Jan. 27, 2022 By Allie Griffin
The woman behind the popular Ethiopian and Eritrean food truck—Makina Cafe—will put down roots in Sunnyside this spring with the opening of her first brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Eden Egziabher plans to open Makina Cafe at 46-11 Skillman Ave. in mid-April, while still operating the business’s two food trucks. The location was previously occupied by Saffron Garden, an Indian restaurant.
The eatery will feature many of the menu items that have made the original food trucks successful, as well as additional dinner options, a full coffee bar and a cocktail list.
The menu will include popular items like injera–a rolled thin flatbread–and slow-cooked dishes seasoned with berbere and mitmita, traditional Ethiopian spice blends.
Egziabher decided she would open a permanent restaurant roughly five years, shortly after starting Makina Cafe out of a truck. She said she wanted her food to have a full-time home for locals and residents to easily find and visit.
The Ethiopia-native knew from the beginning that Queens was the only borough of choice.
Egziabher, who lives in Astoria, shared that she currently travels to Brooklyn or Harlem whenever she has a craving for Ethiopian food that isn’t her own. She said the cuisine is shockingly missing from the borough that’s known for its diversity and food.
“You have pretty much people and food from every part of the world [in Queens], so I thought that it was strange that we don’t have a single Ethiopian Eritrean restaurant,” she said. “And if it was going to be anybody, I wanted it to be Makina.”
She landed on Sunnyside after finding the perfect storefront and falling in love with the neighborhood and its tight-knit community.
“Every single person that we talk to — whether they knew about Ethiopian food … or it’s the first time that they’re hearing about it — they’re welcoming us with arms wide open and expressing how excited they are,” Egziabher said.
She said she is excited to expand Makina Cafe’s menu to include options beyond those easy to eat on the go. She also plans to have an extensive coffee selection at the brick-and-mortar location.
“Ethiopian, Eritrean culture is deeply embedded in coffee,” Egziabher said. “From traditional style, the way that we served it growing up, to café style, and so I wanted to bring that to the neighborhood.”
Her team is also developing a cocktail menu that incorporates local and international influences as well as a full dinner menu that will include traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes as well as some new recipes inspired by East African tribes.
More than half of the menu will be vegan, as Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine is heavily plant-based, Egziabher said.
With the new storefront in Sunnyside, Egziabher also said she hopes to become involved in the community.
“We’re very much so looking forward to digging deeper into Queens and getting really planted in the community,” she said. “We’re definitely looking forward to getting to know how we can contribute in any way, shape or form into our community so we can make Queens and Sunnyside a pleasant place.”