Addis NOLA

Family members Biruk Alemayehu (left), chef Jaime Lobo and Prince Lobo opened Addis NOLA.

Addis NOLA’s new location at 2514 Bayou Road is just a mile and a half from its old spot at 422 S. Broad St., which opened in 2019. But the move to the new space, where service started Nov. 10, has given the restaurant room to grow, both in physical size and with an expanded menu.

It started with one woman’s big idea.

Though Biruk Alemayehu worked in academia, she’d been thinking about opening an Ethiopian restaurant. “I wanted to share my Ethiopian culture with New Orleans,” she says. “I just had to get my family onboard. We come from higher education — none of us had run a restaurant.”

Alemayehu, who is currently working with entrepreneurs at Propeller, came to New Orleans from Baton Rouge to teach public policy at Southern University.

A native of Ethiopia, she and her husband Jaime Lobo, along with their only son, Prince Lobo, then 2 years old, immigrated to the states to go to school at LSU in Baton Rouge. Lobo, who hails from Angola in central Africa, studied veterinary medicine and is a mosquito virologist. The family moved to New Orleans in 2009. A decade later, Prince Lobo was 22 and about to start pilot training, a dream he’d had since he was a kid, but he was drawn into the plan.

“My mom made the initial sacrifice for us to get here for the first time,” he says. “We got together as a family and said let’s do this.”

“It was my vision,” his mom says, “but when I came up with this crazy idea, they both immediately supported me.”

As the business grew, even during the pandemic, their roles solidified. Alemayehu is usually behind the scenes, managing finances and handling the business. Jaime Lobo is the chef running the kitchen, and Prince Lobo runs the front of the house.

“My dad is an unstoppable force in the kitchen,” Prince Lobo says. “We are all passionate.”

Addis NOLA has introduced many diners to Ethiopian cuisine. It is deeply flavored, with a range of slow cooked stews and braised dishes slowly simmered with caramelized onions and garlic in a blend of robust spices.

Traditionally, Ethiopian food is eaten by hand, using bits of torn off bread to scoop up bites of a dish like a wot or tibs. Wot, a type of earthy, thick stew, is one national dish found on the menu. It and other dishes typically are served on top of injera, a fermented pancake-like, stretchy flatbread that takes almost three days to make.

Addis’ shrimp wot is made with large Gulf shrimp. Its rib-eye tibs is stir-fried with onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, fresh herbs and butter.

Vegetables play a starring role in many dishes, with items including mushroom tibs, sweet potato wot, spiced red lentils, collards, beets and cabbage with carrots among the savory options.

Touré Folkes, founder of Turning Tables, a bar industry training program for people of color, culled the landscape of Black-owned spirits companies to craft the bar’s cocktail menu. He created the “The Woo,” a martini named for Jaime Lobo’s trademark expression of delight. It has a hint of tej, the Ethiopian honey wine, for a delicately flavored but potent drink. Another martini combines Ethiopian cold brew coffee with vodka and Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa.

Desserts include the king’s bread pudding, a riff on the New Orleans staple made with croissants and garnished with fresh fruit. Addis affogato features house-made vanilla ice cream, chocolate cookie crumbles and caramel, drizzled with Ethiopian coffee.

“The kitchen doesn’t cut corners,” Prince Lobo says. “And we don’t cut service corners either. We explain what (diners) are eating and why it’s part of our culture. The space is so sexy, everybody wants to get on the floor. But our servers don’t just serve, they have to be able to explain the origins of a dish and why it’s important to our culture.”

“My vision is for Addis to continue to grow,” Alemayehu says. “It’s never been just about us, but about our greater community.”

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