Maandeeq East African Cafe
In contrast to Sudan Cafe, this Aurora hangout for the Somali community definitely looks like something: the Chinese restaurant it used to be, albeit with pool tables in back for the regulars. There’s a paper menu taped to the host’s counter in front, another hung as a banner behind it, and a third printed and bound for the asking - but none of them exactly match, and though the dish descriptions are in English, they won’t help much, e.g. “any kind of fish with rice or pasta,” “firdis sports.” Better just to point at whatever looks good on another customer’s table.
That may very well involve spaghetti, a staple in Somalia as a former Italian colony; it will often include a whole banana, which accompanies virtually every Somali meal. And then there’s ugaali, a cornmeal porridge whose consistency can vary across East Africa, but here is almost rice-cakey, bathed in a slightly sour, peppery broth and topped with sauteed spinach, cabbage and squash.
Order it with a side of goat, and you’ll get a whole meal’s worth of tender, bone-in chunks as well as two soups: one based on spicy goat broth with rice and carrots, the other a little thicker with chicken and greens. If by some digestive fluke you’re still peckish after all that, head next door to the bare-bones Ifka Cafe for some sambusas (better known stateside as Indian samosas): triangular pastries with a savory, coriander-scented ground-beef filling.
1535 S. Havana St.; 303-745-2355