Under gray skies and random snowflakes, a few Ethiopian men wait for their takeout food orders outside Golf Restaurant, at 10 South Havana Street in Aurora. There's a soccer game on the TV inside, so owner Bedru Hussein can keep tabs on the score when he's not taking orders, but he says the place is normally filled with customers cheering on their favorite teams.
That all changed when the pandemic hit and in-house dining restrictions seesawed between zero and 50 percent from last March to now. Hussein says business is down 75 percent over last year as a result. "Business was very good before, but after the coronavirus, it has been bad," the owner notes.
He's been running Golf Restaurant (so named because it's across the street from Common Ground Golf Course) since 2010 with his wife and brother-in-law, steadily building up his clientele during that time and putting two sons through college. Hussein is no stranger to the restaurant business: He and his wife ran a successful eatery in Nairobi, Kenya, until they were forced to leave for political reasons in 2001. They lived in San Diego for a brief time before coming to Colorado, where other family members lived. Golf was founded as an Ethiopian grocery store and restaurant in 2009, and Hussein bought the restaurant side a year later (the grocery is under separate ownership).
The small menu covers Ethiopian classics like beef or lamb tibs, doro wot and kitfo, along with stewed vegetarian dishes such as miser wot (lentils) and shiro wot (chickpea flour) — all served with spongy injera flatbread. But there are also sandwiches made for customers on the go, and spaghetti and macaroni for those in the mood for something a little less spicy. Ethiopian cuisine takes time, Hussein says, and many people aren't willing to wait very long for food, so he suggests calling ahead to place an order (the full takeout menu is listed at golfethiopianrestaurant.com).
Preparing meals for the Rocky Mountain Welcome Center's food distribution program has helped pay bills during the pandemic; the restaurant prepares 100 meals twice a week, which Hussein says makes up for a little of his lost business. But despite the hardship of the last nine months, he envisions a day when his dining room will be full again. Call 303-340-4555 to order or stop by if you don't mind waiting about twenty minutes (and get a coffee if you do).
This isn't fast food, the owner points out — and good food is worth waiting for.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.