As one of the only Ethiopian restaurants in Northern Colorado, Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine offers not only a tasty cuisine but also a friendly atmosphere and a tour of Ethiopia.
Located at 2900 Harvard St., behind Gibbs Bagels, Nyala, is the only Ethiopian restaurant in Fort Collins. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner at affordable prices and all dishes are served traditionally, either at regular restaurant tables or at the traditional Ethiopian tables called mosebs.
The restaurant had its grand opening on the weekend of Sept. 24. It is owned by Etage Asrat. Asrat has three daughters; Mahlet, 23, Melat, 22, and Merry Menwyelet, 16, all of whom work in the restaurant. Asrat does all the cooking and her daughters help out while juggling other jobs and school.
Asrat is passionate about cooking and decided years ago that she wanted to own her own restaurant because she wanted to share her Ethiopian culture with the people in Fort Collins. After some hard work the family came together and chose a name for their restaurant. Nyala seemed to fit well with the restaurant's Ethiopian roots. Nyala is named after an endangered animal – the mountain Nyala, an antelope from the southern highlands of Ethiopia.
"I used to cook for friends and family in Ethiopia," Asrat said. "They encouraged me to do this."
Every employee and guest is treated like part of the family. Thirteen-year-old Sophie Tyndall is an Ethiopian friend of the family and eats at the restaurant regularly.
"I feel like I'm at home when I'm here," Tyndall said.
She said she is happy because there are a lot of Ethiopians who go to Nyala.
"Everyone knows everyone," she said.
The restaurant offers not only Ethiopian dishes but also an Ethiopian culture. Customers are welcome to come in and request a tour of the restaurant.
With artwork from famous people and places on the walls, guests are taken to a place they can only imagine. With an array of Ethiopian music to listen to, customers get to imagine themselves in places like the Blue Nile Waterfall or a 400-year-old Ethiopian church. The wait staff will take customers on tours of Ethiopian past that will enlighten them to take another step to learn more.
"It's not just a culinary experience, it's a cultural experience," said Rachel Singer, a senior psychology major.
Singer said Nyala is one of her favorite restaurants in Fort Collins because she loves the its relaxing style.
"I think we need more family-owned restaurants in Fort Collins," Singer said. "No more chain restaurants."
Melat Menwyelet, Asrat's daughter who works at the restaurant, is also a senior psychology major at CSU. She said the moment the restaurant opened was the moment her life changed forever. She said the restaurant was what her mother had always wanted and has made both of them very happy.
"We get so many different cultures, a lot of different diversity here," Menwyelet said.
Meals at Nyala are served with a spongy, crepe-like bread called injera, which signifies bonds of loyalty and friendship between people. Traditionally, many Ethiopians eat with their hands and feed each other to show love and trust.
After dinner, at a customer's request Nyala roasts coffee for each table, which is meant to compliment the dinner. The restaurant orders almost every ingredient directly from Ethiopia, including the spices. It also serves various kinds of Ethiopian wine and beer as well as Ethiopian teas and coffees.
"It's thrilling to have food that has spices that you can't get anywhere else but here," Singer said.
This is the place where customers are meant to sit down and converse with their loved ones. The restaurant offers a very relaxed setting where customers can feel comfortable to sit with their neighbors and talk.