Global Dining: Exploring Somali Fare in Columbus

Bethia Woolf
Liban Mohamud, owner of Durbo's Somali Restaurant, with a plate of KK Chicken.

[Editor’s Note: The following restaurants are currently closed to dine-in service; call ahead to check whether the restaurants are open for carryout or delivery.]

As the lines at its North Market stall suggest, Hoyo’s Kitchen has helped push Somali cuisine into the mainstream in Central Ohio. At the market, Hoyo’s serves up a neatly curated selection of Somali favorites—such as sambusas (similar to Indian samosas), suqaar (diced meats with vegetables) and delicious hilib ari (braised goat)—that have proved popular beyond Hoyo’s owners Abdilahi and Mohamed Hassan’s most optimistic projections. 

Though Hoyo’s North Market location (as well as its original Columbus Square restaurant) provides an excellent introduction to Somali food, no single purveyor can capture the full range of dishes that the more than 20 Somali restaurants in Central Ohio offer. For those who may wish to explore the variety found in this richly unique cuisine, here are some suggestions:

For Beginners

While African Paradise is believed to be the first Somali restaurant in Columbus, Durbo’s Somali Restaurant, located at 3764 Cleveland Ave. just north of Cooke Road, is a good spot for newcomers to the cuisine. Open since 2003, Durbo’s menu shares many similarities with Hoyo’s but also offers an exceptional rendition of a common Somali dish known as KK. The dish is composed of pieces of sabaayad flatbread (aka kimis) and your choice of diced chicken, beef or goat (known as kalankal), all tossed with onion in a savory tomato sauce. Durbo’s version of this Somali classic makes for a mildly spiced, thoroughly enjoyable and generously portioned meal. 

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For the Adventurous

Though camel meat is commonly consumed in Somalia, it’s a protein that’s harder to find stateside. Even so, several local Somali restaurants serve it, with multiple recommendations pointing towards Ethiopian & Somalian Restaurant at 4191 Cleveland Ave., just south of Morse Road. There you’ll find camel meat offered either boiled or roasted, the latter recommended for first-timers. Served with aromatic basmati rice, the roasted camel proves surprisingly tender with a pleasant flavor that is almost as mild as beef. 

For Fans of Cross-Cultural Collabs

The Mix Charcoal Chicken, open since November at 4362 Karl Road, is an improbable culinary mashup born from friendship and the rediscovery of a long-unused piece of restaurant equipment. After Farxaan Jeyte and his uncle coaxed Jeyte’s co-worker Alberto Denegri to cook chicken in a Peruvian rotisserie grill found stashed in Denegri’s garage, inspiration for the restaurant quickly followed. Based in a repurposed fast-food building on Columbus’ North Side, The Mix’s menu reflects both Denegri’s Peruvian heritage and Jeyte’s Somali background, allowing for surprisingly successful cross-cultural combinations such as top-notch beef sambusas with Peruvian aji verde sauce and pinto beans with fragrant, Somali-style basmati rice. Meat dishes are prepared on the rotisserie grill and make up the heart of the menu, which includes not only pollo a la brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken) but also grilled goat.