At the intersection of multiple cultures and two college campuses, a deli aiming to integrate the differences had its grand opening Saturday.
Afro Deli & Coffee, located on the outskirts of the West Bank on Riverside Avenue, is the African Development Center âÄôs latest project and is an attempt to mix the African, Somali, University of Minnesota, Augsburg College and Fairview Hospital cultures.
The deli offers a wide range of menu items ranging from Somali steak to Caesar salad, and grilled veggie sandwiches to sambosas âÄî a meat-filled pastry.
âÄúWeâÄôre very proud of the deli,âÄù ADC Executive Director Hussein Samatar said. âÄúItâÄôs a social venture for us.âÄù
The African Development Center works with African immigrants and refugees who have recently come to Minnesota. The center helps new residents start businesses, buy homes and manage their finances.
âÄúWe feel [the restaurant] adds flavor to the studentsâÄô [routines],âÄù Samatar said, citing that the deliâÄôs prices and atmosphere are student-friendly. âÄúAnd weâÄôre called Afro Deli. I mean come on. It has to be good,âÄù he said.
Abdirahman Kahine, the restaurantâÄôs manager, said he believes he made the right decision in joining the team.
Kahine spent almost a year researching the surrounding areaâÄôs restaurants and planning the deliâÄôs menu based on what the neighborhood needed.
âÄúIt was a long process but it was a good process,âÄù Kahine said. âÄúIâÄôm very delighted to see students from Augsburg and the University of Minnesota enjoying the food.âÄù
Kahine said it has been rewarding to see the diverse customers, as some people can be apprehensive about trying new things.
âÄúYou get a wide variety of people coming through so itâÄôs interesting,âÄù deli employee Ryan Kellogg said.
As a global studies senior at the University, Kellogg said it can be enjoyable interacting with people with âÄúdifferent backgrounds and ways of communicating.âÄù Kellogg said he was familiar with diverse crowds thanks to his previous work with Kahine at Casablanca restaurant in Prospect Park. Kahine owned the restaurant until 2009, and many of the employees who worked at Casablanca now work at Afro Deli.
While Kellogg said he wasnâÄôt sure if he had been directly applying his global studies knowledge, he recognized that a lot of his courses emphasized cultural awareness.
âÄúIâÄôm taking Arabic courses as well,âÄù Kellogg said, noting that some of the customers know a little too. âÄúSo it comes in handy.âÄù