A Somali restaurant that was a mainstay of East Boston’s Orient Heights neighborhood before shuttering in 2011 will be open once again, this time at 389 Maverick St. in East Boston’s Jeffries Point neighborhood. Owner and chef Yahya Noor told Eater that Tawakal Halal Cafe — formerly known as Tawakal Halal Cuisine — will first open to friends and family on Sunday, October 28, before opening to the public on Monday, October 29.
Noor said the restaurant will be open every day from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and will offer a small menu to start.
“We want to see how the community reacts initially,” Noor told Eater. “Maybe we’ll shorten the hours on one of the days that is less busy, to retain some sanity for ourselves,” he joked.
Noor’s goal with Tawakal has always been to introduce people to the food of his homeland. Noor grew up in Barawa, a port town on Somalia’s southern coast. He and his family left after the civil war. They lived for some time in a refugee camp in Kenya before emigrating to the United States in 1997. They spent a year in Michigan but have been in Boston since 1998. When Noor spoke with Eater in November 2017 about his plans to find a place to reopen Tawakal, he said that food has always been a touchstone for his family.
“Growing up in Somalia, one of the only things we had was cooking,” Noor said at the time. “Something I’ve always enjoyed therefore is good home cooking. I’m enjoying all of this great food at home, and I’ve always wanted to get my family’s food out there into the world.”
As Noor puts it on the restaurant’s Facebook page: “Our vision of incorporating traditional East African and Middle Eastern dishes as well as exploring Mediterranean and other Eastern cuisines has become a reality.”
Noor said he loves East Boston because it’s a melting pot of communities that aren’t afraid of trying new food.
“My reason to open the restaurant was to showcase what Somali food is all about and to be part of the community and bring people together with the goodness of food,” he said. “East Boston is where I call home. It’s where I graduated high school. I’ve met so many great people here.”
Noor is an active member in the East Boston community, lending a hand at the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen once a month and also spending a lot of time hanging on the East Boston Greenway, listening to live music and offering his neighbors Somali chai.
“We say, ‘Hey, come have some tea with us,’” said Noor. “We sit, have a beautiful conversation around the tea. It’s the same thing in Somalia, the thing that brings people out of their homes. Come around, sit around the table, talk about anything and everything. I want to bring that feeling to East Boston, that community we used to have as I remember from back home. I want Tawakal to be a place you go and get rid of all your stress.”