Eritrea is a small country in East Africa at the tip of where Sudan and Ethiopia meet. It is where Mussie Tecleyessuse hails from, and why he named his first restaurant MarRosso, meaning Red Sea, because the country’s shore stretches for more than a thousand miles along that body of water. Trained as a lawyer, Tecleyessuse worked as a judge in Eritrea before purchasing a peanut butter factory, and then an English tea biscuit company in Sudan, which he still owns. Ever the entrepreneur, he moved to Dallas two years ago with his wife, Harena, and in December they opened this small, quiet café in North Dallas.
Depending on the time of day, there is a full espresso or liquor bar where people tend to linger. Come for breakfast and order cinnamon tea or a cappuccino and the combo, which is like chilaquiles with an African twist. Kitcha fitfit—house-made Eritrean flatbread cooked with clarified butter and berbere spice—stands in for the tortillas, while a fava bean-based ful makes for a rich vegetarian variation on refried beans. The delicate, flavorful eggs are scrambled with tomatoes, onions, and green peppers, and seasoned with a sprinkle of nigella seeds. At lunch and dinner, order an appetizer of flaky sambusas, phyllo triangles filled with spicy ground chicken or a vegetable mix.
Main dishes include stewed meats and vegetables on injera, the gluten-free Ethiopian flatbread made from teff. Beef tibs is reminiscent of barbecue with its tangy tomato sauce spiced with garlic and jalapeno. Because portions of Eritrea were occupied by Italy from the 1880s to 1947, you’ll also find panini, pasta, and breaded cutlets on the menu, as well as a case of house-made desserts. The boxegna, a custard-filled cream puff with a delicate coat of dark chocolate, makes for an airy ending.