Nanyea Restaurant Coffee House & Bar at 6129 N. Dixie Drive in Dayton offers guests authentic Ethiopian cuisine combined with a cultural experience. Owner Sofi Kinde, an Ethiopian native, takes pride in every detail and that shines through when you visit. Her passion for food, interaction with the customers and devotion to Ethiopian culture come together perfectly at Nanyea.

“I’m very proud of this location and being able to own the business. It was such a big accomplishment. It started out as something that was fun and meant to serve the Ethiopian community, and it has turned into a career. I’m also excited that I’m able to teach others about my culture,” says Kinde.

In 2016, Kinde originally opened Nanyea (often referred to online as Nanya Café) as a coffeehouse or a social gathering place at 5214 Main St. to cater to the small Ethiopian community in the area. People would come in for coffee, a chance to connect with one another and for deep conversation. Kinde says she never planned to open a restaurant, but she fell in love with cooking and had a desire to educate others about the Ethiopian culture. The Ethiopian culture is diverse, multiethnic and full of rich history.

One tradition central to the Ethiopian culture and society is coffee, which is accompanied by an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Often, the coffee is roasted in front of the coffee drinker. After the coffee beans are fully roasted the crushed grounds are placed in an Ethiopian, clay coffee pot. The coffee set up is served on a tray, in a small teacup and saucer, along with burning incense. The coffee is usually served black, which is the traditional way, but coffee drinkers may choose to add sugar, milk or cream. Many people drink coffee after a meal.

Another common tradition is that diners eat the meal with their hands (not using any utensils like a fork, knife or a spoon) and they eat together (from a communal plate) with family and friends. To eat, guests tear off a small piece of bread, and use it to pick up the food. This was my first time dining at an Ethiopian restaurant so I had the chance to learn about both of these traditions.

“Customers appreciate that I’m here in the city. It’s something different than American foods,” Kinde says, “I always tell people to come in open-minded. It’s going to be different so expect an adventure. It’s not going to be anything like what you eat at home, so when you come expect something else.”

In September of 2018, Kinde moved from the previous location and expanded into a restaurant and coffeehouse. She says the restaurant, named for her grandmother, is Dayton’s only Ethiopian restaurant. Winter hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The new location has a front foyer, larger kitchen, corner bar and a dining area. The capacity of the dining room is 66 guests. Carry-out is also available. For more information, or to place an order, call 937-396-4013.

With a small staff of three, including Kinde, she works hard and is involved in every aspect of the restaurant’s operations, including food preparation, cooking and serving the customers to all the business and managerial aspects.

Kinde came to the United States when she was 14. She learned English here in high school and she says moving to Ohio was a “new chapter” in her life. She currently lives in Vandalia and her parents reside in Columbus.

“Moving here you have to learn about the culture, the food, the language and everything,” says Kinde.

Kinde realized her calling after opening the coffee bar and cafe, just over three years ago. The business has grown largely by word-of-mouth and as a result of favorable reviews on social media. Now, many regular customers stop in frequently.

“I started out as a coffee shop, but cooking is my passion and I am able to incorporate recipes from my mother and grandmother. I’ve always watched them when they cooked so it’s pretty much family recipes,” Kinde says.

Tibs and Injera are mainstays. The menu features popular entrees such as the house special, Nanyea’s Tibs ($12), which are tender beef cubes sautéed with Ethiopian seasoning, onion, tomato, jalapeno and Kibe (Ethiopian butter.) I tried this selection, based on Kinde’s recommendation. The meal also comes with Injera (a soft, spongy flat bread made out of teff-flour.)

Another favorite is a vegetarian or vegan option, the veggie lunch combo, ($12) which is made with lentils, chickpeas, cabbage, beets and collard greens. Other lunch and dinner selections include tegabino shiro ($8), which is made with powdered chickpeas cooked in light berbere sauce, onion, tomato and jalapeno and gomen be siga ($9) that features collard greens and beef slowly simmered with Ethiopian seasoning, onion, garlic and jalapeno. Several of the spices used in the dishes come directly from Ethiopia. Brunch, lunch and dinner options are available on the menu.

Additionally, Nanyea serves Ethiopian coffee, macchiato, tea, soft drinks, fruit smoothies and water.