Nardos Street knows her coffee.
Her Akron-based business Bereka Coffee has been around since 2016.
She’s been roasting and selling coffee and keeping the tradition of the Coffee Ceremony alive that she learned as a young girl while being raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Aside from honing her coffee skills and growing a business, Street also has been exploring and reconnecting with Ethiopian dishes.
She’s been entertaining friends and family for years by serving coffee (of course) and working to perfect these traditional recipes from her childhood.
“I grew up helping my mom preparing meals for our family,” she said. “Living in a close family circle, I watched my mom and my grandmothers providing warm delicious Ethiopian dishes from scratch every day.”
Street said she grew up appreciating the value of a good home-cooked meal —something that she tries to keep alive since moving to Akron.
“I love how homemade food provides comfort to families,” she said. “Our traditional meals are used to strengthen a sense of community and fellowship. I remember friends in the neighborhood bringing food to us when we lost a family member, when someone had a newborn, or at times of sickness.”
This tradition of giving and sharing love through food is an an important one to Street.
So it should come as no surprise that when she started her coffee business she called it Bereka, which means blessing in Amharic, the native language of Ethiopia.
She is also using the moniker for her Bereka Kitchen concept that will take over the kitchen this weekend at the No-Hi Pop-up restaurant in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood.
“During a time of celebration, food was something everyone in the neighborhood had to work on together,” she said. “Weddings are known for this type of group cooking. Every mother of each household in the neighborhood brings her best recipe and takes part in the wedding feast prep.”
The preparation of the wedding feast was not a simple task.
“The women would sing to the bride and groom-to-be while cooking for a few days even weeks at a time,” Street said. “As I became an adult, I had to take part in these types of community feast preparations and most certainly enjoyed my fair portion of the meals as well.”
She missed some of these traditions when she moved to the United States.
But for the last 20 years, Street said, she has been working to recreate many of these dishes on her own — not a simple task.
“I don’t use measurements or have a written recipe,” she said. “I just add and mix while thinking of my guest and how to make them feel special though my dishes.”
The menu at this weekend’s Bereka Kitchen includes a number of traditional Ethiopian dishes from Yesiga Tibs (beef tibs with brown rice) to Dorowet and Atikit (chicken stew and cabbage) to Yesum Beyayinetu (a vegan platter). The dinners come with a salad, a kinche and two rolls of injera.
The dessert offering is samosa with crimson lentil and green pepper filing.
The North Hill Development Corp. took over the former Mexico City Restaurant — before that the Office City Tavern — at 778 N. Main St. — to let chefs explore new concepts and perhaps open their own place someday.
The Bereka Kitchen will be open for business from noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday, with all dishes to-go only amid the pandemic.
To order, call 234-231-1645 or visit www.northakroncdc.org/nohi as early as Wednesday.
Street said she is hoping to inspire “cultural authenticity and provide enlightening experiences” to others.
“I want to give people the opportunity to experience the food, coffee, history, and my culture. But most of all I want them to have a reason to come together learning about each other, appreciating their differences and uniqueness,” she said. “I believe we all have a unique, beautiful and important story to tell.”
Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected]