Mamma Kitchen offers a taste of Ethiopia, in Radford Virginia

By Christi Wayne And Charlie Whitescarver | Roanoke Times

“We have never been to Ethiopia,” said just about everyone in Radford. But now you can have a little taste from this eastern African country courtesy of Mamma Kitchen.

We began researching (i.e. eating) for this review before the Great Pandemic of 2020 descended and locked us all in our homes. At first it was not clear if we could finish the review. It was unclear if this small restaurant on East Main Street in Radford would continue. Thankfully, it has. Our last visit was take-out Vegetable Injera and a Kitfo sandwich; we will explain later.

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Our first visit was with a small group for lunch and each of us was perplexed by most of the menu. The narrow storefront has tables on the right along the wall and the kitchen on the left.

Mamma herself saved us with explanations of the menu items we did not recognize. The menu is not extensive, and expect it to change due to availability.

We will skip the hamburger and fries ($4.49 and $2.79). That is not what we came for. But for the squeamish, it looked good and should not disappoint.

Mamma Kitchen does not have a big staff. Sometimes it was just Mamma. But given her gracious nature to please, and the fact the dishes were cooked to order, and delicious, patience was both granted and appreciated.

Within the group we ordered Beef Tips on Injera ($10.99), the Veggie Platter on Injera ($10.99) and the Chicken Curry ($9.99).

Injera is an Ethiopian bread traditionally made with teff flour, native to Ethiopia. The best comparison is to imagine a big crepe, darker in color, and lighter. The injera is laid out on a big plate and the ingredients are laid on top of it. You eat by tearing off a small piece of the injera and using that to pick up the meat or the vegetable. Yes, you get to enjoy eating with your fingers.

The Beef Tips on Injera were tender bits of beef in a savory sauce with a flavor profile we could not remember experiencing before. Garlic, chili, basil and ginger are traditional spices in Ethiopia but there was some indescribable goodness in that beef.  

The Vegetable Platter on Injera included red lentils, yellow lentils, collard greens and cabbage arrayed around the injera. The red lentils featured a little of the spicy heat you would expect and the cabbage had a sweetness that was a welcome counterpoint. The yellow lentils hinted at traditional curry flavors. The collard greens were best enjoyed mixed with the others. Both injera dishes were fun and delicious.

The Rice with Chicken Curry ($9.99) was a generous portion of tender chicken chunks is an appetizing yellow curry sauce over rice. Onions and peppers add texture and the aroma of curry and garlic preceded each bite.

At the end of the meal, Mamma convinced us to try a cup of Ethiopian Coffee ($1.25). It was served from an elegant porcelain pot into small cups. It was sweet and strong. Mamma roasts the beans herself.

The menu includes morning fare like pancakes, a bacon-egg-and-cheese bagel and other offerings, so of course we visited for breakfast. We skipped the traditional and pedestrian American items and ordered the Chechebsa ($3.99). We were warned that some patrons did not care for this Ethiopian-style pancake. That compelled us to try it.

We thought it was great! We were served a bowl of what could be described as pancake pieces but with more body and lightly sauced with a sweet and spicy syrup. The spicy heat combined with the sweetness and other seasonings was a unique experience. Mamma said we were different from most Americans since we liked it. We just smiled and kept eating.

After that visit, COVID-19 reared its ugly head and dining out disappeared quicker than fresh donuts in the break room. Mamma Kitchen was closed and for some reason we could not reach them. Fortunately, while delivering groceries to an elderly shut-in we noticed a sign on the Mamma Kitchen door. We called the number, ordered some good food and picked it up.

We were curious how the injera would travel so we ordered the Vegetable Platter and a Kitfo Sandwich ($8.99). The injera was neatly folded over the veggies and was just as good out of the Styrofoam box as it was on a plate.

Kitfo is a traditional sandwich of raw minced beef, but the “tartare” style is not served here. The minced beef is cooked in a chili-spice blend with clarified spiced butter and served on a soft sub roll. Once again, this had a flavor we had not experienced before and it was delicious. It was juicy, and messy, and we traded bites and saved half of it for another meal.

During this period of physical distancing, Mamma Kitchen’s hours may be different than what we have stated (see box), and not all menu items may be available. Mamma was very mindful of wearing gloves and sanitizing the facilities, and she complimented our face masks. We enjoyed every unique dish and look forward to sitting down in Mamma Kitchen again, soon.

Read from source Roanoke Times

Mamma Kitchen
1154 E. Main St., Radford

(240) 429-1918 (phone number on Facebook is currently not correct)

Cuisine: Ethiopian and American

Hours*: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

(*These hours were before the pandemic lock-down; call for curbside pickup availability.)

Delivery: No

Reservations: No

Payment: Major credit cards

Kid-friendly: Yes

Alcohol: No

Patio seating: No

Parking: Free on street

Wireless internet: No

Vegetarian dishes: Yes

Live music: No