The absence of meat and dairy isn’t obvious while you’re there at Bunna Café, but when you leave your step will have a new spring in it.
There are some New York restaurants that you can mention in any social setting and someone will invariably nod and intone, sagely, “Oh, yes, I go there all the time.” Somewhat remarkably for a vegan Ethiopian spot—in Bushwick, no less— Bunna Café is one of them. What’s more, Bunna is well, and rightly, loved. It’s one of those vegan restaurants where the absence of meat and dairy isn’t obvious while you’re there, but when you venture out the door your step has a new spring in it.
The dining room at Bunna is dark, woody, filament-bulb-lit, and perennially almost full. Murmuring couples on dates provide backing vocals for out-of-towners visiting friends for the first time (“Brooklyn’s basically a big city, right?”), until a steel-drum band, say, strikes up a set, mixing Beatles covers with island rhythms. There may even be a coffee ceremony going on, with incense burning as demitasse cups are filled with pungent black liquid. At Bunna Café, which means “coffee” in Amharic, the ceremonial coffee is free.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You should first order cocktails. The best among these is the Melkam Maracuja, playfully sweet with rum, passion fruit, and sage shrub, followed by the Ethiopian Ice Road Trucker, a crisp sunflower-milk shake spiked with stout and bourbon.