by Merrill Lee Girardeau | City Guide
If you’ve ever found yourself scooping everything with bread during a meal, Ethiopian food is for you. This African cuisine also suits those with a taste for unique, affordable eats that are packed with flavor.
Ethiopian meat and veggie dishes are served atop injera (fluffy, slightly sour flatbread), and you’re encouraged to eat it all with your hands! Try something new at these eight Ethiopian restaurants from Brooklyn to Times Square to Harlem.
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At Bunna in Bushwick, Brooklyn, guests are welcomed into Ethiopian traditions and culture not only through the food, but also through the frequent demonstrations of Ethiopian coffee ceremonies at the cafe. Bunna, in fact, means coffee in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia. Come day or night for the coffee, a glass of T’ej (honey wine), or a completely vegan offering of yummy dishes at lunch or dinner. They even offer gluten-free Injera if you’re off wheat! 1084 Flushing Ave., 347-295-2227, bunnaethiopia.net
Queen of Sheba
Shake up your Theatre District diet with a trip to Queen of Sheba! This Times Square-adjacent eatery invites you to try chef Philipos Mengistu’s home cooking from his Ethiopian upbringing. Try the vegetarian or meat sampler platters for the best of Queen of Sheba’s dishes (there’s gluten-free injera on offer as well), and Ethiopian sangria to top it off. This restaurant also offers enticing lunch specials for local workers and visitors alike. 650 10th Ave., 212-397-0610, shebanyc.com
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Park Slope’s Ghenet bills itself as the place “Where Angels Eat.” That might well be the case, as the transcendent cuisine attests. This Brooklyn outpost has a funky, cozy dining room and serves especially wonderful kitfo, atkelt wett (cabbage, potato, and carrot), and gomen (collards). If you can’t choose, they also offer combination platters—including vegan platters—and Ethiopian coffee. Who knows—you might have angel wings by the end of your meal! 348 Douglass St., 718-230-4475
Awash Ethiopian Restaurant
Awash’s East Village, Harlem, and Brooklyn locations offer dining rooms full of sumptuous smells from the kitchen. On your injera, be sure to order the special kitfo (steak tartare marinated in clarified butter and spices) and doro wat (marinated chicken served with a hard-boiled egg). For veggie-lovers, go for collard greens in the gomen and the beet-carrot medley of the key sir alicha. East Village: 338 E 6th St., 212-982-9589; Harlem: 947 Amsterdam Ave., 212-961-1416; 242 Court St., 718-243-2151, awashbrooklyn.com
NYU students and Washington Square Park enthusiasts can take their respite at Meskerem. This casual Greenwich Village spot delivers fast, filling Ethiopian classics like combo platters atop injera. The lamb dishes and avocado appetizer get particularly high marks. You can also enjoy a glass of honey wine or an Ethiopian beer before a show at the Comedy Cellar nearby. 124 MacDougal St., 212-777-8111
Near Columbia University, you’ll find Massawa, an exemplary Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant. Try the vegetable sambusas and tebsi: beef with tomatoes and the traditional spice blend berbere. Unlike other places of its kind, you’ll also find seafood like the shrimp tebsi. With a full bar, you can also enjoy some Ethiopian beer or t’ej. 1239 Amsterdam Ave., 212-663-0505, massawanyc.com
Put Haile on the list for your next East Village adventure. Find berbere, the traditional Ethiopian hot sauce, in the lentil-based yemisir wot, as well as spicy butter called kibe in the lamb lega tibs. It’s a pared-back menu of classic dishes—and honey wine—at this cozy Alphabet City dining room, which is also great for dates. 182 Ave. B, 212-673-8949, hailecuisine.com
Perhaps the best among the many great Harlem Ethiopian spots, Benyam brings excellence to its flavorful traditional dishes and hip atmosphere. Much of the produce is locally sourced, including the lentils in the azeefa with jalapeno and mustard and the lentils in the sambusa, a savory stuffed pastry like a samosa. Their beef dishes like the tibs wot and kitfo are tender, flavorful favorites as well. 2795 Frederick Douglass Blvd., 212-510-7353, benyamcuisine.com
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