In 2016, Kalkidan Tesfaye offered her homemade scones to the owner of the coffee shop at 818 S. Oak Park Ave. and he responded by offering her the entire shop. Figuring fate had intervened, Tesfaye accepted the offer and opened Addis Café. She has called the space home for the past six years and now the chef-owner and her co-owner-husband, Michael Kumela, are poised to move their café across the street to 801 Van Buren St. this week.
The passionate chef, known to most as Kalki, is clear that moving a matter of feet will create a wealth of opportunities for the community-minded coffee shop — including a regular menu of Ethiopian dinner fare. The space has passed all village of Oak Park inspections and, after taking a few days to get settled, Tesfaye expects the café to open in the new location on Friday, April 20.
Tesfaye wasn’t looking for a new space, but project managers with The Community Builders who oversaw the construction of “The 801” at the corner of Oak Park and Van Buren, encouraged her to move into the retail storefront on the lower level of the building offering high quality, yet affordable apartments.
“They would keep asking ‘what is it going to take to get you in here?’” said Tesfaye. “They offered to build a full kitchen to my specifications and that was too good to pass up.”
While Tesfaye is deeply attached to her café’s current home, production has been limited without a full kitchen on site. Addis is known for serving up top-quality coffee drinks, crispy waffles, and hearty breakfast sandwiches despite having a cooking area outfitted with little more than an induction burner.
The capable cook craves the freedom a full kitchen could offer her business. Prior to relocating to Oak Park and opening Addis Café, Tesfaye and her brother spent 11 years operating, Addis Restaurant, an Ethiopian eatery located in Berkeley, California. A native of Addis, Ethiopia, Tesfaye has periodically hosted pop-up dinners featuring her vegan Ethiopian fare. After each successful pop-up calls for her to begin serving regular dinners have grown louder.
The new space is equipped with a professional ventilation system and is ready to accommodate industrial cooking appliances allowing Tesfaye to expand her café menu to include Ethiopian dinner offerings. The chef indicated she is going to take some time to “introduce herself to the new space,” but expects dinner service to begin “sometime this summer.”
When the time comes, dinners will likely be served Thursday through Sunday. She intends to keep her arsenal of vegan dishes on the menu and plans to enhance the offerings with meat dishes. Diners can expect Dorowat, the national dish of Ethiopia, to appear on Addis’ menu. The spicy dish features berbere braised chicken and boiled eggs served with spongey injera bread in lieu of utensils. The dinner menu embraces tradition and has been designed with the intention of brining the community together over shared dishes.
In the meantime, customers are all very excited about the move and have offered to help in myriad ways. Four people dropped off dollies to help facilitate the process and musicians offered to entertain as friends and family carried well-worn tables, local artwork and other familiar items across the street. The bright space benefits from a wall of windows and Tesfaye is excited to have patio seating on Van Buren.
“Coffee in Ethiopia is meant to be shared — one pot would serve many people so friends, neighbors and sometimes even strangers would share a pot,” said Tesfaye. “My customers have spent time getting to know my customs and they have become like a family to me.”
Even though it is just across the street Tesfaye is concerned that her customers will need time to adjust to the new shop, but she is going the extra mile to make sure everyone feels comfortable.
“I have an elderly customer who comes here almost every day, and she was very worried about the move,” said Tesfaye. “So, I took her by the arm and we walked over there together. She assured me that it wasn’t too far for her to walk.”
Despite the relocation, things will remain the same — the pour over coffee, waffles, and scones customers have come to love will be on the menu the moment they open. Tesfaye anticipates it will feel like “the old meeting the new” when Addis Café opens at 801 Van Buren.