David Letterman visits St. Paul to interview Somali immigrants for Netflix show

Customers dining on chapati wraps and Somali steak sandwiches got a surprise Friday afternoon when the former “Late Night” host David Letterman walked into Afro Deli and Grill with Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Muna Abdullahi, the first Somali American senate page.

Letterman was in St. Paul filming a segment for his new Netflix show set to air in 2018.

The yet-to-be-named six-episode series has Letterman interviewing “extraordinary” people, according to the Netflix press release. The people he was most interested in in St. Paul were the Somali immigrants.

He stopped in for lunch about 2 p.m. at the deli, which is just around the block from the Minnesota Children’s Museum, to talk with owner Abdirahman Kahin, 40, who is a self-proclaimed poster child for the African immigrants. He immigrated to America from Djibouti in 1996.

Around 25,000 Somalis live in Minnesota, according to a 2010 American Community Survey.

Kahin said Letterman talked to him about his success with the deli, which opened in 2015. He has another restaurant in Minneapolis on Washington Avenue.

“My restaurant is an example of integration,” Kahin explained. “We share our culture and our beautiful food. That’s what it’s all about being in America.”

He describes the deli as an urban fast-casual restaurant that serves a fusion of African, Mediterranean and American themed food.

Franken, a regular, had the lamb chapati wrap with french fries. Letterman ordered the Roasted Veggie Sandwich.

“He also tried some Somali tea,” said Sarah Quinn, a cashier who took Letterman’s order.

Did he like it? “Yes,” she said. “No complaints.”

Quinn said she and the other employees had their hands full keeping curious customers quiet and corralled to one side of the restaurant during the 30 minutes of filming.

“He joked around with the customers a lot,” she said. “He said Al Franken would pay for lunch for everyone.”

Kahin and Franken have known each other since Franken invited him to be a guest at the State of the Union address in 2016 where he met then-President Obama.

Kahin said having Letterman, who he called “an icon,” in his deli was amazing.

“We grew up watching him,” he said. “It was an honor to me and to Minnesota.”


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