Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant will be the second Ethiopian restaurant, after Empress Taytu, in Northern Ohio when it opens its door next month

By By Douglas Trattner (Cleveland Scene) |

Despite a sizeable Ethiopian contingent here in Northeast Ohio, there has been one and only one restaurant built specifically to cater to them and others eager to sample their cuisine. For 25 years, Empress Taytu (6125 St. Clair Ave., 216-391-9400) has had the Ethiopian restaurant game locked up tight.

That monopoly will end next month when Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant opens on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. The business is being opened by Zeleke Belete, a resident of Shaker Heights who was born in that African country.

“In other big cities, Ethiopian food is as popular as Chipotle,” Belete explains. “I want to bring that kind of thing to Cleveland. I am originally from Ethiopia and I know a lot of other people who are looking to eat Ethiopian food. People these days are tired of eating pizza and burgers.”

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After searching for the better part of a year to nail down a location, Belete settled on Cleveland Heights because of the east-side neighborhood’s proximity to diners, especially adventurous ones.

Ethiopian cuisine is characterized both by its unique flavors and its communal presentation, a family-style approach with multiple items arriving on a large platter. Vegetable, grain, meat and fish-based stews, some of which are spicy, are scooped up and eaten with small pieces of injera, a spongy flatbread made from fermented teff batter.

“I’m eager to share the food and how to eat it with people,” Belete says.

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