Born in Nazret, Ethiopia, Shita Yenenh knew she wanted to own a restaurant from a young age Zagol Ethiopian Restaurant-Ethiopian Yellow Pages. Culturally, a mother’s recipes were passed down generationally. Shita lost both parents while still very young, so she learned the art of cooking by remaking the recipes she tasted while at other people’s homes. When she moved to the United States with her daughters years later, she worked a few jobs before finally opening Zagol.
“When people come to my restaurant, they will get real food.”
Because of her unique exposure to multiple family recipes and styles, Zagol’s menu offers a wide range of flavor. As the sole chef and owner of the restaurant, Shita describes her cooking style as “…real. It’s real food, made with real love, and passion. I don’t stress about how much of something to put in. I make everything from scratch, by hand. When people come to my restaurant, they will get real food.”
Her favorite dish to serve to her guests is Zilzil Tibs, a savory dish of seasoned beef and sweet onions. Clouds of steam parade the dish from the kitchen, and it is still sizzling from the fire. “When I bring it out to them, their faces light up,” Shita states, gleaming.
Ethiopia is famous for its coffee, and for good reason. The sweet, pure, aroma of fresh brewed Ethiopian coffee beans is hard to ignore. There is a coffee ceremony traditional to Ethiopian culture, and it is performed at Zagol, by the chef herself. According to what Shita was taught as a child, the coffee ceremony originated long ago when the women in the villages stayed home while the men went to work. Early every morning, the women would prepare the coffee in clay pots, hand-grinding and roasting the beans, releasing decadent aromas that filled the air. Once the men had finished their cup of coffee and left for work, the women would gather whatever sewing or cotton they were working on that day, bring the coffee, and meet in the village to gossip together and have a good time. The idea of gathering to have a good time with the best of friends is what kept the tradition alive.
“No one goes to bed hungry”
Zagol reflects some of the amazing qualities of Ethiopian culture. “In my country, there are no babysitters. There are no senior homes. Nobody needs that. Your family and neighbors are there. Everybody helps everybody. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter if you are related, or a complete stranger. If you need something, they will give it to you, even if it was all they had. If you go to someone’s door, they will bring you in, make you comfortable, and feed you. No one goes to bed hungry.”
“Amet Bal. It means holiday and family and food and all the joy.”
When dining at Zagol, be prepared for a flavor-packed, family-friendly cultural experience. All of the dishes are presented on traditional Injera bread. There is no silverware, because the bread acts as a wrap, to scoop up the items by hand. The best way to get a full taste is to bring a few friends. The meal is shared, so the more people there are, the more choices can be ordered. Every day is treated like a family holiday at Zagol. “It’s my favorite. Amet Bal. It means holiday and family and food and all the joy.”
Zagol is an inviting place to bring friends and family, enjoy time together, and dine on delicious food. Shita cannot wait to meet you!