Walia, a cozy Ethiopian restaurant located in the business and cultural center of the village of South Orange, opned in February 2013.
Named after Walia, an endangered species of the ibex family found only in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia, the restaurant serves a variety of dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, rich with traditional Ethiopian flavors.
Like many habits, the pursuit of authentic ethnic food can get expensive. Walia’s owner, Getachew, more commonly referred to as Mr. G, said “My goal was to create something original here, but affordable. I have lived in South Orange for more than 20 years now, and as people from all walks of life made their way to the village, I knew Walia would be the right way to share a bit of our culture with them.”
Culture is very important at Walia, however, education is even more, and it is one of the main reasons why Getachew makes a point to solely hire Seton Hall students as waiters and waitresses. “School comes first in my eyes. I have children you see, and so, I know how hard it is to balance school and a job,” Getachew explained. “I hire Seton Hall students because they can, for one, communicate well with the customers; but above all else, I wanted to provide them with a chance to make some money doing something not quite far from campus.”
Senior political science major, Kyjah Chandler, a former Walia waitress, confirmed this mindset when asked what her favorite thing about working at Walia was. “The owners are extremely accommodating and they are very serious about enabling every student that they employ,” Kyjah shared. “There were times that they even purchased textbooks for me out of their own pocket.”
When questioned about the restaurant’s mission within the South Orange community, Seton Hall alumnus (2016) and diplomacy and international relations major, Michael O’Neal, who has been working at Walia for six months declared, “We’re very close-knit and family-oriented here. We treat our customers like family, too. We go above and beyond to connect with all the guests and definitely cater to any of their requests.”
When one is ready to eat with your hands and discover the delicious taste of colorful sauces meticulously spread out on the traditional Ethiopian bread, injera, Walia is the way to go.
Perle Desir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org