There’s a little piece of the motherland available for all to enjoy right here in Miami Gardens. Inspired by the iconic nation on Africa’s east coast, Awash Ethiopian Restaurant in Miami Gardens brings both the flavors and the atmosphere of Ethiopia to life.
The inside of Awash is decorated like a traditional home, featuring classic furnishings and artwork, with a cozy feeling. The cuisine, featuring unique spices, fresh vegetables and special grains, is the pride and joy of native Ethiopian owners Fouad and Eka Wassel. After moving to South Florida, and upon realizing there was no Ethiopian food on the local scene, they decided to open a restaurant to bring a taste of their country to the Sunshine State. “We realized that our food was an important thing to introduce to South Florida’s people,” says Fouad.
Their menu consists of different stews accompanied by decadent sides like yellow split peas, cabbage, collard greens, chickpea powder, and more. “The Ethiopian spices are distinctive. We cook with 18 kinds of spices, red pepper, and mitmita—a traditional pepper that we make a dip with.” For meat eaters, the Taste of Awash platter is a popular option, combining vegetarian, beef, and chicken entrées. Another unique Ethiopian delicacy is kitfo, an appetizer that features minced, raw beef seasoned with spiced butter. “It’s like beef sushi,” Fouad explains.
The preparation of Ethiopian food is distinct. “It’s not like other African countries, where it is based on rice,” Fouad said. In Ethiopia, the rice is substituted for a grain called teff, which is used to make injera—the spongy flatbread eaten with most Ethiopian meals. “It is one of the healthiest grains,” he said. “The grain is smaller than sand and it ferments itself. It is high in calcium and iron, and it digests slowly so you don’t eat that much. It also aids in digestion.” Because of this, many people with dietary restrictions for gluten and meat can enjoy the Awash menu.
“The cuisine includes a lot of vegetables. When you try it, you can feel it in your body,” he said. Most of the food is served on a communal plate on top of the injera. Traditionally in Ethiopia, everyone sits around the plate and shares food, at times feeding each other. “It’s a sense of love, of warmth and family values. We have a sense of pride in sharing.”
Keeping COVID-19 health concerns in mind, the restaurant has adhered to social distancing guidelines, operating at a minimal capacity to keep space between guests. Reservations are also strongly encouraged.
Opening Awash to the public hasn’t been easy, says Fouad. The restaurant launched in August 2017, but had to shutter its doors a few weeks later for Hurricane Irma. “In 2018, we were struggling, but we came back really strong in 2019.” And then COVID-19 hit early this year, so the business had to close once again. Since the restaurant reopened in June, they have seen a small flow of customers. But Fouad doesn’t let this discourage him. “The restaurant business is tough, but you have to be tough to survive. You have to expect the ups and downs. You have to build it with everything you have.”
Their dedication to treating customers with love, and feeding them healthy food, keeps Fouad and his wife going even through these challenging times.
Awash Ethiopian Restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. They are located at 19934 NW 2nd Ave, in Miami Gardens.