Restaurant review: Habib CuisineIndian food has had a presence in Fargo for years, and the fans of Indian food know the menus pretty well. East Asian food has become quite popular and, dare I say, common in Fargo. Quite a few of us have the lingo down well enough to experiment. Mexican doesn’t even qualify as exotic anymore. But Africa is another matter. Where do you start?
By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM
How does one start talking about African food on the high plains of America’s Midwest?
Indian food has had a presence in Fargo for years, and the fans of Indian food know the menus pretty well. East Asian food has become quite popular and, dare I say, common in Fargo. Quite a few of us have the lingo down well enough to experiment. Mexican doesn’t even qualify as exotic anymore. But Africa is another matter. Where do you start?
Habib starts in the horn of Africa and, thankfully, seems aware of how very confusing and entirely new this kind of food can be for Midwestern diners. They make their menu easy to order from and a full meal experience is so inexpensive – less than $10 for a compete dinner – that you can consider it tuition for an evening of culinary education to one of the most interesting cuisines on the planet.
Each full meal comes with soup and a drink. The soup is a good place to start your education. It’s a basic, slightly thick vegetable broth made in-house. Fresh flavors and a bit of a bite ensure you’re not in North Dakota anymore.
The rest of the meal includes enough food to split the $8.99 entree into dinner for the evening and a lunch time conversation starter at work the next day.
Entrees include chicken – legs or white meat – and my favorite, a braised goat served in pieces on the bone. It’s very like a pot roast in bite-sized chunks or a stew without the liquid. The meal is served with two dipping sauces, one made up largely of jalapenos and another that is paprika-based. Both add some heat.
The basic entrée menu is a good introduction and the generally mild seasoning makes it palatable. But to get a taste of Africa, it’s best to order the side dishes, especially the breads.
Muufo is a Somali bread very like a baked bun. Chapatis, from Kenya, is a common flatbread that makes its way across the Middle East to India – a curry-like bean stew, not on the menu, is worth asking for as a dipping sauce for chapatis. Injera is a kind of slightly sour pancake that takes you to Ethiopia. All of the meals at Habib can be served with any of these breads.
The quality at Habib is a little uneven at times.
White meat chicken and goat seem consistently good. The breads require care and are easily overdone, but they are still your best choice over the basmati.
The mango and watermelon juices sound interesting but are just a little too much like Kool-Aid. Try the very sweet tea made with a combination of spices that adds an exotic aroma to the table. You can add an appetizer for a dollar and anything on the menu is worth the addition. The sambusa, ground beef in a fried pocket, is a good choice.
And because it’s a family-run business, service depends on who’s at your table. Be sure to ask if you have questions, and someone very capable will happily walk you through what’s available.
The restaurant has little in the way of atmosphere and the space is a little rough around the edges, but the warm welcome makes up for all.
It seems a bit dismissive to say that, at under $10, there’s no reason not to try Habib, but it really applies in this instance. Some consider experiencing a brand new kind of cuisine as inherently risky, but that isn’t the case at Habib. If you are familiar with the food, you’ll be happy. If it’s all new to you, you’ll be better informed for the experience.
Restaurant Review: Habib Cuisine
2225 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Food: 2 1/2 stars
Service: 3 stars
Ambiance: 1 star
- Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday
- Phone: (701) 365-0796
- Reservations accepted: No
- Alcohol: No
- Dress: As you like
- Credit cards accepted: Visa, Discover, Mastercard
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.