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New Ethiopian cafe opens

Fasika expands in Roxbury, serves breakfast and lunch

Karen Morales
New Ethiopian cafe opens
Befekadu Defar, owner of Fasika restaurant, at his new Fasika Cafe business.

Fasika Cafe opened only two weeks ago, but it already has regular customers coming in for their lunch fix or sitting down for a couple hours to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee.

One big reason may be because the owner, Befekadu Defar, has established a reputation for serving authentic Ethiopian cuisine at his other restaurant in Somerville, Fasika, for over a decade.

Or perhaps because patrons in the Dudley Square area continue to crave traditional coffee and food hailing from the Horn of Africa, also served by the Somalian business, Hafun Cafe, that previously occupied the space at 51 Roxbury St.

On the web

For more information about Fasika Restaurant in Somerville, visit:

Whatever the reason may be, Defar says, “There’s a lot of potential in this area.”

While some residents and business owners are wary of some of the development changes in Roxbury, Defar saw it as an opportunity to expand.

“There is a diverse, as well as a new emerging community,” he says, noting the changes he’s observed ever since first moving and buying a house in the neighborhood in 2005.

Roots and culture

Born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Defar learned to cook first from his mother, then at school, and then later with a scholarship at a culinary school in Switzerland.

When he came to the U.S., he had every intention of opening his own restaurant, eager to share his culture. Defar launched Fasika in 2003, boasting slow-cooked cuisine made with spices directly from Ethiopia. Menu items include kitfo, a minced lean beef with spicy seasoning plate, and tikil gomen, a veggie dish cooked in turmeric sauce.

Fasika Cafe is essentially a fast-casual extension of its sister restaurant, serving both American and Ethiopian coffee and tea, as well as breakfast dishes like eggs, omelets and Ethiopian dulet.

“When forming the menu, I thought of the community here. There’s a lot of workers from the surrounding office buildings,” says Defar. “So, it’s not a strictly typical Ethiopian menu, but gives different options for people.”

Fasika Cafe will have various daily specials including Greek salads, American-inspired sandwiches and Italian-inspired pasta.

One regular customer, Tee Belachew, sticks to the traditional dulet for breakfast, a dish comprised of liver, tripe and spices.

“I love coming here, it’s great traditional food that’s also healthy and organic,” says Belachew, who is also originally from Ethiopia. He says he likes to bring his two-year-old son to give him a taste of his own culture. He also says he has known Defar for over 15 years and regularly goes to the Fasika restaurant.

Looking ahead

With loan financing, Defar and his wife, Balayesh, leased the vacant restaurant space and remodeled the interior with new floors and a new fully-equipped kitchen.

Last Friday in the early afternoon, Defar was working the cafe on his own, taking customers’ orders and cooking the food fresh and on-the-spot.

“There are benefits and challenges to having another restaurant,” said Defar. “There is the possible financial reward, but it’s not easy with just my wife and I working.”

Defar said once more people hear about the new cafe, he will hire three more employees. Besides himself and Balayesh, he only has one employee so far.

To spread the word, the restaurateur and chef has been printing Fasika Cafe menus and distributing them in the nearby office buildings.

His future plans for Fasika Cafe includes getting a liquor license to serve beer and wine, and offering daily food specials buffet style.

Considering the level of success his flagship restaurant has had in providing comforting, finger-food friendly and affordable dishes to the Somerville community, there’s a good chance Fasika Cafe will fit right into Dudley Square.