Life moves fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in SoMa, you could miss it.
Alright, let’s be real – Ferris Bueller didn’t quite say that. But he would have if he lived in San Francisco and ate at Moya, an authentic Ethiopian restaurant known for fostering one of the most breathtaking dining experiences in town.
Just blocks away from Uber headquarters and San Francisco City Hall, the eatery drastically juxtaposes the cultural fabric of its surrounding SoMa neighborhood. Instead of caving to the customs of a work-plagued American lifestyle that haunts nearby tech giants, Moya thrives with a slowed-down environment that puts experience over convenience.
There is no rush to get in and out – incoming parties sit down, place their separate orders, and share their food in a larger group dish unless they are alone. Portions vary more as they become more open for interpretation. And patrons forgo silverware and eat with their right hand, fostering a more powerful connection with the food and promoting digestive health. Embracing the collectivistic tendencies behind Ethiopian customs allows customers to unwind, open their minds, and enjoy time spent with friends and family.
Fana Alemayehu, the owner of Moya, refuses to take shortcuts in the dining experience. And she reflects on the food’s authenticity:
“So what we do is, we cook the real food, how we do it at home for ourselves, how it’s cooked in our country, the price level, all that stuff. We bring the spices from there, the real spices,” said Alemayehu.
Everything is as real as it gets on the Moya menu. The kitfo grabs the most attention among the meat selection. It’s popular on Ethiopian holidays like Meskel (September 27). The beef tartare is served raw or cooked daily with fresh ground beef and seasoned with mitmita and kibbe. The tibs, or sautéed meat and vegetables, also come in Siga (lean beef) or Doro (chicken breast) options. Plus, the menu offers ten different Vegan meals. Customers rave the most about the misir wat (spiced lentils).
Alemayehu’s unwavering commitment to her culture also sets an example for other aspiring restaurant owners looking to make food from their homelands. Sticking to principles pays dividends in cases like these.
But when Covid-19 spread to San Francisco, it became harder for Alemayehu to take an orthodox approach while managing other aspects of the business. San Francisco county issued a shelter in place order on March 16, leaving Moya closed through early April. After months of state and locally mandated shutdowns, Moya reopened for pickup and delivery on July 23. Now it’s even harder for Alemayehu to run her restaurant with more tech professionals working remotely since March.
While the coronavirus pandemic has already negatively impacted restaurants, it’s also hurt Black-owned restaurants the most. Only 130 Black restaurant owners received PPP loans worth over $150,000, according to Restaurant Business Online.
Alemayehu feels terrible for workers who feel no incentive to return due to limited schedules. She also doesn’t blame them for staying home to avoid getting sick, and she hopes public officials provide more support for them. However, she does emphasize the importance of supporting restaurants that only have one employee left. Otherwise, it could be even harder for San Francisco to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are no workers…[I’m] forced to work [by] myself. “They [the federal government] should evaluate that…give us a break on that one.”