Did you know that Minneapolis is home to about 1/4 of all the Somalian people living in the United States?
Minnesota saw an influx of Somali immigration in the 1990s, at a time when many Somalis were fleeing their country’s civil war. Fast forward to today, and Minneapolis now has a thriving Somali population over 25,000 strong.
In fact, Minneapolis’s West Bank neighborhood is nicknamed “Little Mogadishu” and is considered the Somali Capital of the United States.
So, it stands to reason that our Twin Cities would also feature some of the country’s best Somali food. And it does!
In today’s article, we’re sharing the lowdown on all the best spots to grab a delicious taste of this culture’s unique cuisine.
- Map of the best Somali Food Restaurants in Minneapolis
- Karmel Mall (Minneapolis, MN)
- Quruxlow Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
- Afro Deli (Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN)
- Tawakal Restaurant (Burnsville, MN)
- Karibu Deli (St. Paul, MN)
- Baarakallah Restaraunt (Minneapolis, MN)
- Hamdi Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
- Safari Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
What is Somali Food?
As I set out to write this article (and gathered input from anyone who would listen) I was surprised how many of my fellow Minneapolitans had never tried the beauty that is Somalian food.
So, a quick rundown, in case you’re new to cuisine. (And for the record, if you are, let me just admit that I am somewhat jealous for the thrill of your first trip. You know, like how you always wish you could go back and rewatch your favorite movie for the first time…)
Somalis come from a historically nomadic culture, and this is reflected in the delicious melting pot of their food. Look closely, and you’ll notice East African, Arab, Persian, Indian, and even Italian influences in the cuisine.
Now I’m admittedly no expert, but the general commonalities include:
- Various flat breads like chapati and injera (or the unique Somali Anjero)
- Fried pastries similar to Indian samosas
- And all sorts of delicious and boldy-spiced rice dishes, curries, and meat platters. (Some of which throw some serious curveballs with Italian-like noodles, red sauce, and even Alfredo!)
There’s even an impressive amount of seafood, which might seem surprising until you brush up on your geography and remember that Somalia has a nearly 2,000 mile coastline – one of the largest in Africa.
Oh, and a lot of Somali restaurants will start your table with a fresh mango juice or special tea.
No doubt, the adventure of Somali food is a fun and delicious exploration!
Map of the best Somali Food Restaurants in Minneapolis
Karmel Mall (Minneapolis, MN)
If you’re looking for the true Somali experience, you’ve gotta get to Karmel Mall. This nondescript building in Minneapolis houses four stories of Somali shopping, including numerous vendors selling all sorts of authentic Somali cuisine. It’s too much to explain in one small blurb, but the best analogy would be Minneapolis’s answer to Hmong Village in St. Paul.
It’s truly one of the most authentic experiences anywhere. You’ll leave feeling like you’ve traveled half-way around the world, all in the backyard of our great city!
- Address: 2910 Pleasant Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
- Website: N/A
Quruxlow Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
Originally born in the Karmel Mall, “Qoraxlow” was probably the most popular Somali restaurant in the mall for years. Eventually, its popularity funded a move into a standalone facility on East Lake street. The new space’s interior is much fancier than its spartan roots at the mall, and they changed the spelling from -qora to -quru, but that’s where the changes end.
Now, “Quruxlow” continues to serve some of the most popular Somali food around, and it seems many Somalis in Minneapolis continue to agree that this spot has the most authentic Somali food experience in the city. Their rice dishes are legendary, as are any of their goat meals.
- Address: 1414 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
- Website: Quruxlow Restaurant
Afro Deli (Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN)
If Somali food is a melting pot, then Afro Deli is the perfect representation. This unique fast-casual spot calls itself a fusion of African, Mediterranean, and American food, and you can’t argue with the results. The mix is so popular that there’s now three different Afro Deli locations around the Twin Cities, each one with its own loyal following.
The most obvious Somali choice on the menu is the side of Somali rice, but they’re also serving delicious sambusas, curries, and maybe their most popular item – the “Chicken Fantastic” – a rice or couscous bowl filled with chicken, veggies, and sauce obviously inlfuenced by Alfredo.
- Address 1: 720 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
- Address 2: 5 W 7th Pl, St Paul, MN 55102
- Address 3: 705 S Marquette Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55402
- Website: Afro Deli
Tawakal Restaurant (Burnsville, MN)
If you’re looking for traditional Somali food, Tawakal out in the suburbs may be your best bet in the Twin Cities. All the meals here come with complimentary juice (usually Mango or Papaya) and a banana, which is intended to be eaten throughout the meal to balance the heat. Compared to some of the other Somali restaurants around, the menu here is limited, but they definitely do it all right. Special shout out to the Chicken Kay Kay – a saucy mix that’s hard to explain but oh-so worth it.
- Address: 12609 Nicollet Ave, Burnsville, MN 55337
- Website: Tawakal Restaurant
Karibu Deli (St. Paul, MN)
Karibu means “welcome” in Swahili (occasionally spoken in the southern part of Somalia) and is also the name of an African Deli & grocery store in East St. Paul. While the menu is definitely a fusion, as evidenced by burgers, wings, and even a Philly Cheesesteak on the menu, it’s also scattered with some awesome Somali dishes.
For starters, Somali fans can grab Somali Sambusas, and there’s a whole section of the menu titled “East African Specialties” which includes numerous top-notch Somali options. Don’t miss the Nomad Ari (a fantastic goat plate) or the traditional Somali Suqaar Bowl (cubed beef over rice). Their Chooza Chicken, which is spiced and roasted in a clay pot, is also fantastic.
You can find our full review of Karibu deli here.
- Address: 719 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130
- Website: Karibu
Baarakallah Restaraunt (Minneapolis, MN)
Located right next to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood known as “Little Mogadishu” for its heavy Somali population, Baarakallah has as good of a chance as any restaurant on this list for representing the Somali culture in Minneapolis.
Barakallah sits in a plain brown building with a low roof. The tiny window sign that simply states “Baarakallah” with an arrow pointing at the door doesn’t exactly give out any hints to the delicious menu inside, either. But live a little and walk on in, because that menu is filled with plenty of delicious takes on Somali classics. There’s the always popular Chicken KK, beef suqaar, and of course, plenty of spaghetti to go around!
- Address: 408 Cedar Ave #1, Minneapolis, MN 55454
- Website: N/A
Hamdi Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
This old brick building on Chicago Ave and Lake Street is a fantastic option to grab your Somali fix. The short (but great!) menu has everything you need for a true Somali experience, and it’s all done well. As a bonus for those interested, Hamdi is also a Halal restaurant.
- Address: 818 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
- Website: N/A
Safari Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
Safari Restaurant is owned and operated by Somali Chef Jamal Hashi, one of the original figures who worked diligently to introduce Minneapolis to Somali food. Unfortunately, Safari Restaurant and it’s delicious sister restaurant, Safari Express, both closed during the pandemic, with no word yet on their reopening. Fingers crossed, since this has long been one of the best Somali restaurants around.
- Address: 3010 4th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408
- Website: Safari Restaurant
Looking for more delicious African food in the Twin Cities? Don’t miss our guide to the city’s best Ethiopian restaurants.