Neighborhood restaurant features flavors from across the world
Tehetina “Tina” Tedla, owner of Enat Ethiopian, says she wants to do more than share the delicious food her mother cooked for her family and friends growing up, she also wants to introduce her culture to the Charlotte area.
And though Tedla grew up in Charlotte, attending Eastway Middle School, Independence High and graduating from nearby Winston Salem State University, her restaurant serves traditional Ethiopian fare from a world away.
The Charlotte food scene has rapidly developed into one of the best in the country, ranking even higher than traditional heavyweights New York, Atlanta and Charleston according to Zagat.
And while big-name restaurant openings grab headlines, Charlotte’s small, unsung neighborhood venues give the city its unique flavor.
Enat Ethiopian, a small, family-owned restaurant tucked away in a shopping center at Eastway and The Plaza, features a cuisine with a long and storied history. Ethiopia, after all, is the birthplace of coffee.
“Coffee and food are a big part of our social lives says,” says Tedla, whose family immigrated from Ethiopia 30 years ago. “With coffee and meals, you sit and hang out and talk, it’s all done with family and friends.”
In addition to roasting and brewing coffee in the traditional way, the foods at Enat Ehtiopian are home made, from the injera, the spongy bread that is the foundation of meals, to the delicious curry-like stews, salads and sautéed vegetables.
Enat Ethiopian is now set up for take out exclusively, but that doesn’t mean you should approach it as a “grab and go” experience. The food is meant to be enjoyed slowly, family style.
And that can be a problem in a pandemic.
“We have a small restaurant and it would be hard to social distance,” says Tedla. “And now that we have gone to strictly takeout because of COVID, some of my regular Ethiopian customers are having a hard time taking the food to-go. I feel bad but we have to be safe.”
Tedla said the grant she received from the city’s Access to Capital Small Business Recovery Program has helped her weather the brunt of the economic downturn, helping to pay for rent, utilities, supplies and employee payroll.
“I was very impressed with the application process,” says Tedla. “It was so simple and very well put together. It’s reassuring to know the city will help out small businesses in a crisis situation.”
Currently, she said business is a bit “flat” and that she is grateful for her customers who continue to order take out.
Inspiration from her mother
Enat is the Amharic word for mother, and Tedla chose it because her mother inspired her to open the restaurant. Growing up, she saw how much other people loved the food her mother made.
And when she returned home after graduating from college, she saw the growth and change taking place in Charlotte and knew the city was ready for a new cuisine.
Tedla said her approach to running the restaurant relies on three basic tenets: discipline, consistency and persistence. She saw how hard her parents worked when she was growing up and that continues to inspire her today. She said she has worked 70-80 hour a week since opening and is committed to staying the course.
“I am all in.”
One bite of her food and you will be too!
Facebook: Enat Ethiopian Restaurant