Jambo Kitchen: A different take on African cooking, with camel meat to come

Jambo serves African cooking "bowl" style.

Jambo serves African cooking "bowl" style. Mecca Bos

Jambo isn’t serving camel sliders yet.

Early announcements that the new West Bank cafe would be serving the unusual meat (which reportedly tastes similar to lean beef and is considered livestock in Somalia) had our attention. Though it’s listed on the menu, we're told it isn’t available yet, and there's no word on when it will be. Luckily, there are other things to make Jambo worth a look.

Fans of East African cooking will recall that beloved restaurant Afro Deli occupied the Jambo space previously. But thanks to a dispute between Afro Deli owner Abdirahman Kahin and the executive director of the African Development Center, which shares an interest in the restaurant, Kahin was forced to move to new space on the East Bank, which is now open.

While Jambo has a similar fast-casual style and feel, there are major differences. About half the menu is made up of “bowls,” that comforting way many Americans like to approach world cuisine in a fast, no-fuss way.

Build your bowl with a choice of meat (we chose goat), plus plain or turmeric-tinged rice, and a sauce. Ours arrived with a tangle of nicely julienned and spiralized zucchini, carrots, and cabbage, with a swipe of guacamole on the side. It was finished with “Mediterranean sauce” akin to a creamy tzatziki.

Jambo Facebook Page 

We also liked their version of a taco, with your choice of meat tucked into flaky paratha bread, with a similar mashup of ingredients found in the bowl. They have a nice selection of sambusas (the delectable East African meat-filled and deep-fried pastry) available with chicken, beef, or veggie. The latter is the most recommendable, with a pleasant blend of spiced yellow lentils. These come with a little pot of fiery green sauce and creamy tzatziki to offset the heat. 

The menu is small in comparison to Afro Deli’s extremely comprehensive take on pan-African eating, where you can even get a burger if chapati or keke don’t tempt you.

No burgers at Jambo, but they do serve a take on a classic cheesesteak, with chopped ground sirloin, pickled peppers and special sauce on a hero bun.  They call it the "Haji." 

The local East African dining scene has become increasingly vibrant in recent years. It's exciting to watch this robust community make its mark on our food scene, and Jambo is an easy point of entry for the curious. 

Now open.
1939 S. 5th St., Minneapolis