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Barwaqo Kabab (Somali)

Barwaqo Kabab (Somali)
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  • Barwaqo Kabab (Somali)

    Post #1 - July 15th, 2010, 11:46 pm
    Post #1 - July 15th, 2010, 11:46 pm Post #1 - July 15th, 2010, 11:46 pm
    Spotted in the space formerly occupied by Mirch Masala and then Falafel Shack. More to come manana when I get an early lunch there. Can you tell I'm excited?

    Barwaqo Kabab
    6130 N Ravens Wood
    Chicago, IL 60660
    [edit in]
    Last edited by Habibi on August 7th, 2010, 12:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #2 - July 16th, 2010, 6:14 am
    Post #2 - July 16th, 2010, 6:14 am Post #2 - July 16th, 2010, 6:14 am
    I am indeed intrigued, though I confess I'd be a teensy bit more interested if I had a clue where Mirch Masala or Felafel Shack actually were. :cry:
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #3 - July 16th, 2010, 6:38 am
    Post #3 - July 16th, 2010, 6:38 am Post #3 - July 16th, 2010, 6:38 am
    Gypsy Boy wrote:I am indeed intrigued, though I confess I'd be a teensy bit more interested if I had a clue where Mirch Masala or Felafel Shack actually were. :cry:


    6130 N. Ravenswood, the same strip mall where Blue Nile is located. I was sorry to see Falafil Shack go, just about everything I had there was good.
    Cookingblahg.blogspot.com
  • Post #4 - July 31st, 2010, 9:45 am
    Post #4 - July 31st, 2010, 9:45 am Post #4 - July 31st, 2010, 9:45 am
    Barwaqo Kabab is around the corner from me, and it has sparked my curiosity. The problem with Falafel Shack: They refused to prepare certain menu items because (in their words) "It takes too long." In my case it was the grilled chicken legs. Plus, there were complaints that dishes, including falafel sandwiches seemed to take forever to prepare. I suspected that business wasn't going to last very long. A married couple I know (the husband is from Egypt) told me they waited 45 minutes for their falafels; and there were no other customers.
  • Post #5 - August 7th, 2010, 12:32 pm
    Post #5 - August 7th, 2010, 12:32 pm Post #5 - August 7th, 2010, 12:32 pm
    I finally got around to trying Barwaqo Kabab and was very very happy I did. The name is a bit misleading. As I suspected, this isn't a kabab/sandwich joint, though that may be available occasionally. Instead, in true Somali fashion, a daily smattering of stewed meat dishes is available as well as exquisitely spiced rice and some vegetable stews on the side.

    There is no menu, but I was quickly greeted by the congenial proprietress who was as patient and helpful as could be. I asked what was on offer, and initially, guessing that I came in because I saw the word kabob on the sign outside, she mentioned something about "chicken kabob rice." I asked if anything else was available and with a smile she said simply "goat." Goat it was.

    Not sure what I was expecting, but when a series of dishes arrived in quick succession I was surprised. A giant plate of beautiful rice; another with braised goat shoulder chops with onions and peppers as well as a small salad; a side (if you can call it that, it was big) of potato and tomato stew; an intriguing hot sauce that was sour and deep, served hot; and most authentically, a whole unpeeled banana to be chopped up and eaten with the rice.

    The food was amazing. Really. I don't want to be overly effusive as one tends to be after a first date that goes really well. But damn. This was some bad-ass, real-deal Somali home cooking. Now how long do I have to wait before I call again?

    Add to all that the fact that I am clearly not Somali but still got a banana on the side, which I dutifully chopped up and ate with the rice and sauce (fantastic combination by the way, and not unfamiliar if you've had fried plantains), and I am in love. Can I call tomorrow?

    A steady stream of Somali customers came and went. One of them was snacking on what looked like a paratha or crepe, clearly griddled, and I think I heard the word injera uttered. I know that Somali's have their own version, often eaten with with butter and honey or with ful. I will have to inquire next time.

    Barwaqo Kabob. Let's do it again.

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    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #6 - August 7th, 2010, 7:14 pm
    Post #6 - August 7th, 2010, 7:14 pm Post #6 - August 7th, 2010, 7:14 pm
    Now that's what the Red Sea's all about! :D

    Anyhow, you may have heard the word "canjeero", which is the Somali injera; kinda like how kimbap is the Korean sushi...
  • Post #7 - August 8th, 2010, 7:52 am
    Post #7 - August 8th, 2010, 7:52 am Post #7 - August 8th, 2010, 7:52 am
    Habibi wrote:I am in love. Can I call tomorrow?
    Ahh, young love, first blush, first kiss, first braised goat. I can't wait to try Barwaqo.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #8 - September 28th, 2010, 11:03 am
    Post #8 - September 28th, 2010, 11:03 am Post #8 - September 28th, 2010, 11:03 am
    Had another great meal at Barwaqo Kabab yesterday. The proprietor, a friendly Somali man who also speaks Arabic was particularly gracious, offering me a glass of fresh made watermelon juice on the house as well as a glass of excellent Somali tea (think South Asian chai without the milk).

    I ordered fish and an inch-thick kingfish steak arrived, crispy, with a side of iceberg and sauteed spinach. The plate was satisfying, if a bit pedestrian. The kingfish nicely crisped and lightly spiced. Even better, in fact the highlight of my meal were the rice and bowl of stewed veggies that accompanied the fish. I'm beginning to think that Somali's prepare my favorite rice in Chicago, and Barwaqo's is the platonic ideal of the style - fluffy Basmati rice gently spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and other fragrant things, lightly oiled. It comes off as a stripped-down Biryani or Pulao, with all of the flavor, but more fluffy and less laden with heavy matter. The sauce on the side this time was a stew of carrots, potatoes and green peppers in tomato sauce, heavy with paprika. In a strange way it reminded me of the Magyar standard lecsó with a dash of Oriental spices. Perfect with the rice.

    The hot sauce was good as ever - it is an intriguing mix of sweet, deep sour and earth, I think made from a base of tamarind or carob pulp.

    Habibi
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #9 - October 25th, 2010, 6:50 pm
    Post #9 - October 25th, 2010, 6:50 pm Post #9 - October 25th, 2010, 6:50 pm
    Been on a trying- something- new kick and since I had errands to run in points north, Barwaqo it was for lunch today. At noon on a Monday we were greeted by a bright and cheery storefront hopping with cabbies that clearly knew how to approach the food on their plates quite well.
    Habibi wrote:There is no menu, but I was quickly greeted by the congenial proprietress who was as patient and helpful as could be. I asked what was on offer, and initially, guessing that I came in because I saw the word kabob on the sign outside, she mentioned something about "chicken kabob rice." I asked if anything else was available and with a smile she said simply "goat." Goat it was.

    Not sure what I was expecting, but when a series of dishes arrived in quick succession I was surprised. A giant plate of beautiful rice; another with braised goat shoulder chops with onions and peppers as well as a small salad; a side (if you can call it that, it was big) of potato and tomato stew;

    Our experience mirrored this, our incredibly gracious waitress offered "chicken kabob" and we inquired further. The language barrier did not completely block us from ordering what the locals were eating, though I still couldn't help but worry that we were going to receive the "gringo plate". We ordered goat and also decided to try an order of the chicken too. First to arrive was a plate for each of us piled with iceberg with ranch a la "dinner at mom and dads circa 1987" and samosa-like fried dumplings. Maybe the salad had already put me in a mood, but the dumpling reminded me of the Gino's Pizza Rolls of my youth with a greasy, bubbly pastryish dough filled with innocuous mystery meat. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but I think it had spent some time under the heat lamp. The meat inside was ground very fine and was lightly seasoned.
    Then the good stuff descended upon us, plate by plate.
    First the meats:
    Goat:
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    We ordered two plates of this. It was a sort of composite cut with shoulder meat and ribs attached. My buddy declared it the "goatiest" goat he had ever had. I attribute this to the light spicing in contrast to say, Zaragoza's birria or a goat curry. It truly was goat in its purest form, seasoned with little more than browned onions. The goatiest of the goatiest moment of the meal for me was a slurp of the marrow in that leg bone. The meat itself had been slowed cooked and the moments of caramelization on its surface and its tender, but-in-a-toothsome- way rather than fork-tender texture led me to believe that it was roasted or perhaps braised, then roasted. Pot roast, this was not. Eaten with the hot sauce (more on that soon) and handfuls of rice (more on this too) made for an exquisite bite.
    The chicken kabob was a sleeper:
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    It very much reminded me of frontier chicken, with an aggressive spicing, pleasant oiliness, light char, grilled with onion. Especially when mixed with the rice, this dish was really awesome. The plate was cleaned. Perceived gringo status or not, this will be a requisite order.
    Habibi wrote:I'm beginning to think that Somali's prepare my favorite rice in Chicago, and Barwaqo's is the platonic ideal of the style - fluffy Basmati rice gently spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and other fragrant things, lightly oiled. It comes off as a stripped-down Biryani or Pulao, with all of the flavor, but more fluffy and less laden with heavy matter.

    I couldn't agree more, this is really the star of the show, the vehicle for every other dish with a stand up spicing all of its own, which when paired with the goat, lent most of the spice profile. Perfectly fluffy, just the right amount of oil, perfect. And I think I can get the hang of eating rice with hands.
    Habibi wrote:The hot sauce was good as ever - it is an intriguing mix of sweet, deep sour and earth, I think made from a base of tamarind or carob pulp.

    This is not the hot sauce we received, nor did it look like the brick red, oily sauce pictured upthread. We were brought a bright orange red sauce of pulverized fresh red chillies with maybe a little onion and vinegar, which we liked very much. The waitress warned for us to be careful with it and of course we weren't- it wasn't too crazy, definitely not habanero or Scotch bonnet even though it had that look.
    The potato/carrot/tomato sauce stew was just okay for me, very lightly seasoned and not served entirely warm.
    We were not served the watermelon juice, though we saw folks drinking it as we arrived. It did not reappear.
    The bananas came out a little late, we were already too stuffed to mix it into more helpings of rice. Okay with me as bananas are not for me.
    She also had offered us spaghetti, which we found interesting- just about every other customer was slurping down noodles out of hand.
    And at the end of our meal our most delightful server brought us slices of pound cake that she explained as "just baked" and while I had already reached full capacity, I could not turn down. It was light, moist, and redolent of cardamon. A sweet end to a sweet meal.
    The bill was ridiculous- $10 each and we left with at least an order and a half of rice left and an entire hunk of goat that we hardly touched.
    All in all an amazing experience, a new-to-me cuisine that had a great interplay of mild/ spicy, simple/complex, all made in a lovingly from- scratch fashion served by a wonderful hostess.
  • Post #10 - October 26th, 2010, 9:36 am
    Post #10 - October 26th, 2010, 9:36 am Post #10 - October 26th, 2010, 9:36 am
    Glad to see you enjoyed Barwaqo, Jefe. I was a big fan before I left Chicago and still haven't found anything in New York that satisfies my cravings for their excellent rice. Admittedly Barwaqo's daily offerings are a bit slim, but everything I've had there has been delicious, well-portioned and extremely affordable. The place thankfully gets plenty of traffic from the Somali (and even South Asian as I've seen) community so when I encourage LTHers to go there its only because I love Barwaqo's food and want others to try it.

    Sahteyn,

    Habibi
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #11 - October 26th, 2010, 2:36 pm
    Post #11 - October 26th, 2010, 2:36 pm Post #11 - October 26th, 2010, 2:36 pm
    Habibi wrote:I was a big fan before I left Chicago and still haven't found anything in New York that satisfies my cravings for their excellent rice.


    I hate to bear even more bad news, Hab, but there appear to be zero Somali places in NYC proper - not even Harlem has a single resto.

    On the plus side, at least Chicago finally outdoes NY in a cuisine besides Mexican and Thai...! ^_^
  • Post #12 - October 26th, 2010, 3:14 pm
    Post #12 - October 26th, 2010, 3:14 pm Post #12 - October 26th, 2010, 3:14 pm
    As far as I know you are correct Suburbia. Supposedly there was a place up in Harlem called "Yemen and Somalia" that closed a few years ago. No matter, I can console myself with a trip to West Harlem's little Senegal for a bowl of mafe (peanut stew) with couscous or some grilled leg o' lamb with frites. I recently paid a visit to the excellent Africa Kine for precisely such a meal and will post about it soon.

    Also, for the record, we do outdo NY in another important category, hands-down: Hot Dogs.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #13 - October 26th, 2010, 4:35 pm
    Post #13 - October 26th, 2010, 4:35 pm Post #13 - October 26th, 2010, 4:35 pm
    Suburbian wrote:
    Habibi wrote:I was a big fan before I left Chicago and still haven't found anything in New York that satisfies my cravings for their excellent rice.


    I hate to bear even more bad news, Hab, but there appear to be zero Somali places in NYC proper - not even Harlem has a single resto.

    On the plus side, at least Chicago finally outdoes NY in a cuisine besides Mexican and Thai...! ^_^



    No, just proof that Somalia does not exist, or if it does, Somalia and its cuisine are wholly irrelevant. (Don't mind me, it's just the qat talking.)
  • Post #14 - February 9th, 2011, 2:38 am
    Post #14 - February 9th, 2011, 2:38 am Post #14 - February 9th, 2011, 2:38 am
    A few of us had lunch at Barwaqo Kabob a couple weeks ago and had an interesting and enjoyable meal. We were able to try many of the day's offerings but it's anyone's guess what else might have been available.

    Starches were a highlight. Freshly made canjeero (also known as lahooh) is clearly a close relative of injeera but this version lacks its Ethiopian counterpart's sourness and gets cooked to brownness on the bottom.

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    Goat stew (above, lower right) was my favorite main dish, its soupy gravy reminiscent of some Indian curries.

    What's a Somali meal without spaghetti (baasto)? Barwaqo Kabob's version is surprisingly decent but not worth choosing over canjeero and/or rice. If you really want to fit in, try eating your spaghetti without utensils.

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    The rice we received was somewhat different than that pictured above but still excellent, mildly seasoned with aromatic spices, served with fried potato. The rice and hot sauce (smooth, brick red) alone would have made the meal worthwhile for me.

    Braised goat and baked chicken were our main dishes, both good but not terribly exciting.

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    We also got to sample some liver stew—fried bits of liver with the same onions and peppers that came with the goat. This being a Somali restaurant, it goes without saying iceberg salad with dressing straight from the bottle and bananas were served.

    Offerings vary from day to day though I suspect braised goat is a constant. Depending on what's available next visit I'll probably zero in on rice and stew-like dishes. Good place.

    Barwaqo Kabob
    6130 N Ravenswood Av
    Chicago
    773-338-6666
  • Post #15 - April 5th, 2011, 1:13 pm
    Post #15 - April 5th, 2011, 1:13 pm Post #15 - April 5th, 2011, 1:13 pm
    Was in the neighborhood today, so I decided to give Barwaqo a try. The place was pretty packed for lunch, full of cabbies speaking a language I didn't understand. When I tried to order I didn't get quite the same service that others have mentioned. When the closest woman to the counter saw me, she looked like she'd seen a ghost. The woman next to her gave me a similar look, but they quickly called for another woman who spoke to me in English. I told her I wanted goat and rice. She nodded and told the others while I sat down.

    Like I said, it was pretty busy, and it was cool how it seemed like everyone there knew each other. Might take me several more visits before I become one of the locals (also might take me learning another language). There was some kind of pink juice and glasses on our side of the counter, and after seeing a couple guys just take glasses and fill them up, I decided to do the same. Watermelon Juice!

    I was waiting quite awhile (at least 10 minutes I'd say) when one of the women saw me, started talking to the others, and then motioned me to come towards the counter. Apparently, they didn't see me sitting down and thought I had left. My food had been waiting in a plastic bag on the counter for a couple minutes. When she handed it to me, she saw the confusion on my face and said, "To go?" I told her I wanted to eat here, and then all of the women immediately started apologizing to me. Over and over. I kept telling them that it was okay, but they were obviously embarrassed (I think we all were). So they told me to sit down, said sorry a couple times, and then finally gave me the food.

    THE FOOD.

    I'll have to agree with what everyone's said. I enjoyed the goat. The spicing was very light, so the flavor of goat wasn't lost like it sometimes is. They gave me quite a bit of goat, looks like the same cuts that others were given. Some pieces were very tender and delicious, but other sections were a little dry. A mixed bag, but I enjoyed it. And I have to concur. LOVED THE RICE. They gave me a huge plate full of rice. Fluffy, just the right amount of spice. There was some brick red sauce on the side of the plate, and some grilled onions and peppers on top of the rice. I also enjoyed the raisins that were mixed in, provided a sweet contrast within the dish. I ate it with the banana, and yes, it was very good.

    The spicy sauce I was given was very dark. I think it was a dark green, but maybe I'm wrong. It had very little heat honestly, but was pretty sour and slightly sweet. Not exactly what comes to mind when I think "spicy sauce," but it did pair well with the goat and rice. Also got a bowl of reddish rice soup, sort of like a porridge. A little bland, but I still ended up finishing all of it. All together, it was a TON OF FOOD. All for $9? Quite the bang for your buck. Definitely want to go again, the chicken kabob looked good, and I saw some guy scarfing down the spaghetti like there was no tomorrow. But next time I will have to be more clear with what I want, so there won't be so much confusion.

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