Connor Lynch
Connor Lynch

Restaurant Roundup: Save Zehabesha! And epic news from the Epic Grill

Time for fans of East African/Veggie food to rally, while the Epic Grill makes a power move out of the Arnica

Zehabesha gathers fans but needs more

Taking over a frequently vacated location on the corner of 50th St. and 51st Ave., the owners of Zehabesha launched their restaurant in November of last year. They’re the second East African restaurant to open in the space, after the closing of Blue Star earlier in 2014.

Since then, they’ve been gathering fans — particularly among Yellowknife’s vegetarians — for their authentic injera and wot platters, but those fans should do their best to keep spreading the word:  “We’re struggling,” co-owner Dinku Tadesse tells EDGEYK.com.

Tadesse, his wife Eline Baye, and her brother Elias Baye started the restaurant with Tadesse’s associate from Javaroma, Aman Hassen. Originally it was run much like its predecessor, offering both traditional dishes and more westernized fare, such as donairs.

That proved to be a bust. “People go to other places for those things,” says Tadesse. “We were having to throw out food, we were losing money.” Their breakfast menu still includes such basic amenities as soups and sandwiches, but the lunch menu is dominated by real Ethiopian/East African cuisine.

“Most people like the traditional dishes.” (EDGEYK.com’s resident vegetarian claims it’s “the best vegetarian restaurant in town,” but the menu includes plenty of options for meat-eaters.)

“The feedback’s been very good,” says Tadesse, “but we don’t have any advertising. It’s too expensive.”

As of now, rental of the location runs almost $7,000 a month; Tadesse and Elias both still drive cabs to help pay the bills.

Aman and Eline, along with their kitchen staff, do a lot of the cooking, but everybody pitches in when they’re busy.

All three of them came to Yellowknife from Winnipeg. Elias arrived first, in 2006, Dinku followed in 2010, and his wife came up in 2012.

Epic Grill moves on up the hill

This popular Filipino restaurant will be making the move to the legislative assembly next month. “The bid was open, we put in a bid, and they picked us,” says Dorothy De Leon. Their contract begins April 1, and they’ll be running the new location at least five days a week. “I need to confirm with them that we can open on weekends, but that’s what they said,” says De Leon. Much of their activity will involve catering services for the premier and MLAs.

Dorothy says there are no plans to change the menu, but their lumpia will have to be changed. “Nothing can be be deep-fried at the ledge, so it will be baked instead,” said De Leon. Fans of their silog breakfast platters anxiously await news about whether they’ll still be able to scarf those up on Saturdays and Sundays.

Part of the reason for the move is letting the public know that the Ledge is open to the public. Dorothy figures that they’re hoping a restaurant like hers will help increase public awareness of the open nature of the legislature. Whatever the reasons, it’s more motivation than ever to get involved in politics.