Fast and delicious: fast food during the holidays
Bole to Addis Ababa is what Georgetown is to Washington DC.
It is the most affluent part of the capital, where modernity came in earnest. It is where fast food restaurants do good business – the genuine and the imitated – and where the busy and fast growing Bole International Airport is located. There is no part of Bole that is more cosmopolitan than the area that is fast becoming its business district – the part where it has one of the most fast food joints in one long street – the back of the Millennium Hall.
It is a street with no name, but it is the most thriving, busy and crowded of it all. It is a street of fast-food, pawn shopsand everything in between.
“I prefer the cheeseburger of Celavine,” Genet tells The Reporter; taking stacks of money from her purse. “I feel guilty eating this burger, during the fasting season, but hey, I am young enough to do what I want,” she says, as her friends, taking a break from a nearby university giggle in agreement.
It is just after 4 PM, at the corner of a street; Celavine is as busy as one place can get, of young people, with money to spend, ordering delicacies with no much care about how much it costs.
“I prefer to eat as much as I can, so that I can drink [alcohol]later on, as much as I want,” another young girl says, as her other friends sip a bottle of gin from a used bottle, looking forward to a busy night of enjoyment.
In a hurry to join other friends, these girls had pawned a cell phone, to be able to spoil themselves; promising to pay twice its value to get it back the following day. At least, they are hopping they would get it back.
At Milan Restaurant, it is not as busy, but it is half-full. The menu is old, does not have the modernity of others, but its customers are regular customers, who know what they want by heart. For just about 100 Birr, there is a decent size burger to enjoy. At one corner, there are adolescent youths, laughing, taking selfies and talking about a trip they intend to take for the long weekend, to a well-known nearby holiday destination, a fixture for young people these days.
On a table of five, there are about 8 people. For about 100 Birr per piece, they have enjoyed all burgers, fries, drinks and a few of them; have gone for a second round.
Not far from where they are, a new joint, an imitation of a famous, the world’s famous chicken restaurant has opened shop. Called, Kentucky Krunchy Friend Chicken (KKFC), it has replaced the hope that the real joint would open shop in Ethiopia. For Mekdes, Saba and her friends, they assumed the restaurant they had been coming to regularly was the real KFC, the one that saw on popular movies.
A bucket of salty chicken costs just above 1000 Birr. A meal of half cooked potato fries and chicken and soft drinks costs about 200 Birr. Quite expensive for the average Ethiopian, for these 20 something youth, it seems cheap, a fraction of what it costs to maintain their status of brand name shoes and accessories.
“Before KFC [KKFC] opened, we had few options; but now, we can come here and enjoy, what otherwise was not available few years ago,” one of them told The Reporter. “It is cheap, fast and we do not have to wait for half hour to enjoy the great food”.
“Addis Ababa is becoming like New York,” Saba told The Reporter, reflecting on the New York she has never been to, but have imagined, like the many of young people who dream of traveling to the United States and embrace some of its signature products.
Not far from KKFC, the genuine KFC was to have opened this year, there was even plenty of buzz, but that was not the case. At least, Pizza Hut, the genuine American signature pizza restaurant has opened doors.
Just south of Edna Mall, the area often seen as Addis Ababa’s Time Square, has been busy since it opened last year. This was its second location, after opening shop in other areas.
Here a good size pizza is about 400 Birr, with a variety of toppings. The demography here seems to be a bit different from the burger joints on ‘fast-food ‘street’.People who frequent the place seem to be older, young professionals at the beginning of their careers.
“I have always loved pizza, but Pizza Hut is nothing like the pizza I am used to,” a 29 year old, employee of Habesha beer from its nearby headquarters, told The Reporter. “The way it melts in your mouth, the taste, the service and everything about the restaurant is an experience to be hold”.
While Ethiopia has been baking its own version of Pizza, when Pizza Hut opened shop in the nation last year, it seemed like a milestone, for a city that has always tried to imitate best brands, with little intellectual property rights laws – of fake international restaurants, hotels and many in between.
In & Out Restaurant has seen heavy traffic of costumer’s for many years. At all hours, it has been busy.
Notably, little is known by customers, it is a restaurant, which is an imitation of the real one from the United States. It has been involved in endless back and forth, with the management of the United States based restaurant chain to change its name and not confuse customers. It has even been sued in local courts.
For Yonas Andargachew, that does not change the fact that he has been coming to it since he has been in high school. He loves the food and he is also able to enjoy good Tomoca coffee under one roof.
“Just look at the place, its clean, it has variety and the television menu that is behind the cashiers is clear and easy to understand”, he said. “I care less that it is not a real brand restaurant, but again, even if I did, what choice do I have”.
In a city of many choices, the choice of local fast food restaurants are many, but limited to areas like Bole. For the many young people The Reporter spoke to, they seem to have big appetite for it. As Ethiopia sets its eye on membership of the World Trade Organization, one of the things it will have to grapple with are the many fast food restaurants with unlicensed names that are the favorite of customers.
“Whether than happens or not, I will always enjoy fast –foods, whether they are real or not, depends on the great taste they have”, one young person remarked. "Names matter less"