Karibu Grocery and Deli opens

Marjorie Otto/Review Karibu Grocery and Deli held its soft opening on Oct. 23. The Ali family, who moved to Railroad Island 18 years ago, has been working for more than two years to open the convenience store and restaurant. A grand opening celebration will be held in the next few weeks.

Local family excited get biz up and running


Karibu Grocery and Deli, located on the corner of Payne and Minnehaha avenues, is open and ready for business in the Railroad Island neighborhood. 

The Ali family, which has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 20 years, has been working for more than two years to open the small grocery store and restaurant at 719 Payne Ave.

The shop held its soft opening on Oct. 23 and Ikram Ali, one of the family members helping to run the business, said her family plans to host a grand opening celebration in the next few weeks. 

“It feels surreal,” she said of the opening. “We’re really happy.”

The store carries common convenience items such as milk and eggs, but also stocks unique merchandise like Kenyan spices and Halal meat. The shop also has a small restaurant that makes East African foods, including suqaar, which is cubed, spiced steak that’s cooked in a clay oven and served with Somali rice, green peppers, onions and garlic. 

Other items on the menu include nomad’s ari, which is fried goat meat cooked with onion, garlic, green peppers, cilantro and Somali rice, as well as chooza chicken, which is similar to suqaar, but uses poultry rather than beef. 

The restaurant also sells a Karibu burger, which is topped with Karibu special sauce. There’s also the option of Philly cheesesteaks, gyros, wings and more. In addition to the food, the restaurant also sells Somali spiced tea and Kenyan AA coffee.

A full menu can be viewed on Karibu Grocery and Deli’s Facebook page.


Welcome to the neighborhood 

Ali said the idea for the shop came from her family’s experience in the neighborhood. Long before the shop came to fruition, a gas station used to reside at the same spot.

“When we moved here 18 years ago, we had no car, so we used to walk to this gas station, we lived a block away from it, we actually still do,” said Ali. “It helped us a lot because we used to get our milk and eggs, daily things we needed, from here.”

She said the family decided to open a similar store to provide a local business to help out and welcome other area refugees and immigrants, who come from places like Burma and Somalia. They are also hiring locally.

“That’s why we call this store Karibu, because it means ‘Welcome’ in Swahili,” said Ali.

The family bought the former gas station and lot for $39,000 back in 2015. 

Since then the family’s received both vocal and financial support from the city and neighborhood. The city awarded the Alis grants to help clean up the site and build the new building. They also received support from the East Side Neighborhood Development Company, and Rich Thomasgard from the African Development Center in Minneapolis

“So glad that Karibu is finally open,” said Don Lorr, president of the Railroad Island Task Force. “I am very excited to see the former gas station ... developed into a vibrant, thriving business.”

“This property sat vacant and dilapidated for so long — an eyesore at a gateway into our neighborhood.”

The shop and restaurant ended up costing about $1.2 million, said Ali, explaining there were some unexpected costs to clean up hazardous waste and gas tanks left behind from the old gas station.

The cost was more than double what the family said was expected in a 2016 Review article.

Despite the surprises that popped up, Ali said her family is very “grateful for all the help” from the community.

“We couldn’t do it without the support,” she said. 


–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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