As an observant Muslim, I try to follow my dietary restrictions as closely as possible. Luckily due to Kansas City’s sizeable Jewish and Muslim populations, there are many restaurants that offer halal and kosher options whether it be a kebab shop, African restaurant or kosher snackbar. I visited two of these restaurants.
As a result of the unrest in Somalia, many refugees have fled to the U.S. According to the State Department, over 7,000 Somali refugees were given asylum in 2013. There is a high concentration of Somalis in the midwest
in places like Minnesota and Kansas City. They have brought both their culture and cuisine with them, allowing Americans to finally sample east African delicacies. At Juballand Grill, a Somali restaurant located in northeast Kansas City, you can enjoy an authentic Somali meal.
Juballand Grill’s food is a mix of east African fare and American cuisine, serving both goat curry and philly cheese steaks. The food and ambience of the restaurant are excellent despite bars being on the windows. I was greeted warmly when I strolled in on a warm Saturday afternoon. Regulars were gathered around making casual conversation and enjoying a meal. I ordered goat. It was served with fries, rice and a side of spaghetti.
I was at first surprised to see the spaghetti but after some research about Somalia’s history, I made the connection that the spaghetti came from the Italian colonization of east Africa. The food was very affordable and the service was excellent. I got a full plate for under six dollars. Chicken and fish are also served; all of the meat being halal, meaning it is Islamically acceptable. The animal is killed in such a way that minimizes its suffering and the name of God is mentioned. This is also very similar to kosher slaughter with only a few differences.
Rachel’s Cafe is a restaurant in Village Shalom, a retirement community run by Kansas City’s Jewish community. It is also the only kosher restaurant in the entire metropolitan area. When one thinks of an old folks home, they don’t think of an upbeat, lively place with a quality restaurant. But that’s exactly what I experienced. I ordered the Shalom Club which included beef salami, pastrami, roasted turkey, fresh lettuce, onion and tomato with vinegar, oil, herbs and horseradish sauce on a hoagie roll. I was satisfied; all of the flavors complemented each other and pleasing my taste buds.
I was grateful to get a quality, seven dollar, pork-free meal and at the same time the sincere smiling faces of affectionate senior citizens. Even though this is the only kosher restaurant in the metro, there are still several other kosher options for those following their religiously prescribed diets. Hen House boasts a large kosher section including baked goods, cheeses, and meat. Other restaurants also occasionally serve kosher food. There is also a kosher subway on College Boulevard, which is frequented by both Jews and Muslims which meets both affordability and dietary standards.