Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker.

After Yayehyirad “Yared” Lemma and Yenenesh “Yenni” Desta were gunned down outside of their East Dallas Home in 2012, Yenni’s namesake restaurant, Desta Ethiopian, could’ve just as easily gone out of business.

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Not if Yared and Yenni’s families had anything to say about it.

Relatives moved across state lines and quit jobs to help keep the family’s business alive.

“Because it’s the legacy of the ones who passed through this place,” current manager Noble Goliad says. “They opened it, they made sure this was the heart of North Dallas. So my mom moved down from Virginia. And she wants that to happen. Obviously, she took over and she said, ‘I’m going to keep their legacy.’”

Now, more than a decade later, Desta remains a beloved staple of North Dallas Ethiopian cuisine. Guests still feel the warmth, love and hospitality that Yenni was famous for when they walk through the door.

“It’s very important because without that the restaurant won’t keep going. So people know this is a family-owned restaurant, family-run restaurant so they don’t get nothing but family ties,” Goliad says. “Everybody that comes in here will leave with a smile.”

Newly remodeled, with a refreshed bar menu and relatively new face running the restaurant in Goliad, Desta has undergone a bit of a revamp.

However, one aspect Goliad says she has no plans to change: flavorful, traditional dishes cooked in the same time-honored way they’ve been prepared since 2010.

“I’m the new face in here,” Goliad says. “So I try to incorporate different things to make it look nicer. So we do different things, but most of the food is traditional, and that’s what people want.”

For those who are unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine and may not know what to expect, Goliad has an analogy.

“So I like to say our food is like a mix of Tex-Mex and Indian food,” Goliad says.

Lentils, chickpeas and other vegetables commonly featured in Indian cuisine often are also found in Ethiopian dishes. All three cuisines use garlic and onion almost religiously, and eating with your hands is near-mandatory.

Desta’s menu features Ethiopian staple proteins: heavily-spiced beef or lamb cooked with vegetables and served over the staple Injera bread, used as a utensil. Kitfo is fresh-minced tartare-style beef with kibe (butter) and the spice mix mitmita. Tibs is a sauteed red meat served with heaping amounts of onions, bell peppers and garlic. Both are two of the most popular dishes. Desta also offers a selection of fish, typically tilapia, an ode to the fish caught in the Nile River.

There is also a large vegetarian offering, typical of the cuisine of Ethiopia, where 44% of the population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and have to observe a large number of meatless fast days.

While sharing a meal is a custom which spans ethnicity, cultures and continents, Goliad says it takes on an entirely different meaning for Ethiopians.

“We eat with our hands and we always eat as a group,” she says. “Nobody eats alone, so it’s a cultural thing. So you just eat together. You stay together.”

Desta also has a full coffee menu, a nod to Ethiopia’s place as the original homeland of coffee consumption. Having had a full bar since the beginning, Goliad says the new cocktail menu has gotten a positive reception.

“We’ve always had any cocktail,” Goliad says. “Now we just updated our menus. So our cocktail menu is changed. And it’s way better, people love it.”

One of Desta’s biggest draws comes from Manchester United. Desta shows most games, and is often packed wall-to-wall with eager fans.

“Normally it’s huge, every seat gets filled,” Goliad says. “It’s like no room at all. It’s crazy. It’s really nice.”

Anything Desta does is strictly because of their regular crowd, Goliad says.

“We know what they want,” she says. “And we like to please everybody. That’s the Ethiopian thing.”

Desta Ethiopian, 12101 Greenville Ave.