GRAND AVENUE, WEST OF 580 – September 2015
Hi Neighbors! This month Enssaro announces a move and a special offer for Splashpad readers. – LZ.
Enssaro Ethiopian Restaurant
One day in 2006, Mama Tamirue came home from buying Injera at the Lake Merritt Super Market and announced to her son Solomon, “We are going to open a restaurant. Your sister, Nesanet, and I will cook and you will manage the front. I found a place.” Mama (whose nickname is Chu-Chu) said they would, so they did, opening Enssaro (E-Ne-Saa-Ro) Ethiopian Restaurant, named for their hometown.
On the one hand, opening a restaurant made perfect sense because all their friends and family loved the delicious dishes she made from traditional Ethiopian recipes that had been in the family for generations. But none of them had any experience operating a restaurant. Today Solomon smiles and says. “Half the time when we got it right, we were just guessing.”
Their recipe for restaurant success has been to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere they call “back home” by combining attentive customer service, traditional décor, and classic Ethiopian cuisine using many ingredients and spices brought from their hometown. Mama, Sister, and sometimes Grandma cook in the tiny kitchen. Solomon manages the front, which is always busy, and servers include many cousins including Gabriel. One hears a steady murmur of Amharic as they communicate requests and exchange information in their home language.
The first time I visited Enssaro (the restaurant, not the town), as I stared at the four pages of food choices and one full page of beverages, Solomon suggested I try the Build Your Own Sampler. Then he guided me through the options. My sampler included Ye Beg Wot (lamb slowly simmered in berbere spices), Messer Wot (lentils slowly simmered in spices), and Ata-Kilt (slow cooked potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions with garlic, ginger and turmeric), served on a sourdough flatbread bed of Injera, with a basket of dark Injera pieces for scooping my food. “You’re going to get food on your fingers,” Solomon said with a smile, miming how I could (and would) lick my fingers afterward. The spices in the lamb and lentil dishes gave a gentle kick of heat that was eased by my bottle of dark Hakim Stout, brewed in Harar, Ethiopia. It is one of six Ethiopian beers on the menu. Some of the other traditional beverages include tej (Ethiopian wine with fermented honey), Ethiopian black tea served with spicy hot water, and of course, Ethiopian coffee.
Traditional Injera is made from the tiny t’eff grain which is a good source of iron, calcium, protein, fiber, and B vitamins, and is gluten free. T’eff grain is composed of resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that is digested slowly, which can help with blood glucose control and weight management. But everything tastes so good at Enssaro, you won’t be thinking about how healthy the food is.
In mid-September, the Tamirue family will say good-bye to its tiny kitchen and small seating area when the restaurant opens at its new home across the street in the vacant storefront at 357 Grand Ave. Long-time neighborhood residents may remember many years ago when this location housed a video store. (You can still see the drop slot for night returns at the door.)
Mama and Sister are excited to be getting a much larger, more efficient kitchen. Solomon is happy that Enssaro will be able to take reservations for the larger seating area. The décor will be even more traditional as they leave the bamboo Tiki bar behind that they inherited when they first moved into their present location. The new place will include a bar with a different design including bar seating, and some tables with seats facing the window onto Grand. Almost regrettably, Solomon says they are adding one television for Game Days.
The opening in mid-September at 357 Grand Ave will be a soft opening, not a grand opening. Solomon notes with a grin, “It’s hard to celebrate when you are working.” However, guests at the new Enssaro location, who mention seeing this Splash Pad blog, will be treated to a free draft beer with each meal through the end of September.
Enssaro Ethiopian Restaurant
Current Location: 366B Grand Ave.
New Location (mid-September): 357A Grand Ave. Oakland, CA
Open Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday: 11:30 AM – 10 PM
Open Fridays and Saturdays: 11:30 AM – 11 PM