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City Awards Demera Ethiopian $3.1 Million For New Bronzeville Restaurant With Rooftop

The city also awarded grants for a South Side grocery store and new Thai restaurant in Uptown

A rending of a brick building.
A rendering of Demera’s upcoming Bronzeville restaurant with a rooftop.
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Tigist Reda is making moves, as the chef and owner behind Demera Ethiopian Restaurant says she can now go forward with a new project that includes a rooftop bar in Bronzeville.

Reda, who just opened a stall at Time Out Market Chicago food hall, is the recipient of a $3.1 million Chicago Recovery Plan and Community Development Grant. Reda tells Eater that she estimates the project to cost between $6 million to $9 million. That high cost is because the project includes office space and apartments spread across three floors with Demera occupying the floor and the rooftop. Reda says the project would bring 50 jobs to the neighborhood. Reda hopes for a 2025 debut at 4528 S. Cottage Grove Avenue.

The new restuarant have a menu including wings spiced with awaze (a blend that includes chile, ginger, onions) and a kitfo roll that resembles a wrap using injera, the spongy and thin flatbread. Reda isn’t sure how the restaurant would utilize the rooftop space. Rooftop venues and sidewalk patios are rarities south of Roosevelt on Chicago’s South Side. That makes Demera’s project a big deal that could motivate other restauranteurs and convince the city (which handles the permitting process, from zoning to liquor licenses) that there’s a desire for the amenities in the area.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who continues to campaign for the April mayoral election, was in Uptown where the city revealed the winter grant recipients. Many of the announcements, including a CTA Red Line extension, centered on the South Side. Lightfoot has made it a point to mention the need to improve accessibility to grocery stores and healthier food options on the South and West sides of Chicago. With that backdrop, she announced a new grocery store with the Black-owned Yellow Banana chain for a location in Altgeld Gardens.

“Isn’t it amazing what’s coming to the South Side?” Reda says, adding that she’d be the owner and operator of the entire project, not just the restaurant. She says more folks in Bronzeville need office space, and her project will help.

Demera often tops the list of the most popular Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago, and Reda has been a big proponent of sharing her native land’s culture. She also raised awareness — and money — about the Tigray War, a civil conflict that started in late 2020 and ended last year after as many as 600,000 were killed.

During Friday morning’s news conference, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development Maurice Cox said that Demera will fit in along a restaurant row they want to build in Bronzeville along Cottage Grove. Another component of that strip, Bronzeville Winery, opened in 2022 and is located just north of the Demera space.

Demera Bronzeville, 4528 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, planned for a 2025 opening.

Meanwhile, including Demera, there were 12 grant recipients with $29 million awarded that were announced on Friday. Here’s a summary of the food-related projects:

  • 88 Plates, 1113 W. Argyle Street: $156,000 grant for the owners of Thai Pastry, an Uptown restaurant known for Thai favorites; it’s not a bakery as the name would suggest. They’re building a new restaurant in Uptown in the Asia on Argyle district.
  • Circle Foundation, 3034 S. Graffen, grant to build a student-run cafe inside a community center.
  • Kilwins Hyde Park, 5226 S. Harper Avenue, grant to build a patio space for the existing fudge and ice shop in Hyde Park.
  • Southside Market, 433 E. 79th Street, grant to build a “micro-grocery cooperative.”
  • Yellow Banana, 13016 S. Rhodes Avenue, grant to build a 10,000-square-foot location of the Black-owned grocer.

Time Out Market Chicago

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