Tuesday March 10, 2020
By Malini Swank
There are many things to love about Columbus. We have the greatest college football team, amazing ice cream, a thriving start-up scene and even some iconic dishes. And we’ve earned our nickname as “The Biggest Small Town in America” by being such a friendly place, and passionately supporting our own.
But what I love most about this city is the wonderful diversity to be found here, especially in our delicious food scene.
Looking for regional Chinese? A Japanese bakery? Indian street food? A proper Polish pierogi or Austrian torte? You can pick up a bowl of West African stew or a slice of New York-style pizza.Columbus has it all.
My husband and I are adventurous eaters. We love to try new things, and often order items off a menu based on how little we know about the dish. And when we heard about a Peruvian-Somalian restaurant, we knew we had to give it a try.
The Mix Charcoal Chicken is located at 4362 Karl Road in the city’s Northland neighborhood.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from a Peruvian-Somalian restaurant, and I was curious about how it came to be.
Here’s the story: The two owners, Farxaan Jeyte (Somalian) and Alberto Denegri (Peruvian) met while working on a tv show that Jeyte hosted, and Denegri produced. One day, while eating lunch together, Jeyte commented that Denegri was eating one of his favorite Somalian dishes. Confused, Denegri insisted it was a Peruvian dish.
They realized that their cuisines actually had a lot of similarities and joked that they should open a restaurant together. 5 months later, here we are, Columbus’s first (and only) Peruvian-Somalian restaurant.
They decided to name it “The Mix” as a tribute to both their cultures mixing together to create something delicious.
From the start, it was important that their restaurant be open and inviting to everyone in the community. While the menu features Peruvian-style chicken, beef and fish, they decided to leave pork off the menu out of respect for their Somalian friends and family. And it was important that they offer kosher chicken so that their Jewish friends could have a seat at their table.
Diversity, inclusivity, and an open invitation to come share a meal.
The Mix Charcoal Chicken is a small restaurant with counter service.
You walk in, order your meal, grab a table, and your food is brought out to you. My husband and I arrived around 4pm on a Saturday, and the restaurant was buzzing.
The menu features pollo a la brasa, a Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken.
You can order it as a 1/4 chicken, 1/2 chicken or in a sandwich. Whole chickens are also available for take-out orders.
Let’s take a moment to talk about this chicken. They start with organic, kosher chicken that is brined and dry-rubbed with an amazing mix of spices. To cook, they roast the chicken at 450 degrees in a charcoal oven brought over from Peru.
The hype is real.
This unique cooking process leads to a crazy-juicy and tender chicken with incredible flavor. If your only experience with rotisserie chicken is of the “$5 Costco bird” variety, you are going to go nuts over this chicken.
I couldn’t begin to guess what seasoning they use on the chicken.
It’s not spicy at all, and the flavor actually goes all the way into the meat, and not just on the skin. It’s really freaking delicious.
In addition to the chicken, you can also find fried fish or beef sandwiches, sambusas (a Somalian savory pastry), tequenos (a Peruvian fried cheese) and a daily special. On weekends, they also feature Somalian specialities like stewed camel or goat. Sides include fries, fried yucca, Somalian rice, beans, fried plantains and salad.The chicken combo comes with a side of steak fries and salad.
It also comes with two sauces – a creamy cilantro sauce, and a yellow pepper sauce.
Both tasted mild at first, but did have a tiny kick at the end. I couldn’t decide which sauce I liked more, and just kept alternating between them.
My husband’s favorite was the creamy cilantro sauce and he dipped every fry in it.
We also ordered a side of their yucca fries.
And finally, as we had never tasted camel before, we just had to try their stewed camel over Somalian-style rice.
I was raised on rice, and I can be a bit of a rice snob. So believe me when I say this rice was outstanding.
First, they used my favorite kind of rice – a long grain basmati. They saute the raw rice in oil (which brings out a nutty flavor to basmati rice) and then steam it in a liquid that is flavored with aromatics like garlic and cilantro.
Ok, now let’s talk about that stewed camel. Have you ever tried it? I couldn’t even begin to imagine what stewed camel might taste like, but I felt deeply grateful to live in a city where I could just run out and order it.
It was honestly delicious. If I didn’t know that it was camel, I would have assumed it was a shredded, stewed beef. My husband described it as tasting like a mix of beef and lamb.
It was fall-apart tender and delicious.
Camel meat is popular around the globe, and is traditionally eaten in Australia, Somalia, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, etc.
While it tastes very much like beef, it’s quite a bit healthier. Camels are grass-fed, and their meat is much lower in fat and cholesterol, and has more iron and vitamin C than beef and lamb.
While my husband was shoving the stewed camel in his mouth, a sweet lady stopped by to ask how everything tasted, and was amused to see how much he was enjoying his lunch.
She asked me, a bit surprised, “he likes camel?” I laughed and said, “apparently he does!”
I asked her where we could find it locally, and about the spices they used in their rice, and she pulled up a chair and sat down to chat. She was absolutely lovely, and we learned that she was Jeyte’s aunt. As we were chatting, she motioned for someone to come over, and a moment later, they did, bringing us two steaming cups of tea.
It reminded me of chai – milky and sweet, and I felt almost as if I was a guest in her home. As if we were family.
I hope you’ll go check out The Mix – if not for the stewed camel, then maybe for the charcoal roasted chicken and warm hospitality.