In 1991, civil war erupted in Somalia. Mohamed Abubaukar, 40, was 18 years old at the time and knew he needed to get out of his homeland as quickly as possible. “Once my family and I [had] the opportunity to leave the country, we did.”
Since coming to the United States, Abubaukar and his sister, Shams Nur, 38, opened a grocery store on 10th and Mitchell streets, Amana Halal Meat Garden of Eden, but wanted to do more. “My sister kept pestering me about starting up a restaurant and eventually I gave in,” Abubaukar said. “I’m glad I listened to her,” he joked.
African Garden, 1428 W. Lincoln Ave., opened on Jan. 1 and is starting to develop a following, according to Abubaukar.
“We opened this restaurant because there was only one Somali restaurant in the area and we felt like there needed to be another place for people to come, hang out and eat,” he said. “So far, we’ve had a lot of people stop into the restaurant and I expect there to be more.” The restaurant offers a variety of different foods; among the items on the menu are rice, pasta, chapatti and samosa.
Abubaukar’s sister praised him for his hard work on the business. “(Mohamed) does so much that goes without notice, but I am grateful for him,” she said. Nur was inspired to help create a restaurant from watching cooks such as Ranveer Brar, a chef and TV show host. “I’ve loved cooking my whole life and I’ve always enjoyed watching others cook,” she said. “Brar was a [role] model of mine and he is part of the reason why I am in this position today.”
Ahmed Raghe, 58, is a regular customer. “The food is great and the Somali community has come together since its opening,” he said. He added, “It’s nice that Moe and his sister were able to put together a place where we can all feel at home.”
When Abubaukar opened his restaurant, he said he felt a sense of pride but also some sadness. “As a kid, my dad died when I was two and then my mother died when I was nine,” he said. “My uncle and brother raised me and I credit them for becoming the man I am today; I just wish my parents were here to see what I have become and created.”
Abubaukar still remembers the first day he stepped foot in the U.S. “It was a great moment for me; going from my country of Somalia to here is like two completely different worlds,” he said. “I will always be grateful that I have the opportunity to live here and fulfill my dreams, but, eventually, I want to go back to where I came from and see what it’s like now.”