There’s no shortage of Santa Monica restaurants to choose from: Local diners and hungry tourists can easily flip between upscale dinner destinations with ocean views to fast-casual promenade hotspots and even sidewalk crudo specialists — though few, if any, of those ocean-adjacent eateries can match the flavorful promise of Berbere. The incoming all-vegan Ethiopian restaurant officially arrives on Tuesday, September 7 as a sunny alternative to brunch pancakes and beef burgers for lunch, and with a little time, the restaurant could even begin to open up the Ethiopian food conversation across a greater swathe of Los Angeles.
Fans of Berbere have been following owners Tezeta “Tete” Alemayehu (an Addis Abba, Ethiopia native and the restaurant’s executive chef) and partner Tsega-Ab “Bicko” Fenta for years across Los Angeles, including at Smorgasburg. The pair are still part of that Downtown weekend-only food bazaar (though with the imminent opening across town, Alemayehu and Fenta will be going on a brief hiatus), offering their brand of Los-Angeles-meets-Ethiopia food for all to enjoy, only now they’ve expanded well west to meet the growing needs of their audience.
For those unfamiliar with Berbere, don’t expect the restaurant to stick exclusively to the well-trod Ethiopian basics. Instead, this new Berbere will build on Alemayehu’s previous menus with a variety of dishes that link back to her roots via spices and sauces. That might mean a take on avocado toast with almond berbere at its base for breakfast, or potato and lentil tacos with Berbere’s own unique tangfaye sauce for lunch. The restaurant is exclusively plant-based (Fenta and Alemayehu are both vegan) — making staple Ethiopian dishes like shiro chickpea stew an easy option for the restaurant — while still diving into takes on weekend brunch staples like tofu scrambles and teff pancakes, as well. There’s even a juice bar inside the new Santa Monica space, with smoothies and pressed juices available daily. The opening menu is below.
As for the space, expect a simplified cafe-style storefront with dining areas and lounge space available across two floors, plus lots of sun pouring in from the front windows. This is Santa Monica, after all, and just blocks from the beach at that.
The new Berbere opens formally on Tuesday, September 7, with hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday; and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., (closed Saturday in observance of the Sabbath). For the first day of service, expect hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with 20 percent of the day’s profits going to Take Care of Home, a nonprofit focused on underfunded public schools in Ethiopia.