Alimama’s simple, delightful Somali cooking comes to East 7th Street in St. Paul

Alimama's curry is as soul-satisfying as it gets.

Alimama's curry is as soul-satisfying as it gets. Mecca Bos

It’s exciting to see the slow-but-sure proliferation of African restaurants opening in relatively rapid succession.

There's SomTaste on Hiawatha, and Ghebre's Ethiopian on University right across the street from St. Paul institution Fasika.

And now, Alimama’s, which started as a food truck but has opened a brick-and-mortar space inside the student center at Metro State University.

If you don’t think you’ll be making a special trip to a student center in a college to dine, you should think again. “Worth the drive” is one of those overused phrases we food bloggers really like, along with “hidden gem.” Alimama’s happens to be both.

The simple lunch counter is not much to look at, but true attention-to-detail homestyle cooking comes out of the kitchen with precision and knock-your-socks off fragrance.

The sambusas are pillowy, with discernible individual layers of pastry. Each sambusa's about the size of a man’s fist and stuffed with either beef or lentil stew-like filling that could stand alone on its own merits.

Put Alimama's on your short list right away if you're any fan of sambusas.

Put Alimama's on your short list right away if you're any fan of sambusas. Mecca Bos

A pair of them with a side salad (itself delicious with sturdy kale, blue cheese, raisins, and shredded carrots) or fries goes for $5. You can hardly eat for less at the Burger King that looms on the other side of the street.

Better yet, get the deeply satisfying curry. It's as evocative as any soul food cooking we’ve had anywhere, with its exacting balance on the spice, long-cooked vegetables, and tender chicken over rice. This, plus a sambusa, goes for $7.25, so make that three overused phrases, because we can file Alimama’s under “cheap eats” too.

The fact that the restaurant is located in the somewhat underserved stretch of East 7th Street, where old-school pizza institutions Carbone’s and Red's Savoy have been the only dining destinations for decades, makes Alimama's an even more exciting find.

Alimama's is so good it'll reduce its diners to cliches. While we’re at it, let’s add one more. It's not to be missed. 

Alimama’s at Metro State University and Alimama’s Food Truck
680 7th St. E., St. Paul