2022 Tastemakers: Freweini Abraha, Winta Hayelom and Moses Hayelom of Flavor 91 Bistro

“American Fare, Axum Flair,” is the tagline of this family-run restaurant in Whitehall—a nod to its mashup of American pub grub and Ethiopian flavors.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Owners Freweini “Weini” Abraha (center) with her children, Winta (left) and Moses Hayelom, at Flavor 91 Bistro in Whitehall

Flavor 91 Bistro is much more than a burger joint, though it’s a great one. Since opening in September 2016, Freweini Abraha and her kids, Winta and Moses Hayelom, have turned the casual restaurant and bar into a pillar in the community—a hospitality-driven gathering spot that exemplifies what’s possible in Whitehall. “I’ll say part of our intuitive coding is the sense of hospitality,” Winta says. “We go above and beyond. [That’s] how it is in the Habesha household.”

Symbol of Progress

It started with an idea and a building. Abraha emigrated from Ethiopia in the ’90s and moved to Ohio in 2000. While working at a Whitehall salon, clients would inquire whether there was a café nearby, a good lunch spot. Abraha filed that idea away. When she purchased her own building in Whitehall, it was big enough for her salon, a restaurant and more. Her salon clients were skeptical that a 100 percent grass-fed burger concept could work. “We wanted people to have a reason to come to Whitehall. That’s what we became, a destination restaurant,” Abraha says, adding that they draw a lot of customers from Bexley. Her son, Moses, chimes in: “We became a symbol of progress. We became a symbol of what can be done here, if you just … build it.”

New menus at Flavor 91 Bistro

Axum Flavor

“American Fare, Axum Flair,” is the restaurant’s tagline—a nod to its mashup of American pub grub and Ethiopian flavors. Axum is an ancient city in the region of Tigray, Abraha’s homeland and the epicenter of a brutal civil war since 2020. (Abraha says she has been unable to speak to her family in Tigray for months, and they have been active in working to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis there.)

“I grew up eating fresh meat, you know, grass-fed,” Abraha says. “So, I was like, the restaurant has to be exactly how we eat. And we’re going to use our ingredients from back home.” The restaurant’s burgers—using hormone-free, grass-fed beef from RL Valley Ranch in Athens—feature a blend of 12 different seasonings, and its signature chicken wings employ a proprietary Ethiopian dry rub.

An Eye Toward Expansion

Last year, Flavor 91 was one of three Black-owned businesses selected by McNees Wallace & Nurick to receive pro bono legal services, geared at facilitating the restaurant’s expansion plans and protecting its intellectual property. In the near-term, the family is planning to renovate the restaurant, including additions of a year-round patio and a market for selling proprietary sauces, dry rubs, burger seasonings and more. Up first is a Flavor 91 food truck, which is expected to hit the streets by August.

Flavor 91 Bistro

5186 E. Main St., Whitehall, 614-845-8840

Artwork speaks to the food ethos at Flavor 91 Bistro.

About Freweini Abraha

Age: 44

Hometown: Tigray region, Ethiopia

Go-to bar: The Flint Station

Something that Columbus needs: “More responsibly grown vegetables and responsibly raised animals”

About Winta Hayelom

Age: 30

Hometown: Arlington, Virginia

Local vendor shout out: Crafted Culture Brewing

Restaurant business advice: “Always remember this principle of hospitality: Leave people better than you found them.”

Something Columbus needs: “Good late-night eats”

About Moses Hayelom

Age: 28

Hometown: Columbus

Something Columbus needs: “An international food festival that celebrates our … vibrant food culture while bridging the gap between immigrant communities and American families”

Podcast recommendation: Earn Your Leisure

Freweini Abraha, Winta Hayelom & Moses Hayelom are one of nine “Tastemakers” profiles in the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.