Burnsville duo brings homeland cuisine to town
Tawakal will serve East African fare
Yussuf and Ifrah Shafie, longtime Burnsville residents by way of Kenya and Somalia, are bringing East African cuisine to Burnsville.
The brother-sister team is opening Tawakal Restaurant on Sept. 21 in the Nic-Burn strip mall east of Nicollet Avenue and north of Burnsville Parkway.
“This is the first Somali restaurant in Burnsville,” 23-year-old Yussuf declared, explaining that the menu will be mostly Somali fare with a sampling of Ethiopia and Kenya.
He and his 25-year-old sister have seen many East African immigrants come behind them since they arrived in Burnsville with their family in 2000.
“I’m really confident” in the restaurant’s prospects, Yussuf said. “People drive 20 minutes to Minneapolis to get Somali food. We have a huge Somali population here.”
He hopes the restaurant builds a fan base with non-Africans, too.
“I want to change perceptions in the community. I want to educate others who don’t know much about us,” said Yussuf, who is originally from Somalia but spent most of his childhood in Kenya. “I’m 23 years old and I’m opening my own restaurant. That’s the American dream.”
One of seven Shafie children, Yussuf started seventh grade at Nicollet Junior High and graduated from Burnsville High School in 2006.
“It was tough — language barriers, a lot of racial stuff,” he said of his early school experiences here. “Burnsville back in 2000 was the whitest place you could find. Now, it’s very diverse. … But I think I did pretty good handling all that as a youngster.”
In May, he got a bachelor’s degree in social work from Metro State University. He plans to pursue a master’s of social work at the University of Minnesota or Augsburg.
“I want to give back to my community,” Yussuf said. “Literally, I enjoy helping people. I want to empower people.”
Graduate studies will wait a year, he said, while he gets the restaurant off the ground.
Savings from his job with a residential group-home provider and his sister’s savings from her job as a nurse are helping bankroll the business, Yussuf said. Another family member is a minority investor, and the business has a bank credit line, he said.
Tawakal Restaurant promises Halal (permissible according to Islamic religious law) meats and seafood, farm-fresh vegetables, and breads and pastries baked daily.
Goat, fish, chicken, lamb, chicken steak and beefsteak are staples of the 40-plus menu items, along with rice, Yussuf said.
“Which is very similar to lots of parts of the world,” he said. “It’s good stuff. I am very confident you guys will like our food.”
“You can make it hot,” said Yussuf, who lives at home with his family. “It’s up to the customer. We have many different spices we can add. We have a homemade hot sauce on the side you can have. It’s the best.”
The menu will have half-plate ($7) and full-plate ($10) options and daily lunch specials, Yussuf said.
For opening day on Sept. 21, the restaurant is offering one free lunch special per customer from noon to 3 p.m.
Tawakal Restaurant is located in a newly renovated space at 12609 Nicollet Ave. For information, call (952) 500-8954 or visit www.tawakalrestaurantmn.com.