Ethiopian food is getting a lot easier to come by in the Bedford + Bowery domain. Two weeks ago, Bunna Cafe took up permanent lunchtime residence at Mama Joy’s bar in Bushwick, and on Saturday it’ll join the lineup at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Not only that: the East Village is getting an Ethiopian bistro as well.
Haile Ethiopian Cuisine is set to open on Avenue B in the first two weeks of August – possibly by the end of this week. Hiwot Haile says her husband Menasie Haile has wanted to open the 32-seat bistro ever since he arrived from Addis Ababa, where he learned to cook at his family’s restaurant.
Here, he’ll serve vegetarian specialties as well as meat dishes such as Yebeg Wot (a traditional lamb stew) and Doro Wett (chicken slow cooked in a stew of onions, berbere, kibe, and boiled eggs).
Over at Bunna Cafe in Bushwick, you won’t find meat on the vegan menu. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., chef and co-founder Kadija Ali Srage offers a choice of three shareable dishes ($6.50 $7) or five ($10 $11) served Gursha style, meaning diners use their hands and injera, an Ethiopian flatbread, to eat. To drink, there’s a slightly sweet shai tea as well as puréed avocado, papaya, or mango juices.
The inklings of the lunch spot inside Mama Joy’s began two years ago. Following an extended stay in Ethiopia, co-owner Sam Severence wanted to share some of the culture he had experienced there with friends back home in Brooklyn. He borrowed a pal’s rooftop for the night and conducted a traditional coffee ceremony, complete with an Ethiopian-style rooftop hut.
That eventually turned into a series of secret dinner parties, and then a pop-up Ethiopian restaurant that traveled throughout Bushwick, Williamsburg, the Lower East Side, and beyond.
Settling in Bushwick was a no-brainer. “It is becoming a foodie neighborhood,” says Severence, who would know: he’s lived there for 8 years and has held his pop-up shop and events at places like The Narrows, Kavé, Alaska, Little Skips, and Pine Box Rock Shop.
He and Ali will continue with those events even as they do lunch at Mama Joy’s (next up: a pop-up at The Drink, August 8th and 9th). In addition to getting in on the action at Smorgasburg starting this weekend, they’re also planning a music festival for the Ethiopian New Year in September.
Bunna Café, 1084 Flushing Ave., nr. Porter Ave., Bushwick
Haile Ethiopian Cuisine, 182 Avenue B, nr. E 12th St., East Village