Somalian restaurant opens 'window to Africa' in central Ohio

First-generation Americans run east African restaurant in Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Hoyo’s Kitchen is a newcomer to Columbus, Ohio’s bustling North Market -- an old warehouse filled with food stalls by local restaurants.

This new vendor is exposing Central Ohioans to African fare by serving up classic Somalian dishes in a fast-casual style.

"People have been very welcoming. And slowly people are becoming more and more adventurous," Abdilahi Hassan, the co-owner and manager, said. "It's the best time for us to open a Somali restaurant because people are really appreciative of the Somali community here in Columbus."

Columbus’ Somalian community is the second-largest in the U.S., only behind Minneapolis. Hoyo’s Kitchen opened its first location in Westerville, Ohio, a Columbus suburb, almost five years ago with the aim of becoming a "window to the continent of Africa."

"It's our duty as a Somali community to bridge those gaps and to educate people on who we are and where we come from," Hassan said.

"Hoyo" translates to "mother" in Somali, and Hassan opened the family-run restaurant with the goal of paying homage to his mother by cooking with her recipes. He is a first-generation American, and his parents immigrated to the U.S. more than 20 years ago.

Although anti-immigrant rhetoric has increased on a national scale, Hassan said he hasn’t "seen anything negative" from people in central Ohio.

"Everyone represents themselves and your job is to represent yourself and ultimately your community the best you can," he added.