Okra is A-OK

Dallas restaurant with African fare fuels foodies and vegans alike

Dallas restaurant with African fare fuels foodies and vegans alike

Marrosso Cafe
Look for food that's made from scratch. Photo courtesy of Marrosso Cafe

A fresh new restaurant featuring food from the East African countries of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Eritrea is coming to Dallas. Marrosso Cafe will open at 7989 Belt Line Rd. at the intersection of Coit Road, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a rare commodity for an Ethiopian restaurant in Dallas: a full bar.

The restaurant comes from Harena and Mussie, a couple from Eritrea who moved to the States in 2015. Back home, Harena was a biologist, and Mussie, her husband, was a lawyer. They also own a food processing business which packages peanuts and other snacks.

Marrosso is Italian for "red sea," a nod to the fact that Eritrea is located on the coast of the Red Sea, and also to the fact that Eritrea has some Italian influences. Harena will oversee the kitchen; Mussie will run the front of the house.

They considered their location carefully, Harena says. "This storefront used to be retail, which required that we outfit it with a grease trap and other restaurant fixtures," she says. "It's been lengthy and expensive, but it was worth it because it's close to where most of Dallas' Ethiopian community lives, and yet also allows us to connect with other residents in North Dallas who like to try interesting food."

They're still working on the menu, but they intend to include dishes from Sudan and Kenya, including one famous stew made with okra and rice. Everything will be made from scratch, and they're also vegetarian-friendly.

"We do serve meat, but our dishes include cabbage, collard greens, spinach, potatoes - we eat a lot of veggies, and much of our food is vegan," she says. "We know there's an audience for that, too."

Their decision to include a bar was the result of research and feedback from the neighborhood.

"There's a high demand for it," Harena says. "Behind that shopping center where our restaurant will open, there's a community of people who like to socialize and drink. Customers and employees at nearby businesses have also requested that we serve alcohol."

They're also offering breakfast, which she says will not be purely American but will include African breads and a snack that's similar to falafel.

They're finishing up construction and hope to be open in December.

"In Dallas, people like to eat out a lot," she says. "We're going to be focused not just on the food but also on good customer service. We feel like that's something of value that we can bring."