At the corner of Olive and Kingsland, there used to be a restaurant called Queen of Sheba, which was renowned by Olive Link diners for providing authentic Ethiopian cuisine. In 2015, the owners of Queen of Sheba decided to leave the business, but luckily East African food can still be found at the location that they left behind. Nick Menghesha, an Eritrean immigrant and entrepreneur, has taken over the restaurant and renamed it Merhaba, which means “hello” in Arabic. Merhaba is proving to be as popular as Queen of Sheba was, and its unique ethnic cuisine and interesting backstory make it an ideal Olive Link eatery.
Merhaba’s roots lie in Eritrea, which was once part of Ethiopia until it gained independence in 1991. There Nick grew up among the Tigrinya, one of several ethnic tribes inhabiting the region. Throughout his childhood, Nick gained an appreciation for cooking after seeing how food could bring people together. He also learned a great deal about Eritrean cuisine’s influences, from its similarities and differences with Somali cuisine to the Ottoman and Italian influences obtained from the region’s colonial history.
In adulthood Nick would apply his culinary knowledge to opening a restaurant in Sudan. After three years of operating the restaurant, Nick left Sudan for Nairobi, where his father was arranging for his family to emigrate to the United States on a diversity visa. After five months of waiting, everything was negotiated with the embassy, and in 1997 Nick and his family came to America and settled in St. Louis.
Once he felt comfortable in his new country, Nick spent time making friends and getting to know the Gateway City. As he explored St. Louis’s cultural attractions, Nick came across the Delmar Loop, which became one of his favorite hangouts thanks to its eclectic atmosphere. The Loop’s entrepreneurial spirt inspired Nick to open another restaurant, and when he learned that Queen of Sheba’s owners were leaving the business, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
In Nick’s eyes, Queen of Sheba’s location was perfect for Merhaba. “The location on Olive is very good for this sort of business,” says Nick. “It has good proximity to the Loop, and it’s fairly accessible no matter which direction you come from. It is also convenient specifically for an East African restaurant, since many East African immigrants in the St. Louis area are concentrated around University City.”
No matter where you’re from, you’ll find something great at Merhaba. Breakfast menu items range from fu’ul (fava beans) to kitcha fitfit (flatbread marinated with flavored butter and red peppers). Appetizers include sambusa, crispy treats stuffed with lentils or ground meats. Entrees include lamb, beef, chickpeas and more. In addition to all of the great food, a full bar serving a variety of tasty-yet-affordable beverages is also featured in the restaurant.
You can enjoy more than just a simple meal at Merhaba. The restaurant provides catering to any event upon request. You can also rent out the restaurant for weddings, birthday parties, baby showers and other gatherings. A huge component in Eritrean and Ethiopian dining is social interaction, so Merhaba is the perfect place to come together with family and friends for a celebration.
The Olive Link is one of the most diverse districts in Greater St. Louis, and there’s no debating that Merhaba fits right in as an authentic ethnic dining option. Given the relative scarcity of East African restaurants, Merhaba’s presence in the Link is a testament to the district’s appeal. One thing is for certain: Merhaba will continue Queen of Sheba’s legacy of bringing fantastic East African cuisine to the sophisticated and adventurous palates of U City diners for years to come.
6665 Olive Blvd.
University City, MO 63130