Abdilahi Hassan shakes hands with a contractor before getting back to unpacking boxes. It’s a busy time for the restauranteur, who’s leaping into the downtown Columbus food scene by opening Hoyo’s Kitchen inside North Market this week.
Five years ago, Hassan opened his first Hoyo’s location on Cleveland Avenue alongside his mother, who like many local Somali immigrants fled her home country’s civil war in the 1990s.
Despite Columbus boasting the nation's second-largest Somali population, plus large numbers of immigrants from other African countries, there’s never been an African stand inside North Market – until now.
“It’s a major honor and we’re truly humbled to be the first to do it,” Hassan says. “There’s immense pressure to make sure we do it right. So we plan on representing the continent the right way, hopefully.”
Hassan says many people have misconceptions about Somali food, which largely revolves around rice- and meat-based dishes. Hoyo’s features a fast-casual style, and its North Market shop will serve bowls and wraps featuring goat, chicken, beef, lentils and chickpeas. They’ll also sell sambusas, a stuffed and fried pastry that Hassan calls “the gateway drug” to Somali food.
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Aug 5, 2019 at 7:23am PDT
Part of the reason Somali food is still relatively unknown to many Americans, Hassan says, is most Somali restaurants cater to the local community.
“Only real foodies would know a Somali restaurant and would go and frequent it. As far as restaurants that are catered more toward Main Street, that hasn’t been done,” Hassan says. “But with time that will come, and the longer we’re here, the more people will be familiar with Somali food, and the more people will be interested in trying it and shake off the perceptions of what they think Somali food is.”
Hassan hopes to open the North Market location on Monday, but was still awaiting a final inspection.