Traditional eating will continue at Feedel, with safety first

Tamar Telahun has trouble fathoming how it took a pandemic to teach people to wash their hands.

"Honestly, I don't understand why this was even a conversation," said Telahun, who owns Feedel Bistro on Briarcliff Road with her brother Simon Gebru. "I come from a culture where I eat with my hands, so my hands constantly are being cleaned and washed, and, even when I am not eating with my hands, my hands are constantly washed."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the siblings to suspend dine-in service at Feedel, customers were encouraged to enjoy their food in the traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean style: Instead of forks and spoons, they use the spongy wet flatbread called injera to scoop up the spicy, aromatic stews. When Feedel restores table service, that won’t change, though safety protocols certainly will.

“I’m not going to tell them not to (use their hands),” Telahun said. “But we will give them every tool to help their experience be smooth and safe and healthy for every party that’s involved, from our servers to our cooks to our customers.”

That means staff members will wear masks and gloves. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be available. And, as always, if a customer wants cutlery, it will be provided graciously.

This pandemic isn’t the first time Telahun and her family have struggled. “My dad passed away the day I was born, so I never got the chance to meet him,” she said. During that time, Eritrea was fighting for independence from Ethiopia. As Eritreans living in Ethiopia, Telahun’s mother and five siblings all relocated to the U.S. in the 1980s.

Telahun and Gebru opened Feedel in September, 2018, as a tribute to the home cooking of their mother, Meaza Habtemichael, 82. The recipes — gomen be’siga (a silken stew of lamb and collards), doro wet (the traditional red-pepper stew topped with a chicken leg and a boiled egg), minchet abish key wet (a sloppy Joe-like ground beef mixture in a fiery red gravy) — are largely hers.

Feedel suspended operations March 22 and reopened for takeout May 21. Their mother’s health, Telahun allowed, was a major factor in the decision to close for two months.

Now, the siblings view their takeout business as a bridge to reopening fully. It gives them a chance to restart the kitchen, and prepare their team for what lies ahead. And, once Feedel resumes its communal style of eating, Telahun hopes patrons will meet them halfway. “We’ve still got to make sure that people keep their belongings to themselves and just respect the space,” she said. “You have to re-educate your customers, and you have to re-educate your staff and yourself. It’s a lot to do, to open right away.”

Hopefully, she won’t have tell anyone to wash their hands.

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Menu: full menu, for the most part; a few items deemed unsuitable for takeout have been discontinued temporarily. When the restaurant reinstates dine-in service, it will roll out a new menu, including a couple of items with tuna.

Alcohol: traditional Ethiopian honey wine available for takeout

What I ordered: awaze wings, azifah with pita, doro wet, minchet abish key wet, vegan sampler, injera bread. The wings — rubbed with spicy red paste and grilled — were terrific; the cool azifah (chilled brown lentils topped with sliced raw jalapeno and served on pita triangles) provided a nice contrast to the robust flavors of the rest of the feast. The vegan sampler — a glorious assemblage of eight hot and cold dishes — is one of the few plates in town I crave on a regular basis. The takeout version did not disappoint; I ate the leftovers for breakfast, straight out of the fridge. A minor quibble: Stews tend to be oily, something you don't notice when they are served on platters lined with injera, so this is not the time to bring out the white tablecloths and napkins. Fortunately, they were packed with care, with plenty of napkins and wipes. I wanted to try the minchet abish wet, but, since the flavor profile is similar to the doro wet, next time I'd go with Mom's Special, gomen be'siga (buttery collards and lamb).

Service options: order by phone or online for curbside pickup; delivery by Uber Eats, GrubHub and Postmates starts this week; dine-in service expected soon; check website for updates

Safety protocols: follows all standard CDC protocols

Address, phone: 3125 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta; 404-963-2905

Hours: 12-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays



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