Meet Addis NOLA: a family-owned Ethiopian restaurant based in New Orleans

Looking at the menu for Addis NOLA on Bayou Rd. sends an authentic shiver down any potential customer’s spine. Delicious and unique meals such as Doro Wot & Marmita Shrimp, a national dish in Ethiopia, come together perfectly in a cultured mix full of flavor. The restaurant, officially opened on November 10th of this year, is styled and decorated with traditional African art and furniture; a wonderful experience for anyone to encounter, whether they are a fan of African foods or just trying out a new restaurant.

Lamb Tibs with collard green plate at Addis NOLA.

The owners of the restaurant consist of Dr. Jaime Lobo who is from Angola, his wife Dr. Biruk Alemayehu, reigning from Ethiopia who works as a monitoring and evaluation manager for a nonprofit dedicated to supporting social innovation in New Orleans. Their son, Prince was born in Angola and helps run the restaurant with his mother as the general manager and creator of their highly popular wine, Prince’s Tej. “My mom always talked about bringing a slice of authentic Ethiopia to new Orleans, and in 2019 we opened Addis NOLA,” Prince began to share. “I am grateful to be a part of this incredible journey.”

As one of the two Ethiopian restaurants in the entire state of Louisiana, Dr. Alemayehu came up with the name of the restaurant by thinking of its capital city. ‘Addis’ comes from the capital city ‘Addia Ababa’ and translates to ‘new flower, and connecting the two together, this creates ‘A new NOLA’. “This restaurant gives New Orleanians a place to celebrate the cultural heritage of East Africa through an authentic communal Ethiopian dining understanding,” Prince shared. The family decided to utilize Bayou Rd, which is one of the oldest passageways that served as an epicenter of black and Native commercial exchange. They wanted to spotlight the history in this area, which now has nine other black businesses occupying the street.

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The Lobos pass down their recipes from generation to generation, as the traditional Ethiopian recipes are family owned. “My mom was always passionate about cooking the traditional Ethiopian meal whenever the occasion allowed her to keep the tradition going,” Prince shared. As they are a blended family, they enjoy often blending recipes from west Africa and New Orleans when the opportunity arises and there’s a special occasion. This sense of organization for the Lobo family stems from their precise and always developing organizational skills; they put the needs of their family first while also focusing on the business. “My whole family and I prioritize, which is not easy, but it is necessary to maintain balance, stay focused and continue to grow the business,” Prince said.

Interior design of Addis NOLA restaurant.

When it comes to obstacles that the family has faced while dealing with their new business and restaurant, they recall 2020’s quarantine and COVID-19 lockdown. “We had to find ways to withstand the challenges and keep our doors open,” Prince said. “While COVID-19 did force us to shut down temporarily and slow us down when Addis NOLA started to take off, it didn’t shut us down entirely because the passion for serving and being part of the community is in our family’s blood.” They continued to grow their business and gain attraction to their restaurant by taking advantage of online ordering systems while working with other minority businesses and getting involved in their community to better support their community. Some mantras that Prince likes to use to help motivate them during tough times is shouting “Addis NOLA!” This was used to promote the business during the 2020 pandemic, and it has now become his signature to the local community. To Prince this name is not just a restaurant name, but a term of perseverance, light and compassion for their community and those around them.

The Lobo family wants the community to know that their company mission is to create an empowering and positive work environment that their team members would look forward to coming to work and being proud that they work for the restaurant. “This pride is created through everyone pulling their weight, helping their fellow employees learn and grow, providing customers with an exceptional dining experience, and genuinely caring about each other, the food atmosphere, and service,” Prince said. The family believes that their employees are their most important relationship, and the success of the restaurant depends upon creating competent staff members who push themselves to deliver a great experience to each and every customer, no matter what occurs.

Follow the Lobo family here for more updates.

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