Merriam-Webster defines a restaurant as “A business establishment where meals or refreshments may be purchased,” and while no one’s going to refute that, it’s also a pretty base-level description. Restaurants can be anything they want to be - multi-sensory and experiential, with hidden speakeasies and clothing-optional magic shows at dessert. Cash-only sandwich counters in the back of convenience stores. Vegan.
But in the case of Banadir Somali in Inglewood, you aren’t just eating at a restaurant, you’re experiencing life inside a bona fide community center, where everyone from the neighborhood congregates on a daily basis. The fact that the food is some of the best in the area is merely a reason to always show up hungry.
When you walk into Banadir, you’re presented with a pretty straightforward process. You order at the front register and proceed to the adjoining dining room to wait for your meal. With purple-painted walls, tile flooring, and scattered oval-shaped wooden tables last seen in your grandmother’s front sitting room, it’s not exactly overflowing with atmosphere, but it’s still conducive to kicking up your feet and hanging out. Just look around, everybody else is already doing it.
You’ll see groups of friends huddled together, listening to music on their headphones, families doing puzzles, and people catching the nightly news on a grainy TV in the corner. Everyone might come here with their own plan of action, but they’re connected by one common element - the tremendous Somali food coming out of the kitchen.
Banadir serves ten items total (four dishes at breakfast, six at lunch/dinner), but if you arrive around 11am, you’ll be able to order from both sides of the menu. And you should definitely do this, because the breakfast dishes are all excellent (particularly the ful, a hearty bean stew), and all come with anjero - a slightly sweet, crepe-like bread that is both a vessel for the rest of the menu and a fantastic side dish on its own. On the lunch/dinner side of things, no meal here is complete without ordering the goat and rice platter. It’s a house specialty and if there’s a more fragrant, flavorful plate of goat in town, we don’t know it.
Like other east African cuisines, Somali food is meant to be eaten with your hands (your right hand, in particular), which allows for flavors to be easily pulled from every part of the plate and mixed together. We’ll say this - combining Banadir’s spice-coated goat with a tiny piece of banana (another integral part of Somali cuisine), then dipping it all into the green chile sauce that comes on the side is one of the single best bites of food we’ve eaten in Los Angeles. It’s sweet, spicy, and fragrant in a way that’s completely balanced, yet so flavorful you’ll be texting your friends before you even wipe your fingers off.
Chances are you're telling them to come join you, but they’d better hurry up, because the food arrives fast, and a meal at Banadir goes quickly. The portions are also massive, so even if you do come with a few friends, you’ll be packing up leftovers before you know it. Or, if you have some time, just do what everybody else is doing and hang out until you get hungry again.
This dish is listed on Banadir’s breakfast menu as “beans,” but it’s really much more than that. It’s a hearty bean stew, a side salad, fries, and a massive helping of sweet, crepe-like anjero bread to wrap it all around. Yes, you’ve been doing breakfast wrong this whole time.
Goat And Rice
No matter if you come alone or with five friends, this platter must make it onto your table at some point. It’s our favorite plate of goat in town, and when mixed together with rice, a piece of banana, and spicy green chile sauce, the experience is nothing short of spiritual.
Anyone expecting a skillet of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce will be disappointed. It’s essentially just a big plate of scrambled eggs, but if that’s what you’re in the mood for, they are very good version.
This chicken and vegetable stir fry is the only dish that’s served at both breakfast and dinner, and though it’s not our favorite at Banadir, it’s still very good - particularly if you are looking for something lighter. The chicken itself is tender, but it’s the turmeric and paprika that elevate what is otherwise a very straightforward dish.