Taleeh Restaurant (Twin Cities, MN)
Thirty thousand Somalis have come to live in the Minneapolis area in the past few years, so our hopes rose for some interesting restaurants serving Somali food. One such is Taleeh Restaurant. It's the exact experience we craved: new immigrants cooking food like back home in a nothing of a restaurant, for really cheap.
It's also the only restaurant we've ever eaten in that has separate dining rooms for men and women. When we walked in the first time, we caused a bit of consternation, but we were eventually seated in the women's dining room. (Bruce discreetly sat facing the wall so as not to unduly upset anyone.) During that visit there were quite a few customers, but no other mixed-gender groups. On a subsequent visit, when Bruce went with a male friend, a single mixed group ate in the women's dining room. It's a custom utterly unlike anything we are used to, but we've learned it goes a long way to be respectful and considerate of a foreign culture.
The restaurant has negative décor. It's a nondescript storefront with a fresh coat of paint, some tables and chairs scattered throughout, and a kitchen in the back. You enter through the men's side. The lights are bright, and the walls are bare. A painted sign on the window advertises gyros; we thought this was a relic from a previous owner until we saw gyros on the menu. Also a steak sandwich. Also carrot cake.
But ignore all of that and order the Somali entrees. It's all meat -- chicken, beef, lamb -- and very tasty. If you're familiar with Ethiopian food, you'll recognize many of the spices, and you'll notice that this food is presented with much less sauce.
The busteeki is thinly sliced dried beef, cooked with onions, green pepper, and a spicy sauce. Dried beef is a Somali staple -- a bit tougher than we are used to but nothing as bad as jerky -- and the preparation made it very tasty.
Taleeh restaurant might not be pretty, but where else can you have that good a meal for $8 -- including the tip -- with a little foreign culture thrown in for free?