Over recent weeks Beth and I have being trying new restaurants, especially looking to support black-owned eateries, and our interest was piqued about the new fast casual Somali Afra Grill on Morse Road. We were enticed after seeing Columbus Food Adventures‘ recent Trust Fall dinner and by Columbus Alive‘s review of the place.
Afra Grill sits in a new strip mall along Morse Road, a little ways east of the highway and close to the Kroger. “African Inspired | American Made,” says the sign.
The interior is bright and squeaky clean, with yellow hues and marbled countertops throughout.
If you’re comfortable dining in, you’ll find plenty of spaces for social distancing, although the food lends itself easily to carryout, too.
Afra Grill is built on the fast casual model: building your bowls from the base, proteins, hot and cold toppings, and sauces. If you’re not familiar with Somali fare, I’d certainly recommend asking for suggestions at the counter. Everyone is incredibly friendly and engaging there. And to put it shortly, the food is wonderfully delicious: rich, spicy, crave-able in the way that had me planning a second visit before I had even finished my meal.
We built two bowls, one on the bariis rice and one on the crepes. The crepes were well done, but on the sweeter side, and I found myself craving savory.
For proteins, we enjoyed the chicken suqaar and habo steak – both excellent. We read in Alive about the suugo and veggie mix, and I second that recommendation. We also added plantains, kachamburi (fresh salsa), corn, and adriyad (thin, sweet noodles). They suggested a side of the slightly fiery red sauce.
I’d also recommend a sambuus or two (little fried triangles filled with potatoes and spices) and an iced Afra tea (like a zesty chai).
The food was terrific, but the really remarkable thing about Afra Grill is the decor and the message of the place. The walls are covered with documents, posters, and quotes from Founding Fathers and important figures in American history – Rosa Parks, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and maybe something from The Lion King – plus recreations of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence.
On one wall is a quote from the owner, Abcos Ahmed, about the hope and promise of our country and community that brought me to tears. From what I gather, Mr. Ahmed is a recent immigrant to the U.S. and it had me wondering, how many of us could pass the citizenship test if we had to take it right now? How many of us demonstrate and feel that genuine love for our country and what it truly represents?
I know I take for granted, on a daily basis, the rights that we enjoy here. It’s a healthy reminder from Mr. Ahmed and the team about our duty to be good citizens, to support the promise of the American Dream for ALL who live here, and to show inclusion and love to everyone we encounter: our family, our neighbors, your server at a restaurant, the person ringing up your groceries, the person delivering your food, the person teaching your kids, everyone.
So our visit to Afra Grill was certainly about the delicious Somali fare we tasted, but it was about something so much more than just food. I loved it for the needed reminder about our community and country, and the role we all play as part of something bigger than ourselves.