News Article

Students Select Somali Restaurant to Join Launchpad this Fall

Two plates of Halal food

March 17, 2023

Owner is 2023 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Award regional semifinalist

This fall, the Launchpad in the Stratton Student Center (W20) will welcome a new, highly regarded food retailer selected by MIT students. Tawakal Halal Café will take the place of Las Palmas Dominican Kitchen, which decided not to return to the Launchpad after two years of serving the MIT community. Bibim Box and Carolicious the other two food vendors will return.

Tawakal Halal Café’s chef and owner, Yahya Noor, is a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Award for the Northeast. The café’s food has earned high praise from several media outlets including Bon Appetit, the Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine. The family-run restaurant was also featured in a July 2020 segment on the TV show Chronicle, where the food was described as having “flavors and spices from other lands…from India to the Middle East and even Italy.” (Their segment begins at 2:42 in the video.)

MIT Campus Dining worked with the Undergraduate Association (UA) and DormCon to gather student input on the new concept to replace Las Palmas. DormCon, the UA, and Dining concluded that incorporating a halal (food permitted under Islamic law) vendor was vital to meeting student needs. The UA and DormCon put together a survey, which was completed by more than 660 students. The results indicated that students preferred Tawakal as the new vendor going into the Launchpad, which is managed by CommonWealth Kitchen, (CWK) a nonprofit food business incubator.

DormCon members Rebecca Lizarde, Mitali Chowdhury, and UA member Shruti Ravikumar said, “We’re super excited that Tawakal is coming to MIT! We received input from almost 700 students, and collected information on student priorities regarding dietary restrictions, cost, and variety. Bringing a Halal vendor to the Student Center will provide necessary flexibility for students and is something that students have been requesting all year!”

“Campus Dining specifically requested halal operators from CommonWealth Kitchen for the coming academic year,” says Mark Hayes, director of campus dining. “We’re thrilled to have a halal food vendor on campus in the near future. I’m already imagining the aromas of cumin, curry, and turmeric wafting through the Student Center, and I look forward to welcoming Chef Noor and his team to MIT.”

Tawakal will offer several vegan, non-vegan, and gluten-free options including Falafel Bajiya, Beef Hilib Sambusa, Spinach and Chickpea Stew, and an assortment of Chapati Wraps to name just a few menu items.

Students interested in sampling food from Tawakal Halal Café before its campus opening can visit their original location at 389 Maverick Street in East Boston.


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--By Sarah Foote

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