Ethiopia rang in its new year on Monday. Locally, this makes for an excellent time to delve more deeply into the African nation’s multifaceted cuisine. Here are three great places to try.
Hawwi, 1125 Queen St.
This little café on the corner of Fayette and Queen streets is admittedly easily overlooked. But don’t be fooled: Its unassuming façade is the antithesis of what goodies lie behind the front door. Walk in and you’ll find a light and airy, casual ambience — and you’ll be hit with the wonderful aromas of Ethiopian spices.
And no matter what you order, expect to leave full and happy. Come for breakfast — the restaurant offers several egg dishes, each offered with pita bread or injera, the traditional tangy, slightly sour, spongy bread of Ethiopia — or pop in for lunch or dinner, where you can order piecemeal or via a combo platter. Ethiopian cuisine is known for its accessibility to vegetarians, and the vegan sampler doesn’t disappoint on this front. With nine different recipes to taste, ranging from red and yellow lentils to collard greens and beets, you’ll go home satisfied. Or bring a guest and max out your caloric range with the Queen Combo, which kicks off the festivities with a course of sambusa and moves on to a hearty combination entrée featuring the likes of doro wat (a chicken stew) and beef dishes, with a vegetable course for good measure.
Jolley’s, 654 S. Pickett St.
On the other end of the spectrum for Hawwi is Jolley’s Restaurant and Lounge on the West End. Tucked away in a strip of businesses on South Pickett Street, the restaurant is a tale of two venues. Stay in the front bar and dining area for a casual dinner, or venture further back in the establishment for a full-fledged hookah bar and club atmosphere. Jolley’s offers live music multiple times each week and hosts football-watching parties and other sports events. Naturally, it was an excellent place to ring in Ethiopian New Year.
But don’t let all the razzle-dazzle get in the way of the restaurant’s comprehensive menu. From Gored Gored — raw cubed beef simmered in a red pepper sauce — to Lega Tibs — cooked beef sautéed with spices in a butter sauce — the possibilities are endless. Vegetarians will find a thorough presence on the menu, as well, with Gomen Wot (collard greens), Fitfit (pieces of injera mixed into a salad of fresh vegetables) and Kik Altcha (yellow lentils) all taking their rightful place.
Enat, 4709 N. Chambliss St.
Still further afield on the West End, Enat is at once a cozy sports bar and a tour of Ethiopia’s signature cuisine. Pop in to watch a soccer match or to have a quiet dinner for two or more — either scenario works well with Enat.
Your best bet at Enat is a combination platter. From lamb and vegetables to Enat Agelgel, which features six different dishes, your options are wide-ranging and the results are good no matter which direction you go. Not a strict vegetarian? Add whole fish to your veggie combination for some additional protein. And, for that matter, not a fan of Ethiopian food whatsoever? The menu also sports spaghetti, grilled chicken, and more for diners who are just along for the ride.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.