great and urgent cause.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS

To learn more about Solay Bistro, see here (alt.eats), here (Columbus Alive review), or here (Urbanspoon reviews). Believe ‘em, it’s that good!

Solay Bistro

Cuisine: Somali with Ethiopian and other influences

5786 Columbus Square (near intersection of SR 161/East Dublin-Granville Road Cleveland Avenue)
614.899.8800
Open: Monday-Thursday, 11am – 10pm, Friday 11am to 11pm, Saturday 9am to 11pm, Sunday 9am to 9pm
Breakfast from 9am to noon on Saturday and Sunday

Click here to map it!

(Reader warning: There is a long lead in to the meat of the story.)

The aim of alt eats is to make connections. We want to connect you with new cultures, cuisines, areas of the city, and ultimately, the people behind the counter and in the kitchen. The stories of the people that make the food are often as important as the food they create.

Food has a way of bringing people together. Taco Drew met CMH Gourmand at a beer tasting via Columbus Underground. CMH Gourmand met Hungry Woolf at a North Market cooking class. The three of us went on to join Slow Food Columbus. Then we created Taco Trucks Columbus which introduced us to more people and places we would not have met any other way. It seems each person we meet or tweet with or e-mail, adds to the melting pot of alt eats with a restaurant lead, suggestion or feedback. Adding more people to the alt eats team has helped us spice up the content as well.

Food continues to connect us with new people. We met Abdi Roble from the Somali Documentary Project at a Social Media Conference. This prompted us to ask him to share a meal with us to help us better understand and appreciate Somali food and culture. We met with Abdi and his wife Fatima as well as Ismail, another acquaintance from the Somali Documentary Project for a meal. Fatima suggested a last minute change of venue which led us to the newly opened Solay Bistro.

Continue reading

Sabrina’s Cuisine


Cuisine: Somali / Kenyan
4212 Westview Center Plaza (just off Georgesville Road)
614.272.5592
Hours 10am-9pm daily

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Most of the Somali restaurants in Columbus are clustered near Cleveland Avenue, but there are 3 or 4 outposts on the West side of town. One of these is Sabrina’s. Tucked away off Georgesville Road, it is a small cafe run by a Somali family who made their way to Columbus via Kenya. Sabrina’s has a limited menu and seems part restaurant, part coffee shop.

Most of the menu is made up of seven appetizers, and those available (four on the day we visited) are displayed in a heated display case. We started with a mandhaazi, which we were told was a Kenyan speciality (the only one on the menu). A mandhaazi (above, right) is similar to a donut – a triangular fried bread, not really sweetened, and best, I’m sure, when both fresh and served with tea or coffee.


Next were bajiya which the menu describes as ’round stylish bean mash, mixed with saffron recipes and deep fried’. It seems that these are commonly made with black eye peas, but I am not sure what the bean was in this case. We were not able to detect the saffron but it seemed to contain some red pepper. It was reminiscent of falafel, but drier and would have benefitted from some sort of dip or chutney.

The sambusa’s were easily our favorite appetizer – crispy fried shells filled with shredded chicken, onion, and garlic and well spiced. According to the menu fillings vary and fish and meat sambusas are also available. I was a little disappointed not to be able to try the najakho (boiled egg enveloped in mashed potato).

As with other Somali restaurants we have found that the menu only loosely reflects what is available. The menu lists three main dishes: steak sub, chicken sub and baked chicken with rice, but we were told that we could have meat, chicken or fish with rice. We opted for the chicken with rice which also came with a small iceberg lettuce side salad and a banana. The chicken was extremely moist and heavily seasoned with black pepper and cardamon. The rice was also cooked with cardamon. We were also given a small dish of a green chili chutney. I found this simple dish satisfying but not overly exciting.

Sabrina’s is a sound but limited Somali option for west siders. As is usual with Somali cuisine, vegetarian dishes are not well represented, although the bajiya and mandhaazi were meatless.

Bilan Cafe Restaurant

Cuisine: Somali
3949 Cleveland Avenue
614.337.2442

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“You open?”

A nod indicated that they were.  Couldn’t have guessed from either the exterior signage or the lack of lights on inside, though it was 12:30 and we’ve come to believe lunch is the ideal time to dine at Somali restaurants.

We seated ourselves in the basic but clean dining room and were served complimentary mango juice and bottled water. Inspecting the menu revealed a relatively modest assortment of the usual suspects… plus a few new to us.  We asked about some of the unfamiliar items.

“We don’t have that today.”

…which brings us to the default approach we’ve come to fall back on at Somali restaurants – just ask ‘whatcha cooking today?’. After a brief discussion with our server, we settled on goat with rice, KK, and their recommendation for a substitution on a chapatti-based menu item (we weren’t told the dish’s name).

The ‘dish with no name’ came out first – a nicely seasoned chicken dish with onions, green beans, sweetcorn and peas in a mild curry-like sauce. It came with chapatti strips (which we used to pinch morsels from the chicken dish), iceberg lettuce, and lemon wedges.  The chapatti was a bit on the tough side, but the chicken was roundly appreciated.

Next we tried the KK (chapatti strips cooked with chicken and vegetables).  This was more like Banadir’s (curry-esque) than Calanley’s (tomatoey), but less well received than either – just a bit too mild, and slightly on the gluey side.

The goat was good in varying degrees – from bite to bite,  it could be anywhere between ‘eh, not bad’, and ‘damn that’s a thing of beauty!’.    When it shined, it was a tender piece with plenty of the exceptional curry flavor.  The meat was bone-in, topped with sauteed onions and plated with a generous portion of a nice basmati rice.

As we went up to the register near the kitchen to pay, we looked back upon a much-changed dining room.  Lights were on, people were everywhere. It would appear as though their unofficial opening time was somewhere around 1:00pm.

Bilan’s service is friendly, if perhaps a bit slow.  As with most Somali restaurants, there appear to be few vegetarian-oriented dishes.

Note – chapati, jabati, chapatti… ?  Transliteration would appear to be an inexact art, especially when dealing with the less well established cuisines.  In this blog, all italicized words are copied straight from the menu of the restaurant being reviewed.