Downtown’s been a stalemate since the pandemic, slowly re-opening and still struggling. There are definitely some good things happening though, especially in food. Hanif Mohamed is the owner of Tikka Hut, an Arab, Indian, Oaxacan fusion concept restaurant situated just off of First St. and Central Ave. Originally from Kenya, Mohamed has made a study of the long history of conquest and occupation, especially along the east coast of Africa by the mighty seafaring nations of the time–the Portuguese, Arabs and British. He reflects on Arab and Indian immigrants who arrived later and the influence they had on the foods of Africa’s east coast.
Mohamed’s first venture out of the same spot was Urban Taqueria, which easily had some of the best tacos (and the best menu names) along Central. In May of 2021, Mohamed decided that he wanted to go back to his roots, and Downtown needed something a bit different. And so, Tikka Hut came to life.
Tikka Hut presents Indian fusion the way it’s interpreted by Hanif and Chef Dennis Apodaca, whose restaurant Sophia’s Place Guy Fieri described as “little place, huge flavors .” Like Hanif, Dennis is a stickler for using quality ingredients, preferably sourced locally. Each meal is prepared to order; so, carve out a little bit of time to enjoy yourself and the heavenly smells that await.
In a throwback to the Urban Taqueria days, Tikka Hut still offers free chips and salsa to customers while they wait. Watch out for the red salsa because it packs a punch, while the citrus-y green salsa is a bit cooling. Mohamad says they’re always trying new concepts, and this weekend they’ll be unveiling a “secret” menu as well. We tried one of those items—the yellow lentil daal, which was comforting and amazing and not too heavy. It had a lot of tumeric, as one would expect, with a slightly sweet flavor. The secret menu will only be available Friday through Sunday nights, and you’ll have to call ahead or dine in to order the incognito items.
On the regular menu, the show-stealer is definitely the braised leg of lamb from the Tikka Plates menu. The melt-in-your-mouth lamb arrives on a beautifully hand-carved wooden plate, with a variety of toppings like cojito cheese and pickled red onions. Try it like a taco, with the handmade corn tortillas on the side or with the Masala fries, which were sauteed in pico de gallo, Indian spices and a lot of lime.
Last, but not least, Tikka Hut features a hummusaria, which is the perfect fusion name for a Mexican/Arabic version of hummus. Our favorite was by far the hummus with the sauteed carrots and dates drizzled in honey.
Tikka Hut is worth the short walk from any place you can find parking on Central Ave. Dine-in or order online.
1 Central Ave. NW Ste. B
Middle Eastern/Indian/Mexican fusion