Maple Grove Residents Bring Ethiopian Eats to the Twin Cities

by | Mar 2024

Half & Half plate by Bole

Half & Half. Photos: Chris Emeott

The flames of a fire create a new energy for Solomon Hailie and Rekik Abaineh.

Maple Grove couple Solomon Hailie and Rekik Abaineh are taking their passion and talented cooking skills in a new direction with their Bole Ethiopian Cuisine restaurants after a fire and the verge of closing their doors ground everything to a halt. “My wife and I were just doing the cooking,” Hailie says about the tragic fire that occurred at the original Bole location in St. Paul. “Our mindset was on fire. We couldn’t see from the outside in.” The love of community the two felt in that desperate moment reset their path, and they finally felt their culinary calling.

Their vision changed, and Bole Express in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood opened its doors. Great reviews about the food, which Hailie says can be credited to his berbere and injera, are keeping his doors open and customers happy at both the Minneapolis location and the reopened location of Bole Ethiopian Cuisine in a new location in St. Paul.

Solomon Hailie and Rekik Abaineh

Solomon Hailie and Rekik Abaineh

Hailie says his Berbere combines 15 ingredients and helps make all of his dishes truly Ethiopian, while the injera, a type of flatbread, is used like a utensil in Ethiopian culture. “Americans are open to new food and culture,” Hailie says. “When you come in, you see half of the guests are Ethiopian, [and] they really relate to the dishes we create. Our main goal is to encourage a connection to this food, so people can learn more about what they don’t know yet.”

Both Hailie and Abaineh came to Minnesota from a small town called Bole in Ethiopia, which Hailie says is akin to a city like Maple Grove. “I won the lottery,” he says, about obtaining a visa to immigrate here. “The business is my hard work, my American Dream.”

Living in Maple Grove has helped the couple craft their menus. “We invited our neighbors over to try our foods and tell us what they thought,” Hailie says. “We love our neighbors, and we just keep talking.”

The menus at both restaurants are vegan focused and include traditional stews as well as dishes like the Miser, a split lentil dish, and Sambusas, which are pastries that can also include beef. Hailie’s favorite dish is Kitfo, a prime beef tartare, that is a traditional dish originating from the Southwest Ethiopian Gurage tribe, Hailie says.

As Hailie continues trying new recipes with his neighborhood tasting parties, he also has his sights set on expansion of his restaurant locations. Along with the Bole Express location in Minneapolis, his larger restaurant in St. Paul moved after the fire from Midway to the Como neighborhood. “Our Bole Express is one of five, fast-casual counter service restaurants we are working to open,” he says. “Bole Express will be the primary cooking location, and we will transport to other locations.”

In the meantime, Hailie says his wife is the “superwoman” behind the business, and her baking skills are even better than her cooking. “I love her desserts. It’s not our tradition, but people are loving them,” Hailie says. You’ll see Millefoglie, or Mille-feuille, a French word that means one thousand leaves, which is a dessert made with layers of puff pastry and freshly made vanilla cream on the menu on weekends, along with seasonal desserts like Crème Brulee, Baklava and Ricotta Pie.

Hailie says perhaps someday soon he will bring one of his fast-casual Ethiopian spots to Maple Grove. For now, everyone is invited to join him in his backyard to taste new creations and learn about each other. “I know the restaurant business tells you not to bring work home, but we can’t help but talk about it,” he says. “At a time like this, it really pays off to have human support. We all have a lot to give.”

Midway Tibs from Bole

Midway Tibs

Take a Sneak Peek at the Menu
  • Berbere: A versatile blend of dried spices, including besobela seed, chili pepper, coriander, garlic, ginger and paprika. It creates a spicy chili tang balanced with a sweet, citrusy note.
  • Injera: A pancake-like, fermented bread made with teff (see below).
  • Kitfo: A prime beef tartare, seasoned with butter, herbs and mitmita.
  • Millefoglie: A dessert made of puff pastry and vanilla cream, also known as Mille-feuille.
  • Miser: A split lentil dish simmered in oil, onions, garlic, curry, ginger and berbere.
  • Mitmita: An orange-red spice blend typically made from chili, cloves, korarima and salt.
  • Sambusa: A stuffed triangular pastry that can be filled with beef or vegetables.
  • Teff: An ancient, Ethiopian super-food-like grain, resembling the size of a poppy seed. It is gluten-free, mild in flavor and packed with calcium and a resistant starch that’s said to benefit blood sugar, weight control and colon health.

Bole Ethiopian Cuisine
1341 Pascal St., St. Paul; 651.330.2492

Bole Express
2111 E. Franklin Ave. Unit 1, Mpls.; 612.489.6000


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