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The Love Affair Is Over

My heart has been broken.  I thought this relationship was going to last forever, but was recently told that it was ending.  I am sad, hurt and confused.  I mean, I thought we were in this for the long haul. I held up my end of the deal by being an active participant, telling my friends just how amazing things were and even involving my children.  And I am being repaid like this?

No, my husband and I aren’t breaking up.  But, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant and I are. My favorite go-to spot, Nyala Restaurant, is closing.  I am literally crushed.

You see, I am a creature of habit.  When I find something I like, I stick with it.

Whether that be hair products, a shade of lipstick or a particular workout routine (I’m currently hooked on a boxing class and loving it!). I’m loyal to a fault, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  When it works for me, the relationship can go on for years.

So imagine my shock and dismay during a recent visit to Nyala, when I was told that they would be closing soon. What???  Stop the presses!  What do you mean “closing”?! Like, for good?  My eyes teared up when my server, Mimi, shared this devastating news with me.  It took me a few minutes to collect myself.  What was I going to do?

Now before you break out the violins and accuse me of being overly dramatic, let me tell you about my relationship with Nyala.  We met 14 years ago when I moved to Los Angeles from New York.  I’d moved to an area close to a part of town called “Little Ethiopia.”  Little Ethiopia is a block-long oasis for all things Ethiopian.  But mostly, there are a number of restaurants that Los Angeles locals and Ethiopians alike frequent. A friend brought me to Nyala, and that’s when the love affair began.

This wasn’t my first foray into the deliciousness that is Ethiopian cuisine. No ma’am! I’d been a lover of this food for many years before I met Nyala.  My first introduction was back in the 90s, when my best friend and I would have a weekly date at Zula Restaurant in Harlem.  Everything about eating there was right up my alley!  The communal nature of the meal excited me, and the fact that we ate from the same plate and didn’t have to use utensils felt so familial.  Then the food had the nerve to be amazing!  I live for flavorful foods (I mean, what person of color doesn’t?), and the amalgamation of spices and textures that my mouth was treated to with every bite took me over the edge.  I was hooked! My favorite meal quickly became the Doro Wot (stewed chicken in a spicy brown sauce) with a side of lentils and collard greens.  To this day, almost 20 years later, I still order the same dish.  Except now instead of the lentils, I get the stewed cabbage, carrots and potatoes.  Delicious!

So when I moved to Los Angeles and realized my great fortune of being mere moments away from Little Ethiopia, I was in heaven.  It got to the point that I began calling in my order the moment my plane touched down from whatever work trip I’d just taken. I was like a fiend! I felt like Norm from the television show “Cheers”…everyone who worked at Nyala knew my voice over the phone and knew exactly what I was going to order.  Everyone.

As you can imagine because of all of the time I spent there, the people who worked at Nyala became my friends.  I knew all of their names. They’d seen me through many milestones, such as getting married and finally getting pregnant (and yes, Nyala was definitely a pregnancy craving of mine too!).  I even took all my friends there over the years, delighted by the looks on their faces when they had their first bite of the meal.  I would always say “See, I told you!”  And imagine my joy when I took my sons there for the first time and they gobbled up everything in sight!

Because Nyala has played such a huge part of my life over the past 14 years, I felt a proper goodbye was in order.  So, a few weeks ago, my family, some friends and I had a “farewell” meal to commemorate this passage.  It was bittersweet.  Thankfully, my sons kept me quite busy during our meal, so I didn’t have time to get too sentimental.  And truth be told, I am now of the belief that when something leaves your life, it is doing so to make room for something even better.  So bring it on!  I’m ready to meet my new love.  I hope she’ll be as wonderful as Nyala was to me.  She’s gonna have some big shoes to fill.


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