For hungry people in a hurry, East African cuisine typically isn’t the right decision — same goes for anyone planning to spend a meal on an iPhone. Ethiopian food is served communally, similar to the way all orders are typically combined at a sushi restaurant. But instead of using chopsticks, Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands.
The food is served on a thin, spongy bread called injera. Diners tear squares off additional rolls of injera to use as an edible utensil of sorts. At Ethiopian restaurants, coffee is strong and espresso is usually more like what most people would consider Turkish coffee. Dessert is rare, but black tea typically comes with a luxurious blend of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Many cities only have one or two places to get Ethiopian food, if any. But the Dallas-Fort Worth area is lucky to have several solid options.
Ibex Ethiopian Cuisine and Bar
12255 Greenville Ave.; 972-234-4239
Doro wat is probably Ethiopia’s best-known dish, and it was a highlight here. Essentially a chicken leg or thigh in red pepper paste, the recipe is hard to master, with the goal being tender meat in rich gravy. The doro wat at Ibex had lots of onion, garlic and ginger. Another traditional Ethiopian dish, tibs, was an absolute standout here. Tibs are tender cubes of beef or lamb marinated with onion, rosemary, jalapeño and garlic. With shining examples of the biggest staples in East African cuisine, Ibex is a great introduction to Ethiopian fare.
12101 Greenville Ave.; 214-575-9004
Desta's atmosphere is both fashionable and comfortable. It's perfect for an Ethiopian restaurant, especially if you want to get comfortable for dinner and enjoy some good food and conversation. They occasionally have someone playing gorgeous music on a piano, providing the perfect background for dinner. The beef tibs were good, sautéed in a simpler sauce to put more of an emphasis on the meat itself. The doro wat was spicier here, but just as savory, and the vegetarian combination was particularly strong. The menu at virtually every Ethiopian restaurant has several options that can be ordered as side dishes or made into full meals for vegetarians: house salads, misir wot (red lentil stew), kik alicha (yellow split pea stew), collard greens, ayibe (homemade cottage cheese) and timatim fitit (a spicy salad made out of chopped injera, tomatoes and jalapeño).
9191 Forest Lane; 972-792-8442
This is a highly recommended option, often considered one of the best in the city. The atmosphere is cozy, full of Ethiopian art and often with great Ethiopian jazz blasting from the speakers. Lalibela really mixes it up when it comes to spice level. After chatting with a server, we agreed that medium was the way to go with a combo platter that included doro wot, yebeg wot (a spicy lamb stew) and minchetabesh (chopped beef in a red chili sauce). With a warm, welcoming atmosphere, this is another great place to start.
City Cafe & Bakery
12101 Greenville Ave, Ste 103; 972-238-9988
An Ethiopian place with great desserts made in-house, City Cafe & Bakery has great coffee and tea but also cream puff cakes, cheesecakes and baklava. It’s a quicker option, more akin to a diner. This place has the essentials, like tibs and veggie combos, but they also threw some hamburgers and sandwiches on the menu. City Cafe also has breakfast options like scrambled eggs with sauces, vegetables and seasonings.
100 S. Central Expy, Richardson; 972-480-0100
Addis Abeba is stuck in an odd corner of a Richardson shopping plaza but is well worth the trouble. The menu has all the bases covered, and the bar is known for great cocktails. This is a particularly good place to try kitfo, another traditional Ethiopian dish consisting of minced raw beef, a spicy blend with a chili powder base and butter infused with herbs. It's served with ayibe and collard greens. Addis Abeba was a particularly good place to try this dish because the menu listed it available as raw, medium or well done. Other establishments seemed to just offer the dish raw, but here the options made me question the classic order. The server wisely suggested medium for my first attempt, as raw would have been a bit hard to stomach. This is a dish I crave later on — the intense spices on the meat are perfectly countered by the mild flavors of greens and ayibe.
8353 Park Lane; 214-373-6278
Want to find out for yourself just how difficult it is to perfect these recipes? Maru Grocery has you covered. The deli is stocked with meat and lamb, should you want to make tibs, and there are bags of injera aplenty. They even sell green coffee, for those who want to roast their own beans, which is a ceremony common in Ethiopia. There are bags of lentils and spices, plus Ethiopian literature and music.
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8367 Park Lane; 469-232-9977
For Ethiopian food fast or takeout, Arif Cafe is the place. There are no chairs — there's not even a menu — but a veggie combo and tibs are available every day, with other staples of Ethiopian cuisine making regular appearances. They don't skimp on injera, either, and the food is flavorful and a bit spicy, as well as quick and authentic.