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Addis Nola is shaking up New Orleans by bringing Ethiopian culture to the city’s vibrant food scene. The award-winning restaurant is celebrating its second month of being reopened at the new location on Bayou Road. The historic corridor is the oldest in New Orleans and serves as a hub for Black culture and enterprise. The restaurant’s move to the area signifies its community standing and cultural impact as one of the few African restaurants in the city.
Bridging the Food Scene Gap
Addis Nola made its debut in March 2019 with the goal of bringing a taste of Ethiopia to New Orleans. The name “Addis” translates to “new” and is inspired by the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, which means “New Flower.” Naming the restaurant “New Nola” is symbolic of its work to introduce and connect African culture to the city’s diverse diaspora.
The visionary behind Addis Nola is Dr. Biruk Alemayehu, a Southern University at New Orleans professor who saw the lack of African representation and decided to fill the gap. “Before I opened [Addis Nola], there was only one Ethiopian restaurant and one West African,” says the founder. The restaurant is run by Dr. Alemayehu, her husband Jaime Lobo and their son Prince Lobo.
“We opened in a small space initially, but currently, we are really twice the size we were,” she says proudly. The upgraded space has added new facilities, like a full-service bar, more seating and a stage dedicated to their traditional coffee roasting ceremony. Expanding has allowed the family to take what they created with the original restaurant and bring it to the scale of their new location.
Coffee + Honey Wine
With their new bar and designated coffee roasting stage, the drinks accompanying your meal are just as impactful as the food. Addis Nola is known for its coffee roasting ceremony, where they roast the beans in front of you, and the essence of coffee wafts through the dining room. The ritual is described as a sensual experience that “pays homage to Black history” by Prince, the head of marketing and front-of-house manager.
The history of coffee can be traced back to Ethiopia, where it is believed to have originated. Prince explains that many people do not attribute the discovery of coffee to Africa. “The second largest commodity on earth, only behind oil, is a part of Black history, and that is something we are not told in schools,” he says.
The roasting of coffee is still a large part of Ethiopian culture and is used by the restaurant to educate people on the drink’s origins.
Tej, a wine made from honey, is another Addis Nola must-have with no shortage of history or flavor. The honey wine is delicately sweet and produced in-house by Prince himself. It is thought that honey wine was the “original libation” since the fermentation of honey in beehives is a natural process observed in Africa’s climate.
He explains how an empty hive filled with water during Africa’s rainy season could be fermented by the air from the dry season, producing honey wine. Tej is the national drink of Ethiopia and is typically homemade. You can order it at Addis Nola by the bottle, glass or even mixed into a cocktail.
The beverages are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the restaurant’s offerings. If you come for the drinks, then the food will certainly keep you in your seat.
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Where Ethiopia Meets New Orleans
The menu features a selection of Ethiopian dishes, some traditional and others with a New Orleans twist. You can expect to start with a dish like kitfo, a tartare-style marinated beef served with spiced herb butter, or the sambusas, small pastries stuffed with your choice of meat or vegetables.
For the main course, a crowd favorite is their acclaimed doro wat, a spicy flavorful chicken stew with caramelized onion and boiled egg simmered for a full 24 hours. “We prepare it today to make it for tomorrow,” says Prince. “It’s a really special dish in Ethiopia, normally only made during the holidays,” he adds.
Another popular option is the shrimp tibs, honey-glazed sauteed shrimp with peppers, onions and tomatoes. The dish combines tibs, a traditional Ethiopian stir fry, with locally sourced ingredients from New Orleans purveyors to create an entree that connects the two cuisines.
“Ethiopia is a land-locked country. We don’t have any seafood,” the professor states. “But we have to think about the place we are living, so we have shrimp.”
Addis Nola does an incredible job of balancing authenticity with innovation by incorporating local influence into their dishes without straying too far from tradition. “The menu is like really, I would say, a living document. It has never stopped, so we just keep adding to it,” remarks Dr. Alemayehu. Most of the recipes on the menu were developed by the founder, who grew up eating them in Ethiopia.
Tastes Like Home
Dr. Alemayehu talks about her upbringing and her connection with Ethiopian cuisine. “Although I was very young, we were always told to sit down and watch how the food is prepared,” she begins. “I never forget those moments where I feel like I’m home, and everybody is together preparing the meal.” The food reminds her of growing up in Ethiopia and keeps her feeling close to her heritage. “My connection to the food is like remembering my family,” she says thoughtfully.
Family is an important value in Ethiopian culture, and it is reflected in the way that they eat. “Ethiopian food is a communal food, meaning we eat together all at one table,” Dr. Alemayehu explains. Addis Nola creates an atmosphere that invokes this sense of community and makes guests feel like a part of their family. “The restaurant is an extension of our home; it’s a welcome; it’s an open embrace to try our culture and cuisine,” the founder declares.
Dr. Alemayehu and her family have successfully made their mark in New Orleans and seem to be fitting right in on Bayou Road. Addis Nola is right at home alongside other Black-owned businesses shaping the community. By sharing their culture and educating through their unique dining experience, the restaurant is making a change and encouraging others to do the same.
Addis Nola is located at 2514 Bayou Road, New Orleans, and is currently open for dinner. You can view the full menu, hours of operation or purchase from their online market at their website. You can also follow the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.