Ethiopian food is awesome, and it’s one of the more inherently vegan-friendly traditional cuisines out there. But it’s very rare to find a place specifically focussed on the v*gan side of Ethiopian food. Bunna Café does that and much more, with their pop-up events showcasing music, dancing, coffee ceremonies, and booze, as well as good eats. They’ve mostly focussed on North Brooklyn to date, but events elsewhere are certainly a possibility.
Upcoming Bunna Café events include dinners at Tradesman (222 Bushwick Ave, off the Montrose L) on August 26 (this weekend!!), at Alaska Bar (35 Ingraham St, off the Morgan L) on September 2, and at The West (379 Union Ave, off the Lorimer L) on September 8.
The only non-vegan thing they serve is the honey-based Tej wine. But they will be more than happy to hook us up with alternate drinks.
I asked Bunna Café’s Sam Saverance a bunch of questions, and he was good enough to answer them:
SuperVegan: Who’s behind Bunna Café and how did you get started? How long has Bunna Café been going? How long have you been cooking Ethiopian food and/or cooking professionally? Are you Ethiopian yourself?
Bunna Café is a three-person team composed of myself, a Texan, and two Ethiopians—Chuny Ali and a third partner who must remain nameless for now because he still has a competing restaurant day job. I am by profession a graphic designer and marketing/branding specialist. For the past four years I have diverged more from production work to branding and promoting African-based companies in order for them to be more successful in the global marketplace.
I spent some time in Ethiopia back in 2008 and immediately fell in love with the cuisine, visuals, and culture, especially in the way that food is considered an integral part of everyday life. My “nameless” partner hails from the Lalibela region, has spent many years managing restaurants and as a tour guide, and studies architecture at school here in NYC. He is extremely knowledgeable and effective in managing an event, and also has excellent taste in creating a memorable experience. We both met randomly a year ago and after chatting soon discovered that we had the same vision of creating a tasteful venue that reflected Ethiopia in a positive, effective way. Chuny joined us earlier this year. She is our master chef – the food she cooks is mind-blowingly tasty. Even the Ethiopians are mesmerized by the flavors she creates. She manages the kitchen and is incredibly efficient at it.
All in all the three of us complement each other to a tee. I work on branding, promoting, and event planning, nameless dude works on the managing of events and service, and Chuny manages the kitchen.