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Sogal Café Brings Somali Flavors Back to Milwaukee

Nov. 28, 2012
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Milwaukee is no stranger to the food of Somalia. About a decade ago, Lula’s Café opened near the corner of Oakland and Locust, offering items from Somalia and nearby Eritrea. But Lula’s closed several years ago, leaving a bit of a void. About a year ago, another Somali restaurant opened: Sogal Café. A tiny place with just four tables and a small counter at the front window, Sogal has charm with Cream City brick walls and wooden floors. Order at the counter next to a display case stocked with sambusas, meat-filled turnovers much like their Indian cousins, samosas, but triangular in shape and with a thinner wrap. Your order will be brought directly to the table.

The sambusas ($1.49) are ideal starters from this small menu. They are filled with beef or tuna and with flavors of cilantro, cumin and onion—bold, but not excessively spicy. There is also a nice goat soup with sliced red and yellow bell peppers and a bit of onion. The broth has a greenish tint and is a bit tart; there is a bowl of rice on the side. Eating this takes a little effort, as the meat is still on the bone, but the results are worth it.

The entrees tend to be meaty, with ingredients and flavors that combine East Africa, India and Italy. Portions are on the smaller side, so the best option is to order one of the meats with rice or spaghetti, which arrives separately. For a charge of $9.89, you also get a small salad, a non-alcoholic beverage and a banana for dessert. The rice is Somali long grain basmati rice with a dazzling display of red and saffron hues. A few cardamom hulls are in the rice and fragrance of the spice is everywhere. The spaghetti has a sauce of tomato, onion and bell peppers, much like a Louisiana Creole.

One meat option is the Somali beef steak, which consists of thin slices cooked with red bell peppers and onion accompanied with a wedge of lemon. Their fried chicken is another option. It has a thin spicy batter and arrives at near room temperature. And then there is a beef stew with white potato, peas, carrot and tomato in a gently seasoned sauce. If made with lamb, it could pass for Irish stew. It is served with polenta cakes, another gift from Italy.

It will take only a few visits to sample the entire menu. No alcohol is served, but there are several coffee drinks, Somali tea, and soft drinks. The café is open for breakfast. With modest prices and a charming setting, Sogal Café is a welcome addition in a city that could use more African restaurants of this quality.

Sogal Café
1835 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.
(414) 231-9727
Not Handicap Accessible




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