Helen Villines 12:30 p.m., Dec. 12
Yesterday, when I went asking around for lunch ideas, a friend sent me to Fatuma, a Somalian restaurant on University. As is often the case at African restaurants in City Heights during the lunch hour, the place was full of men. Luckily, I’m kind of tough, and so did not die of embarrassment when, first thing, I walked in on one of them in the bathroom. Instead, I steeled myself, returned to the counter, and stood looking at the menu, as if I were perfectly at ease and did not have the impulse to flee the establishment.
I skimmed past the pizzas and hummus plates and went straight for the lamb plate with spaghetti. I know the spaghetti sounds out of place, but from what I understand, it’s as common as rice in Somali cuisine.
The meal came with salad, a drink, and a banana, for a total of $10.76.
The man behind the counter’s name was Said. When I asked if he had a table near an outlet so I could charge my phone, he led me around the corner to the empty half of the dining room.
There, I ate my spaghetti and humongous chunks of meat. Although I would have managed in the main dining room, this separation from the men was preferable to me. I probably would have chosen to sit at the one table outside had I not needed the outlet.
Inside, could still hear their voices and the unfamiliar cadences of their Somali language, which gave me the feeling of having left San Diego and landed somewhere else.
The fact that these “elsewhere” experiences are so easy to come by in City Heights makes it one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Diego.