Afro Deli on the West bank
The Afro Deli on Riverside is so cheap and so delicious that I considered not writing about it. Sometimes when you let everyone in on a secret, it gets spoiled. But I’m going to risk it. Mainly because plenty people know about it already and it’s just a matter of time before the line from the counter to the door is a line out the door. The West Bank has been a cultural crossroads since long before I was an undergrad student at Augsburg in the late ‘80s- and thankfully it doesn’t seem to have changed. When I was there a few days ago, the line cooks gaily bantered with each other in their native Spanish, the Somali proprietor was running around with an indelible smile, and the cute effeminate young white man working the register detailed the menu with knowledge and enthusiasm. The vibe at Afro Deli feels like a place in DC or Toronto- someplace with an arguably more sophisticated multicultural history than Minneapolis. There is a happy buzz in the small brightly lit space. (Take note: there is another whole dining room in the back hallway next to the bathroom if you can’t find a place to sit in front.) On this trip, I got an order of veggie sambusa, (the East African version of Indian samosas- small triangular savory pastries,) and an order of keke. Keke is like an African version of chilaquiles. Chapati is cut into strips and cooked in a red sauce comes out a bit like a noodle dish- as good way to revive old bread (a cursory Google search revealed nothing of its history.) I ordered the veggie version with peppers, onions, and zucchini. However, if you’re not a veg, beef would perfectly compliment the rich spices. The chapati soaked the savory red sauce into a warm, earthy, perfect for cold weather meal. I’m a big eater and took half home. The highlight of the meal was the veggie sambusa. Light savory pastry filled with spiced lentils and served freshly hot with a spicy green sauce. At $1.45 for an order of two it is, without question, the very best food deal in the city of Minneapolis right now. And I would love someone to prove me wrong because I cannot even imagine….Were I a U of M student looking for a social research project, I would be inclined to find a perch near the window and enumerate the percentage of smiles on patrons. When you bring people together around good food in a welcoming space without financial stress, conviviality ensues. Everything on the menu is made to order and so you will wait 15 minutes or so for your food. Use those minutes to engage with students and immigrants full of ideas, enthusiasm and worldly sophistication. You will be hard pressed to spend over $10 on a delicious feast and leave without a smile.