After shuttering its West Bank doors more than three months ago, Afro Deli debuted its new Stadium Village location Monday, serving long lines and garnering praise from University of Minnesota students.
After tensions with the African Development Center — the deli’s former building owner — Afro Deli owner Abdirahman Kahin said he is excited to open up the new location, a former Dairy Queen storefront, and return to business as usual.
“We hit a homerun”, said Kahin. “We are delighted to be a part of the East Bank community.”
Even though Stadium Village is saturated with restaurants, Kahin said that he and his colleagues aren’t worried about the competition.
“Competition is there because there are more restaurants than on the West Bank, but there are more people than on West Bank, too. We like competition, it keeps us on our feet and we don’t take anything for granted,” said Kahin.
The new Stadium Village Afro Deli is bigger than the old location, at 2,000 square feet, compared to 800 at the former restaurant.
On opening day, the extra space was welcome as the line to check out was wrapping around the entirety of the restaurant’s interior. Both loyal customers and first-timers came to celebrate the grand opening of the eatery.
University of Minnesota students Camden Coble and Martin Rose said they came to Afro Deli for its unique African food. “It’s delicious,” Coble said.
“The food is great and I really like the fusion-type dishes they have, along with a combination of others,” said a relatively-new fan of the restaurant, graduate student David Goldfeld.
Long-time Afro Deli devotee, computer science student Alex Arnold said that he is excited for the new location.
“It’s a meal people can’t get anywhere else. And it’s so uniquely Minneapolis that one would be hard-pressed to find something similar,” Arnold said
The Somali steak sandwich — a sandwich with peppers and East African spices — was a popular choice. And the first 500 customers were given a free sambusa of their choice.
The idea for the original restaurant came from a simple observation, said Kahin.
“I saw the demand for African food. There were a lot of African Somalian restaurants but they never opened to the mainstream … so I said why not make African food available like this for everyone.”
Aside from the restaurant’s popularity and success, the expansion was made possible by a loan given to Afro Deli by the City of Minneapolis, Kahin said.
With preliminary plans to continue expansion into North Minneapolis and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, the local franchise doesn’t plan on stopping its growth.
“Right now we’re just talking, but we’ll see,” said Kahin.