Since January 27, I've been searching for restaurants that serve the food of the countries listed in Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel and immigration for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Eating my way around town for a month, I found five of the seven — but Libyan and Yemeni restaurants remained elusive. A few days ago, though, new owners purchased Afia Grill at 2353 South Havana Street in Aurora, and hoisted a banner announcing the arrival of the Yemen Grill.
Afia Grill was Iraqi-owned and served several dishes from that country, including a tasty marinated-chicken dish called bokhari. So while the change in ownership means Iraqi cuisine is now a little harder to find, it also signals the arrival of the city's only Yemeni restaurant.
Don't expect too much right away; the transition is taking place on the fly, and the Yemen Grill does not yet have a printed menu. For now, customers have a choice of lamb or chicken over rice — and there may be a few other specials if you know what to ask for. The lamb is served on the bone as a simple braise, resulting in tender meat without much in the way of additional seasoning. The rice is long-grained and stained shades of yellow and orange; whole peppercorns and cloves add warm spice.
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A few questions at the counter yielded dessert, too: a kind of bread pudding called masoob, made with shredded flatbread, bananas and cream. A sprinkling of what look like sesame seeds turns out to be nigella (sometimes called black cumin), which gives the sweet dessert a unique, almost peppery note.
Stop in soon if you don't mind a limited selection, or if you're familiar enough with Yemeni cuisine to ask for dishes by name. Otherwise, a written menu will soon be available to help you navigate through a new cuisine. And while you're out and about, keep an eye out for Libyan food: If you find some, let us know!