By Greg Cox |

Barring any last minute snafus, Azeb Mekonnen expects to open Awazé by Friday in Cary’s Reedy Creek Plaza shopping center. A native of Ethiopia who has been catering locally for the past year and a half, Mekonnen saw her chance to open a restaurant when she heard through the grapevine that the Ashee Ethiopian Cuisine space was available. She didn’t waste any time in taking that chance.

With her husband’s financial backing and the help of a sister who moved here from Maryland to join the team, Mekonnen has worked quickly to ready the restaurant for opening. Because Ashee had also been an Ethiopian restaurant, the new owner had a head start. In just a couple of weeks, the family have given the dining room a makeover with a fresh and inviting new look, complete with a traditional Ethiopian basket table in one corner. (Hint: Ask for that table if it’s available, for a more authentic experience.)

A sign out front describes the food as “Ethiopian/Eritrean Cuisine” — which, according to Azeb Mekonnen, are essentially one and the same. “They’re two separate countries now,” she explains, “but Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia.”

She goes on to note that the restaurant takes its name from a seasoning paste made with the signature Ethiopian spice blend, berbere. The distinctive flavor is woven throughout the cuisine, found in many of the meat and vegetarian dishes that are traditionally eaten with injera — a spongy flat bread that serves as food, plate and eating utensil rolled into one.

Awazé (904 NE Maynard Road, Cary; 919-463-0435) will be open for lunch and dinner daily. A website is in development, and the phone number should go live before the restaurant opens.

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