The Somali restaurant features flavorful meats and side dishes.
Melissa Kossler Dutton and her sons, Nick, 14, and Alex, 13, dined at Hoyo's Kitchen, a Somali eatery that is opening a second location in the North Market.
Although my husband and I often tout Central Ohio's large population of Somali residents to newcomers and visitors, we have never taken advantage of the opportunities that come from having this cultural element in our city. That's what prompted me to suggest taking the boys to Hoyo's Kitchen in the Northland area of Columbus.
We visited on a Thursday evening and had the restaurant to ourselves during most of the meal—although a number of customers came in to pick up carryout orders. Our waiter greeted us enthusiastically and seemed to sense that we were newcomers to the eatery and Somali cuisine. He suggested we order a platter to share, which would allow us to eat family-style and sample numerous items. He apologized for being out of lamb and suggested we try goat. A platter with three proteins would likely feed us all, he said.
We took him up on both suggestions and ordered a platter with goat, chicken suqaar and salmon ($36). In addition to the meat and fish, the platter included four sides: curry cabbage; cooked spinach and potatoes; lentils; and chickpeas. We opted to have the food prepared with a mild level of heat.
I think we all were pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the dishes. They weren't spicy by any means, but offered a lot of the rich flavors often used in Indian cooking.
Our family has been eating healthier lately at home (read: vegetarian meals and fish dishes), so I was eager to try the lentils and chickpeas. The chickpeas were fantastic—covered in a robust spice mixture that our waiter called a Somali blend. I tasted garlic, cinnamon and coriander. I could have made a meal of that side but was eager to sample the rest of the food. The spinach also was delicious. Cooked with onions and potatoes, it was a standout.
We all dug into the goat with gusto, though none of us picked it as our favorite dish. It was flavorful without tasting gamey, but didn't quite do it for the Duttons. On a return visit, I would definitely order the chicken or salmon again—as long as it came with a side of chickpeas.
At Hoyo's Kitchen, our family got a platter of food to split. We had chicken, goat and salmon. I had never eaten Somali food, and I was really surprised by the delicious flavors. The chicken was in a smooth, creamy curry sauce. The sauce had a flavorful pop of ginger but was really rich and not overspiced. This was my favorite, and I would definitely want to have it again. The salmon was baked and served with onions and peppers. It was delicious. I had never eaten goat before, so I really wanted to taste it. It wasn't for me. It was cooked well and tender, but I didn't like it.
The sides were pretty basic—cabbage and spinach and other veggies—but went well with the rest of the meal. I didn't get to try the chickpeas because of my food allergies, but my mom said they were really delicious. The rice was soft and yummy.
I had a mango smoothie ($3.50) to drink. The waiter asked if I wanted whipped cream on it, which, of course, I did. It was really smooth and creamy. It also had a lot of mango flavor. It reminded me of the smoothies I order at a coffee shop on Kelleys Island. I always considered those smoothies to be the best ever.
My mom and brother ordered Somali chai teas ($1.50), which I tried. It was incredible. It was the best tea I have ever had. The tea was so “spicy”—not like a peppery hot but flavorful from herbs and spices.
The service was also incredible. Our waiter was really nice.
When I first arrived at Hoyo's Kitchen, I noticed it looked very clean and nice. We were greeted by a friendly and helpful waiter. My mom and I got chai (my favorite tea), and Nick and my dad got mango smoothies. The drinks were phenomenal. The chai was sweet with a slight gingery aftertaste. The smoothies were thinner than your average smoothie. They were not “fake” tasting at all, which was good. There was some whipped cream on top. This all made for a great smoothie. If you're looking for a nice beverage, then I would definitely stop by Hoyo's Kitchen.
They were out of lamb, so we got chicken suqaar, salmon and goat. Goat meat is somewhat similar to lamb, but it has a sort of odd taste. I would personally not order it again, but I would suggest trying it if you're feeling adventurous. Even though I was not a fan of the goat, I thought the peppers on top were very good. The salmon was my favorite dish because it was smothered in cooked onions and served with lemons on the side. Although I have eaten a lot of salmon lately, this was very delicious.
The platter of food we got came with this nice cinnamon-y rice that was not too sweet but you still got the flavor. I may start adding cinnamon to my rice at home.
The service was very good, although we did not realize you had to go up to the counter to pay. We spent some time waiting for a bill that never came. The building was nice except for the bathrooms, which looked a little unfinished.
Overall, if you're looking for a nice but different meal, I would highly recommend stopping by Hoyo's Kitchen.***
Subscribe to Columbus Parent's weekly e-newsletter, The Bulletin, for top reads, event recommendations, guides, parenting trends and lots more ideas for family fun.