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Inglewood’s Best Kept Secret for Somali-Style Goat

Follow L.A.'s taxi drivers to try the goat served at this low-key spot. It slides smoothly off the bone. It's tender and juicy, robust, and flavorful, with slightly roasted ends. It's not fatty or greasy, and the gaminess that goat is known for is tamed remarkably well.

2:34 PM PDT on June 28, 2023

Hiding between a carnicería and a barber shop on Inglewood's Arbor Vitae Street is a small Somali restaurant serving one of the best goat dishes you'll find anywhere in Los Angeles. 

The front façade is faded, and its sun-bleached business name is barely visible. In fact, for some locals who've grown up on this stretch of Arbor Vitae, it might have taken years before they noticed it, like Chef Ulisses Piñeda Alfaro of El Barrio Cantina, who grew up around the corner and has been a loyal customer for the past ten years after wondering why there were always so many taxi cabs parked out front during lunch. I went to school across the street at Payne Elementary. I used to buy carne asada preparada next door at La Poblanita. I spent my childhood going back and forth on this street to visit different cousins. I never noticed this hidden gem, either.

When you walk in, you'll see a counter to the left with a bright mustard-colored wall behind it with a blue sign with the name Banadir above a white star. Seven simple menu items flank it: a vegetable soup and the other six are different meats with your rice. You can order beef, chicken, lamb, tilapia, or salmon. But order the goat. It's the most popular dish. 

Outside Banadir. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
Mohamud Hussein, owner of Banadir. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

When you turn to the register to put your order in, you might notice various money bills from around the world on the wall next to it. It's hard to imagine that a restaurant that can fly so under the nose, even to locals, can attract many visitors worldwide. Once you place your order and enter the room next door, you will find it painted in purple with tables that look like they were pulled from different family homes and random images framed on the walls.

The Somali-style goat served at this restaurant is tender and juicy, robust, and flavorful, with slightly roasted ends. It's not fatty or greasy, and the gaminess that goat is known for is tamed remarkably well.

You'll see a teapot ready for customers to pour for themselves by the front window. It's hot and sweet with the taste of honey. Your meal starts with a hearty vegetable soup tinted slightly in yellow from its rich, warm flavor worthy of cold remedy. It's followed by the main dish, an arm's length plate filled with yellow rice and topped with chunks of tender goat meat, barely holding onto the bone. It's served with slices of sauteed tomato, onion, and bits of serrano it's been cooked with. The condiments are complete with fresh, unpeeled bananas, a lime wedge, and green sauce. 

The art inside Banadir. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
Tea station at Banadir. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.

Peel the banana and place it on the rice. "It's like their tortilla," the Latina running the restaurant alone at the time tells me. You can smash the fresh banana into the rice or take bites from it as you eat. The contrasting sweetness might take some getting used to, but it's no different than eating freshly fried plantain with a Cuban dish. Grab the lime, drizzle it over the meat, and gently use their green sauce. It tastes of the angriest serrano peppers, so be careful; I doubt you'll want to finish the whole container.

When someone describes a piece of meat as falling off the bone, it usually follows that it also disintegrates in your hands. But not this meat. It's so well prepared that it doesn't lose its structural integrity while it slides smoothly off the bones. It allows for gentle but meaty bites, tender and juicy, robust, and flavorful simultaneously, with slightly roasted ends. It's not fatty or greasy, and the gaminess that goat is known for is tamed remarkably well. It's a fulfilling meal without it sitting heavy in your stomach, even if you finish this party-size plate they serve you.

The Somali restaurant had been previously opened years ago by "a great Somali chef." Mohamud Hussein tells me he was a taxi driver who knew the chef and later learned how to cook from him before buying this restaurant. Today you might see many taxi cabs working the airport beat for lunch or dinner.

Banadir Somali Restaurant, 137 W Arbor Vitae St, Inglewood, CA 90301. Closest Metro line and stop: 40 bus line (Downtown LA - Union Stn) - "La Brea / Arbor Vitae"

The goat at Banadir slides smoothly off the bone. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
All the rice plates at Banadir are served with ripe bananas. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
Somali-style vegetable soup. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. TACO.
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