Tucked away in Chinatown along Smith Street, the only Ethiopian restaurant on Oʻahu, Ethiopian Love, has been welcoming visitors to try its authentic and cultural dishes for the past two and a half years. However, the owners, Abraham Samuel and his partner Fay Shewakena, started making flavorful foods native to their country ever since they were a pop-up eatery on Kapahulu back in 2012.

Ethiopian Love is located on 1112 Smith St in Chinatown and is a great venue for intimate dining groups or large parties. (Photo by Kayla Valera)

The inspiration to open the restaurant came from their exposure to other restaurants on the mainland. Having traveled to nearly 40 states in the U.S., the couple noticed that most places that served traditional Ethiopian food didn’t taste genuine and decided that they would replicate the dishes that they fondly remember from home. Since then, both Samuel and Shewakena have been integrating their delicious and exotic foods to the island’s roster of healthy eating options.

Besides the taste, it’s easy to see the influence of Ethiopian from the decor and photographs that surrounds its intimate interior. Incorporating as much art and traditions into their atmosphere as possible, Ethiopian Love stays true to its roots and hopes to spread its culture with the customers in an equally educational and enjoyable way. Its inclusive dining options for vegans/vegetarians and omnivores also makes it a great eating environment for those still curious about Ethiopian dishes.

For novices of Ethiopian cuisines, it is recommended to refer to the helpful videos on the restaurant’s website. The eating style is uniquely different due to the fact that one would not usually eat with utensils, but rather with their hands. Using injera, a sourdough-like flatbread that is made of the grain teff, customers would unravel the given bread and use it to pick up the food on the round plate with it. This would apply to most of the entrées, but if needed there are forks and spoons that the staff are willing to supply.

The outside patio of Ethiopian Love makes for an ideal eating space for bigger parties. (Photo by Kayla Valera)

One of the reasons as to why Samuel and Shewakena don’t wish to expand the restaurant to other locations is because the preparation for the food can be quite time-consuming and requires special attention. For example, the production of the injera alone, which is provided with almost every dish served, is made from scratch in the kitchen and requires a 2-3 day process to make. However, the agreeable prices (ranging from $10-$30) and the quality dishes offered are enough of a reason for people to try out this new dining experience at its lone location.

It is recommended that those who wish to bring along a big group (of 10 people or more) to dine in should make a reservation at least a month and a half in advance. For bigger parties who would like a larger venue, there is an outside courtyard that can service at least 30 people. In addition to this, catering for private parties is also possible by contacting the restaurant beforehand to design a set of meals for the event.

Ethiopian Love is located on 1112 Smith St. in Chinatown and is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays through Mondays (closed on Tuesdays). Reservations can be made by calling (808) 725-7197, or online by filling out a form on the website.