Just a few decades ago, finding pho or a gyro was near impossible in Charlotte. In Charlotte magazine’s October issue, I contributed to this massive list of Charlotte’s global options today.
Abugida Feast with Injera
“Growing up here, I got asked crazy questions, off-the-wall questions,” says Yodite Tesafye, who owns Abugida Ethiopian Café & Restaurant. She was 15 when her mother moved her and her three siblings from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the United States. As a student at Independence High School, Tesafye says many classmates had a false image of her life in the African country. “They all assumed I saw animals running around … or that we didn’t have food.”
Today, the 35-year-old co-owns Abugida in Plaza Midwood, where she corrects those stereotypes. “For people to learn somebody’s culture, food is the best way.”
Tesafye opened the restaurant in 2017 with her brother Zemaf, who runs the kitchen and serves the city’s best injera, a spongy flatbread made from teff flour. The menu has two “feast” options—one with meat ($18), one without ($12)—that come with a sampling of dishes that include gomen (chopped and seasoned collard greens) and yemisir kik wat (split red lentils cooked with berbere sauce). Berbere is the most common seasoning used in Ethiopian dishes; it’s a mix of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and 19 other spices.
With its many flavors and dishes, an Abugida feast represents the diverse neighborhood around the restaurant—the neighborhood Tesafye calls home. “I think we’re lucky because we’re right in Plaza. Most of this generation, like the people who live around here, they are very adventurous,” she says. Tesafye teaches them to ditch silverware and use injera as a utensil, and to sip strong Ethiopian coffee poured from an ornate clay pot called a jebena. “They want to try new things. So we’re lucky in that sense.”