Essentials: Chicken Fantastic, Afro Deli, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
Somalia meets Italy meets the Upper Midwest
The largest Somalian population in the U.S. is making its mark on the Twin Cities food scene at restaurants like the Afro Deli, which has four locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The fast-casual halal spot serves sandwiches, sambusas, tea, and, among other entrees, a signature dish: Chicken Fantastic. The traditional Somalian preparation shows the influence of the Italian colonists who occupied the country between the late 1800s and World War II. It’s a creamy East African fricassee of chicken, bell peppers, carrots, and zucchini, ladled over a bed of Somali-style rice and finished with a shower of Parmesan. —Amy Cavanaugh
Amy Cavanaugh is the dining editor at Chicago magazine. A native New Englander, she’s lived in Chicago for a decade and loves venturing around the Midwest to eat and drink. Follow along on Instagram @AmyCavanaugh.
Previously in Midwesterner…
For centuries, the Midwest has absorbed and adapted immigrant food traditions—from Cincinnati’s German-American goetta to Kansas City’s take on Southern barbecue to Chicken Fantastic in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Here are a few stories about more recent additions to Midwestern menus.
“The Myth of Midwest Bland,” by Rosamund Lannin
First, the Midwest is not as lily-white as the movie Fargo. That’s important to note, because regional stereotypes often rest on the assumption of a broad, bland suburban whiteness that demands dairy and unadorned carbs. It’s more like the TV show Fargo, populated by people whose ancestors hailed from West Africa and Laos as well as Sweden and Germany.
“Putting Down Roots,” by Stacy Brooks
How Hmong-American farmers are revitalizing farmers' markets in the Twin Cities
“How Columbus Became One of the Midwest’s Most Interesting Food Cities,” by Nicholas Gill
Over time, waves of immigrants from south Asia, east Africa, and Latin America quietly opened restaurants, grocery stores, and bakeries in faded strip malls and abandoned fast food restaurants, far from the trendy, high-rent city center and luxury shopping districts, breathing new life into sleepy parts of Columbus.