After closing its original location in 2011 on University Avenue, Abyssinia Restaurant reopened in the current spot near the University of Rochester campus in 2013.
Abyssinia Restaurant is a meeting place for all occasions. At one table, a mother and daughter out to lunch with a friend are discussing the flavors of Ethiopian cuisine. At another table, two old friends are celebrating a reunion after 30-plus years. For me and my friend it was all about preparing to feast on more than 10 different dishes, which was not as daunting as one might think.
Its modest location within Mt. Hope Plaza marks a new chapter for Abyssinia. After closing its original location in 2011 on University Avenue, it reopened in the current spot near the University of Rochester campus in 2013. Owner Daniel Tekilu dedicates his restaurant to his late wife, Aster Mengsha, who died suddenly in 2014.
Although the traditional Ethiopian restaurant is in an informal strip mall, the large open dining space has an upscale feel to it. Red cloth napkins line the tables and African artifacts accent the space.
Beer and wine is available as well as Ethiopian honey wine — called Tej — by the glass or bottle.
We sipped on spiced tea ($2) and coffee ($2.75), which arrived a bit later in the meal in ceremonial fashion, complete with its own table. In case you didn’t know, coffee originated in Ethiopia, where it was initially eaten for its caffeinated benefits. To this day, coffee is one of Ethiopia’s top exports.
The coffee is served in a clay pot called a jebena, which is black with a tall neck and carved red stopper at the peak. Sitting on a woven coaster, it’s full of freshly brewed hot coffee and presented with a demitasse, or half-sized cup. After pouring from the jebena, a natural crema the color of caramel rose to the surface. The smooth Arabica brew handled a bit of sugar well. I also decided to add a splash of coconut milk. It was strong and pleasantly easy to drink.