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Somali restaurateur blends African, American flavors in new Northland spot

Abdirahman “Abcos” Ahmed and his wife, Sagal Aden, have opened Afra Grill on Morse Road, bringing “African inspired, American made” food to the Northland area.

Abdirahman “Abcos” Ahmed and his wife, Sagal Aden, have opened Afra Grill on Morse Road, bringing “African inspired, American made” food to the Northland area.

Abdirahman “Abcos” Ahmed was in a situation that any restaurateur might fear: He had a wedding of 350 people coming in that afternoon and his head chef didn’t show up for work.

So he donned an apron and began to cook, finishing on time and making dishes that the wedding party enjoyed so much, he said, they are customers to this day.

The Somali native and longtime Minnesota resident has brought his brand of “African inspired, American made” cooking to Columbus with Afra Grill, which opened Monday at 1635 Morse Road in the Northland area.

Afra Grill follows a familiar ordering platform: Build your own meal from rice, mulawah (a type of bread), salad, protein or vegetables, hot and cold toppings and a sauce, costing $8.50 to $12.50.

“All of the ingredients we use are health-oriented,” said Sagal Aden, Ahmed’s wife who will join him most days at the restaurant.

A la carte sides include sambusa, a pastry triangle filled with savory ingredients, fries and goat soup. There are hot and cold beverages, desserts and smoothies.

The route to Columbus started in Minneapolis, where Ahmed founded Safari Restaurant and Event Center in 2010, with the country still trying to emerge from the Great Recession.

“The timing wasn’t good,” he said. “It was a good time to learn and not a good time to start.”

When Ahmed, a former management analyst for the state of Minnesota, decided to open the restaurant, he hired others to cook for him. After the chef’s no-show in 2012, he made the kitchen his home.

“That’s the day I decided to cook,” he said.

Though he owns Safari to this day, Ahmed moved to Columbus 2½ years ago and started a transportation company but didn’t enjoy it. Columbus is where he met his future wife, Aden, who is a nurse practitioner, which has come in handy as the restaurant opens during the COVID-19 crisis.

She said she will check customers’ temperature and direct them to the proper health agencies for help if they appear to be infected.

But they will not go away empty-handed: Customers can still order a meal and have it brought to their car or be directed to the drive-up window, she said.

The restaurant, just east of Karl Road, has seating for 74 inside, and will abide by state rules regarding safe social distancing, Ahmed said. A private dining area seats 10.

The interior is a mix of canary yellow, black and faux marble paneling. Posters pay homage to America’s founding fathers, the U.S. Constitution, historic cultural figures and women’s rights, said Ahmed, who, as an immigrant, promotes multiculturalism with his food and message.

“This is for everyone,” he said.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, call 614-591-3816.

Nailed it

When Ohio restaurants were closed, save for carryout and delivery, local chain Old Bag of Nails Pub began offering a $10 basket of fish and chips the store’s specialty as a way to keep customers ordering during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Now that restaurants have reopened on a limited basis, the 11 central Ohio Old Bag of Nails will continue to offer the special as a way to thank guests for their patronage, owner Mike Purdum said.

“I’m just happy to be open,” Purdum said. “We may run it until the end of the year.”

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