Riziki Swahili Grill Welcomes You to the Spice Islands

Riziki Yussuf’s North Side restaurant is a flavor oasis specializing in dishes from Zanzibar.

Beth Stallings
Riziki Yussuf at her Riziki Swahili Grill on Tamarack Circle.

Most 8-year-olds dream of a career piloting rocket ships or caring for animals. Not Riziki Yussuf. Growing up in Zanzibar, owning a restaurant was her one and only ambition. “When I was a kid, I just wanted a restaurant,” she says. “I loved cooking, loved people, loved entertaining. I just find pleasure that way.” 

But it was her own children (offering up piggy bank savings as capital) who gave her the final push to open Riziki Swahili Grill, the city’s only restaurant serving food inspired by the street food of the spice islands off Tanzania, in early 2018. 

Like me, you’ll likely want to send her kids a thank-you note. Especially after enjoying a meal of fragrant rice and curries, coconut-laden sides and smoky, yogurt-marinated kebabs (many available as a meal or side) in the tiny Northland restaurant with citrus yellow and ocean blue walls. 

“Very flavorful” is how Yussuf describes her food, but that doesn’t do it justice. Dishes are so aromatic they practically float on air. Basmati rice in the chicken pilau ($12.99) is heady with cinnamon and cardamom. And the chicken is succulent with tomato, ginger and a long, lingering cumin finish. Even a dish as seemingly humble as the zege platter ($12.99)—a pancake-size egg omelet filled with french fries—springs to life with a topping of kachumbari, a refreshing quick-pickled cabbage. 

The star of the ugali meal ($12.99) is its namesake, a mound of savory and hearty masa porridge that soaks up everything in its wake like a sponge. I recommend pairing it with the garlic-and-ginger hearty beef curry and perfectly bitter and bright sukuma wiki (braised kale) with tomatoes and onions. 

It’s worth making a special trip here on Sundays for the Sunday Fun Day ($12.99). More commonly known as Zanzibar mix or urojo soup, this feeds-two offering is based on a street vendor favorite of floury potato soup and toppings. Riziki’s version is turmeric-scented, lemony, slightly sour with tamarind and silky smooth. It’s the perfect carrier for garnishes meant to be tossed in at will—katlesi bhajia (potato dumplings I could eat like popcorn), flaky and herbaceous sambusa (also available as an appetizer, $2.50), crispy potato shavings, tender beef kebabs (mishkaki) and clear-your-sinuses hot sauce.

Chapati platter

If there is one non-negotiable order, it’s the chapati platter ($12.99). Yussuf spends hours each day working and shaping the chapati dough. And the effort shines: Her flatbread is flaky, leopard-spotted and decadent from a frying in ghee. Use it to scoop up red-hot chicken curry (with an undercurrent of cardamom) and creamy, coconut milk-stewed pinto beans. 

Yussuf’s pro tip: Order extra chapati ($2.25 as a side) and enjoy at home with a little honey and sugar.  

Riziki Swahili Grill 

1872 Tamarack Circle S, North Side, 614-547-7440