Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Taste of Somalia

Weird people you meet in bars dept.: last night at Atkins Park I ended up seated next to stereotypical golf guy, a polo-shirted jackass who divided his time between screaming invective and advice at the television, broadcasting whatever big golf tournament is going on right now. He started talking to the room at large about how he was on the "Hooters Tour" in 1998, and lots of other too-loud stupidity about baseball and frat-guy topics. It was like being trapped in an elevator with Bill Simmons (except I could have left). When the tournament went off, he got flat-out weird, playing Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues" on the jukebox and singing along lustily to each line that involved killing the wife -- punctuating each by shouting "bitch!" Ladies, I get the feeling this guy might be single!

Atlanta is surrounded by tiny ill-defined communities, constantly overlapping so that I don't have any fixed idea where they are. Many of them are largely populated by immigrants -- Tucker and Clarkston, for instance -- places filled with strip malls, foreign restaurants and groceries, places where the signs and conversations are usually in a different language. Tom Tancredo would shit, but I think it's pretty cool.

Around here, the name "Stone Mountain" has a variety of associations -- good hiking, a monument to the Confederates, one of the Ku Klux Klan's favorite spots 90 years ago. But it's also a town, and it's one of those with a large immigrant population. I wonder what the white-sheeted luminaries would think to see it: Vietnamese-owned garages, churches with signs in Amharic, restaurants offering everything except hamburgers.

Among them -- a Somali joint. I never knew about it until an idle wander through the online listings the other night. The concept of Somali cuisine is foreign to me -- not sure why, as I scarf down the food of neighboring Ethiopia often enough. But I've just never thought of it. A Somali restaurant seemed as unlikely as a Chadian place.

So yesterday, I drove out. The restaurant (Madina -- for the locals, it's at 5291 Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain) is the first I've visited in years that doesn't serve booze. (well: they do have "beer" -- which is apparently the Somali term for goat liver. I passed.)

The menu was a blend of styles, befitting Somalia's place in the world: a touch of Ethiopian from the west, a touch of Indian from the east, a touch of Italian from the colonizers. I got habiib -- fried goat -- with a spiced rice dish. I'd never had goat, but my virgin experience (uh, that sounds wrong) was pretty good. Tender and well-spiced. I felt exotic as hell. The rice dish was fantastic, and came with a burn-your-face-off hot sauce that I'll have to try again. And I will make a return trip -- the menu's pretty interesting, and the very filling meal was less than $10.

So that's Somali food conquered. I eat Ethiopian food about once a month, and there's an Eritrean restaurant not far away, just waiting. Anyone know where I can get Djiboutian food? The taste treats of the Afars and Issas?

1 comment:

Brushback said...

Wow-- I laughed over an article about a Somalian restaurant.

Good effort.