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Zemam's on Broadway reopens with international sports bar and more

Posted: 9:28 AM, Apr 26, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-26 12:28:37-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — After years of renovations, Zemam’s Ethiopian Cuisine is once again open at its original location on Broadway in Midtown.

The family-owned business and Tucson staple is now much more than just a restaurant: It’s part of an international block called ‘Z-Street.’ The entrance and parking are next to Rocco’s Little Chicago.

The Gebremariam family founded Zemam’s in the early '90s in the commercial space connected to their home on Broadway.

This transformation started when Zemam’s on Broadway closed in 2020, during the pandemic and the Broadway widening project. The restaurant then operated solely out of a second location on Speedway, which is now closed.

‘Z-Street’ has been in motion since 2021 and is backed by Rio Nuevo.

“We want people to walk in that door and go ‘Holy sh—, where am I? What is this? This is so cool,” said Favin Gebremariam, daughter of Zemam’s founder Amanuel Gebremariam. Zemam’s is named after Amanuel’s mother.

A revamped Zemam’s

Expanded Zemam's.png
An expanded seating area inside the refurbished Zemam's on Broadway.

The original restaurant space is now expanded. It had only four tables, but now features more than triple the the seating capacity plus even more outdoors.

African art fills the walls and adorns the ceilings.

The kitchen space has also more than tripled. Though the menu has not changed and the Gebremariams continue to make their Ethiopian injera bread every morning.

At the front door, the restaurant offers merchandise as well as art, glassware and bracelets from around the world.

An international sports bar

Zerai's International Sports Bar
Zerai's International Sports Bar

What was a vacant insurance building next door is now an international sports bar named Zerai’s. It’s named after Amanuel’s late younger brother.

The bar will be open for monthly late night dance parties and early morning soccer kick offs.

“We have an Ethiopian dad so we grew up playing soccer, watching soccer… We’re just really excited to bring a lot of what people loved about Zemam’s into this new space here.”

The bar also features international beers and spirits as well as African art and a mask wall. Favin says customers can add to the wall with masks from their travels or experiences.

“We want that to grow and we want this to be representative of the community,” she said.

“Our contractor busted through the ceiling and it was all of this.”

A bright future

Favin Gebremariam in front of the future home of an Ethiopian coffee house.
Favin Gebremariam in front of the future home of an Ethiopian coffee house.

An Ethiopian coffee shop is the next experience coming to Z-street. The building is under construction, next to Zerai’s.

The shop will be called Zidamo, a play on Sidamo, an Ethiopian province known for its coffee. It will be a joint venture with Tucson-based Savaya Coffee, and feature traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies.

Down the road, the plan is for local food vendors to set up stalls here behind the buildings to feature their creations. Favin wants it to look like an international bazaar.

“I think we wanna give… new entrepreneurs an opportunity, right?” she explained. “My dad opened this restaurant with a credit card and there were four tables. You know, that’s all we could do. And it’s evolved, into this!”

And it’s a space that will keep evolving.

“The Tucson community is growing, and there’s more people from all over the world that are coming to Tucson,” said Favin. “And it’s really important for anybody that you see your culture represented in a place that you call home.”

Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.