Cafe Abyssinia on Magazine pioneered Ethiopian food in New Orleans

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Cafe Abyssinia photo

Veggie Platter

Ethiopian native Ermias Alemu settled in New Orleans in 2007 as the city was rebuilding from the levee failures after Hurricane Katrina. He worked many jobs, including driving a cab.

When customers asked him where they could get authentic Ethiopian food, Alemu was stumped.

“Ethiopian food wasn’t really something that New Orleans offered,” he said. “Before I moved here, there was a place on Earhart called Red Sea Eritrean and Ethiopian, but it wasn’t open very long before it closed.”

Now Alemu serves authentic Ethiopian cuisine at Cafe Abyssinia, a small restaurant at 3511 Magazine St.

Seeing a need for the cuisine that he grew up enjoying, Alemu enlisted the help of his mother, Asselefech Wako, the person he calls the true cook in the family. Together they crafted the dishes that would frame Cafe Abyssinia’s menu.

“My mother was living in Chicago, and when I decided to open this place, she came here and taught me how to cook all of the food,” he said.

Cafe Abyssinia quickly began to take shape with an extensive menu of lamb, chicken, beef, seafood and vegan dishes prepared with traditional African spices. The restaurant opened in 2010.

Cafe Abyssinia photo

Doro Wat

Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands and served with injera, a spongy flatbread used as a utensil while it soaks up flavors. 

Alemu’s specialties include the Veggie combo served with lentils, cabbage and carrot, potato and carrot, shiro (chickpeas), collard greens and yellow split peas; Doro Wat, an Ethiopian chicken stew made with red pepper sauce and an assortment of spices served with chicken breast, kibbeh (Ethiopian spiced butter), a hardboiled egg and Ayib, a homemade farmers cheese; Beef Kay-Wat made with cubed beef, onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper sauce and kibbeh; and Lamb Tibs cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, jalapenos and finished with rosemary and kibbeh.

Something that sets Cafe Abyssinia’s menu apart is the affordable lunch menu. Dishes such as the Veggie Combo, Doro Wat, Lega (beef) tibs, and Beef Kay-Wat range in price from $10 to $13 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m, daily.

Cafe Abyssinia is one of two Ethiopian restaurants in New Orleans. Addis Nola, a restaurant serving Ethiopian cuisine since 2019, recently announced plans to move from South Broad to Bayou Road.

Cafe Abyssinia photo

Fish gulash

Cafe Abyssinia is open from Thursday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Cafe Abyssinia
3511 Magazine St.
504-894-6238
cafeabyssinia2020@gmail.com
cafeabyssinia.com
Facebook: @CafeAbyssiniaNola
Instagram.com: @cafeabyssinia_nola

 

 

Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at mlsongy@gmail.com.

One thought on “Cafe Abyssinia on Magazine pioneered Ethiopian food in New Orleans

  1. Side note: Red Sea was amazing. The owner was so kind – they closed after the restaurant was robbed and the owner was badly beaten. It was very sad.

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