Just the sign “Mi Barrio Halal Latin Grill” promises a mix-up adventure. “Mi Barrio” means “my neighborhood” in Spanish. But “Latin Grill” is in English. And “Halal” – that’s the Arabic word for meat prepared according to Muslim rules of purity.
Damaris Bashir grew up in the Dominican Republic, moved to New York City where she met Khuram Bashir, a fine young Muslim man from Pakistan. “Everything comes together in New York City,” she laughs, swirling her hand.
Soon they had two children and a hankering to start their own business. They picked Charlotte. “It’s quiet here, not everyone running around like New York.”
Food at Mi Barrio channels Damaris’ Caribbean home traditions. It’s all cafeteria style, so just point at what looks good. Start your plate with moro de guandules – rice and pigeon peas, a Caribbean staple. Add a stew or two: oxtail stew, bakaloa (codfish stew), or on the weekends there’s chivo guisado (goat stew). Put some sweet fried plantains on the side.
Meat comes from a halal butcher near Asheboro. Halal means “what God allows us,” explains Khuram. Animals “grow freely, not in cage,” then are slaughtered humanely. When he and Damaris were courting, Khuram recalls, “I would bring my halal meat for her mother to cook. Soon her mother, brothers, everyone wanted that meat themselves.”
Today customers from many backgrounds are discovering Mi Barrio. “Hispanics. Americans. Arabic people who’ve never tasted Latin food,” says Khuram. “We opened not knowing if people would accept the concept of Latin halal. Thank God, they do.”
Tom Hanchett is staff historian at Levine Museum of the New South: email@example.com. Don't miss the Food from Home section of the museum's “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” exhibit.
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