Abay is owned by James W. Wallace, Esq. Jamie has been selected as a "40 Under 40" honoree. This award recognizes 40 individuals under the age of 40 who are making a positive impact in the Pittsburgh area.
Although opening Abay might have been an easier process had it been the case, Jamie does not come from a restaurant background. In fact, he is an attorney. Jamie's practice focused on corporate law both as an associate at Buchanan Ingersoll and as in-house counsel at ALCOA.
After dining in a variety of Ethiopian restaurants, Jamie was convinced that an Ethiopian restaurant could succeed in Pittsburgh. Selecting the proper location for a unique "ethnic" restaurant was a primary concern. The East End, a neighborhood which was on the upswing of revitalization, provided the perfect location. Jamie purchased a vacant building on the border of Shadyside and East Liberty in June of 2003.
During the building's conversion from a former retail fur store into a restaurant, Jamie spent time in Ethiopia. The bulk of the artwork decorating the walls of Abay is the result of this trip. Abay opened its doors to the general public on June 8, 2004. Jamie has not had a sound night's sleep since.
Ethiopia's history is unparalleled. At roughly 2,000 years old, Ethiopia is the oldest country in Africa, and one of the oldest nations in the world. It is believed that the first king of Ethiopia, Menelik I, was the son of King Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba. Ethiopia is the only African country which maintained freedom from colonial rule, one exception being the brief Italian occupation of 1936-1941. In 1974, anthropologists discovered "Lucy", a 3.8 million year old complete human skeleton, in Ethiopia's Rift Valley.
It is thought that the term "coffee" derives from the Kaffa region in Ethiopia, where the berries were first discovered blossoming. The name "Kafa" is inherited from the hieroglyphic nouns "Ka" and "Afa". Ka means "God" while Afa means "land". Thus, the word coffee means "the land or plant of God". It is thought that coffee was transplanted from the Ethiopian highlands to the Yemeni mountains during the spice trade between East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. From Yemen, coffee spread to Southeast Asia, South America, and finally back to Africa.
Ethiopia, like many other African nations, is home to multiple ethnic groups, languages and religions. Ethiopia is the third most populous country in Africa with a population of 68 million. Ethiopians speak 83 different languages and 200 dialects, with Amharic being the official language. Christianity and Islam are the predominant religions, while Judaism and traditional beliefs are also practiced.
The different physical features of the land, resulting in temperature variations, allow Ethiopians to grow various types of plants, while the diversity of the people and the rich culture contribute to the uniqueness of Ethiopian cuisine.
Ethiopian flatbread (injera) is the main staple of the Ethiopian diet. Injera is primarily made from a high-protein grain called "tef". Tef grains are extremely small. In fact, it takes 150 to equal the weight of a single grain of wheat. Tef's name allegedly comes from the Amharic word "teffa", which means lost.
Tef is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition. In addition, its calcium content is unequaled. One cup of cooked tef contains more calcium (387 mg) than a cup of milk.
It is estimated that injera is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians. Injera is quite filling and has strong expansionist tendencies. One should expect to feel more full an hour after eating than upon leaving the restaurant.