At the beginning of June, Pittsburgh diners received a simultaneously heartfelt and disheartening message. Owner Jamie Wallace announced he would close his Ethiopian restaurant, Abay at the end of the month.
Although my mom cried inconsolably because she thought I was throwing away my law degree, in June of 2003, I bought a building in East Liberty to open what people would tell me was Pittsburgh’s “weirdest” restaurant…. After a lot of deliberation, we’ve decided to wind things down. June 30 will be our final day of operating (at least with Heather and me as the owners).
…Every person who even interviewed at Abay was forced to hear my speech about how I didn’t view it as a restaurant, but rather a cultural destination that happened to be a restaurant. That outlook has remained.
…Part of the reason people have such strong opinions about restaurants is because they are personal to them. The dining experience is an emotional one. Guests have had first dates with us as well as celebrated new jobs, anniversaries, graduations, and birthdays. We’re humbled to have been a part of all of those life achievements.
I counted amongst those who felt a personal connection to the restaurant. Like Wallace described, I clanked glasses of wine in celebration of my birthday. I went through the investigative early questions and conversations of a first date, while seated at one of the authentic, woven tables. I reunited with friends while breaking apart injera, and the unique menu items filled my head with dreams of eating the same meals in Ethiopia.
Abay offered a great cultural and culinary destination, and through that combination, it was a truly personal experience. Like watching an old friend make a new leap, we couldn’t let Abay slip through our grasps without a proper sendoff, so we went one last time to mark another point of this journey.