- Unit B, 346 Portage Ave
Fava Falafel hasn’t had the easiest start since opening downtown in June 2018.
But owner Tirhas Tewolbe isn’t afraid of a little hard work.
A single mother who came to Winnipeg 12 years ago from East Africa, Tewolbe had less than a year to establish her second-floor business, reliant on foot traffic through the busy skywalk, before the skywalk closed for renovations for the summer.
“If you come up from Portage, it’s easy,” says Tewolbe, inviting diners to enter through the doors by the Manitoba Advocate building to reach her upstairs restaurant.
Business is great when customers find her, as her fresh salads and fried favourites like falafels and samosas are an inviting prospect for passersby. It also might be impossible to find a cheaper coffee downtown – or even in the city – with tea priced below $1 and coffee going for a little over.
Tewolbe has an in with a falafel source on Notre Dame Avenue – a halal grocer, Millad’s Supermarket – that prepares the savoury deep-fried goodies for her each week.
Wanting only to stock the best, Tewolbe actually sources her bread down the street from Millad’s from ethnic grocer, Dino’s Grocery Mart, before adding her own spin.
While the business is relatively new to downtown Winnipeg, Tewolbe knows her way around running a café. While it used to look a little different – she went from getting the freshest fruits and veggies straight off the vine to purchasing from a grocer who sources it from around the world – the concept for success is similar.
She reminds herself that businesses struggle to establish themselves for a couple years before finding their footing, so she’s always reviewing the menu, inviting feedback, and trying new things.
Another way her African café was different was food there was primarily boiled. She plans on introducing homemade soups soon to get back to these roots.
“Many people liked (my café) in Africa,” remembers Tewolbe. “They saw that I cooked well – (and) only cooked when people ordered.”
The same goes for preparation at Fava Falafel. While she isn’t cooking everything from scratch, she serves the samosas hot and chops up salads for customers on the fly.
Vegetarians will love the salad piled with nutrients and topped with falafel – one of the most satisfyingly filling ways to serve up the protein from fava beans.
Fava also helps the early birds catch the worm, opening at 7:30 a.m. weekdays to serve early risers fresh omelettes and their morning’s caffeine fix.
Find Fava Falafel and Others at Unit B, 346 Portage Ave., upstairs from the Manitoba Advocate building, or accessible (when renovations are completed) through the skywalk.