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Published January 14 2011

Family opens restaurant: Habib Cuisine offers East African, Middle Eastern fare

Shamsi Sheikhuna has plenty of things on her plate with holding down a full-time job, pursuing a college degree and helping out with nine siblings at home (the youngest a 5-month-old-boy).

But when the opportunity to open a restaurant presented itself a few months ago – one of her longtime ambitions – she couldn’t resist adding one more.

Habib Cuisine, her new venture at 2225 13th Ave. S. in Fargo, is a unique addition to the Fargo-Moorhead restaurant scene, offering moderately priced East African and Middle Eastern fare.

Sheikhuna and her sister, Umi Khaadi, both of whom work at Wells Fargo in Fargo, own the restaurant. Sheikhuna took a semester off from studying business management at North Dakota State University to get the restaurant started.

It’s a family operation, right down to the name, which is inspired by Sheikhuna’s mother’s last name and means “love” in Arabic. Siblings, parents, and relatives all pitch in. Sheikhuna’s older brother helps man the front, while her uncle helps with the cooking.

Sheikhuna said her 5-year-old brother, in his enthusiasm for the restaurant, announced he was changing his last name to “cuisine.”

The restaurant opened on Dec. 10. Since then, the busiest times are the lunch hour and weekends, Sheikhuna said.

Sheikhuna, whose family is originally from Somalia, hopes the restaurant will be a hit with the local Somali community, in part because the cuisine is familiar and in part because the entire menu complies with Islamic dietary restrictions.

“They’re very, very excited to have the restaurant open,” she said. But she also said she’s looking to attract a diverse crowd of patrons. The goat dishes, for example, are popular among American customers who don’t normally have an opportunity to try that meat, she said.

“Our goal is to get lots of different types of people here.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502