Few new eateries embodied the spirit of Columbus in 2020 like Afra Grill on the city’s North Side. It’s a pandemic-practical operation that’s inexpensive, offers an easy online ordering system, a handy drive-thru window and a sparkling dining room with a starkly impactful design scheme.
Afra Grill also features a vivid and welcome spin on bowls, an entrée style that has gained intense local traction, partly because bowls are adaptable to myriad cuisines, allow patrons to customize their meals and often present healthful options.
As its name suggests, Afra Grill showcases African cuisines. Since that continent’s diaspora is well-represented in Columbus by the second-largest Somali community in the U.S., it’s not surprising that Afra Grill specializes in Somali fare, which shares characteristics with Indian, Mediterranean and Ethiopian food.
Recommended bowl foundations are bariis (Somali-style basmati rice) and spicy jollof rice (a West African staple). Other strong entrée components include Somali mulawah (substantial yet supple, semisweet crêpes), the veggie mix (a vinegar-spiked medley of greens, okra, green beans, cauliflower and carrots), sweet plantains, and Afra Grill’s must-have suugo, which is like a potato curry sauce.
To these flavor-packed elements, diners can add chicken suqqar, a spicy and tender, curry-style delight, or proteins rarely found around town such as camel and roasted goat.
Back to that dining room. It conspicuously rocks the yellow-and-black colors of the recently crowned MLS champion Columbus Crew. More significantly, though, Afra Grill—which opened last summer amid impassioned local protests for social justice—is dramatically decorated with inspirational quotes from civil rights activists, shoutouts to free speech, prominent reproductions of the Bill of Rights and stirring salutes to the American dream.