An African safari-themed restaurant with a venue for music has been a dream for Demera Ethiopian Restaurant co-owner Girmai Lemma. The dream will become a reality later this month when Lemma and chef/owner Tigist Reda open Safari Lounge at 7124 N. Clark St. in Rogers Park.
Demera —an Eater 38 mainstay—has long been a favorite in Uptown, many times introducing Chicagoans to the world of African food. Over at Safari, Reda said she's created a smaller menu that includes bar bites from a kitchen that will stay open late. There's also a concise restaurant menu, with fusion cuisine that transforms some of the favorite flavors from Demera into casual American food vehicles.
Leda is taking awaze (Ethiopian hot red pepper and garlic paste) and adding honey to create Safari's chicken wings. There's a burger on the bar menu inspired by kitfo, the Ethiopian-style steak tartare with herbed butter, chili powder and cardamom. They'll serve Kenyan and Ethiopian beer.
"[Safari Lounge will] be for everyone," Reda said. "It's going to have African, Caribbean...something for people looking for something a little different."
In addition to the African bottled beer, they'll have local drafts, as well as cocktails. Reda and Lemma are married, and Reda said she'll remained focus on Demera, while her husband's attention will lean more toward the new spot, which DNAinfo first noticed.
Safari Lounge takes up 4,500 square feet on two floors. Upstairs is for bands and private events and can hold 100 to 150, Reda said. Downstairs, where they'll have the bar and more of a lounge feel with TVs and bench seating, will hold 50 to 75. The safari feel also includes taxidermy, a tiger and a lion, but it's not all about the hunt. There will be a few homages to Bob Marley.
"It's going to be really exciting," Reda said. "It took a little while to open, but we're really excited. The colors, the pictures on the wall, it's a really warm feeling."