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Eat With Your Fingers

Ethiopian restaurants

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Abyssinia Restaurant

5842 N. Broadway | 773-271-7133



One of few Ethiopian restaurants in town to serve breakfast, Abyssinia offers the traditional foul (fava beans), kinche (cracked wheat), fir fir (injera mixed with beef stew), and scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño; you can also order a combo of three. The lunch and dinner menus also feature some dishes unusual locally, like shiro stew, made with powdered peas, and dullet, lamb tripe and liver mixed with seasoned beef. But oddly, there aren't any appetizers available—no sambusas for you. With one exception, the vegetarian dishes are all vegan; a combo gets you a chef's choice of such standards as red lentils, yellow split peas, collards, and tikel gomen, mild cabbage and carrots. A generous portion of awaize tibs—marinated lamb cooked in a red pepper sauce with tomato, jalapeño, and garlic—sat at the centerpiece of our round of injera, especially delicious once the spices had soaked through. Speaking of spices, Abyssinia seems to have a lighter hand with them than competitors like Ethiopian Diamond or Demera—the food isn't quite as flavorful. On the positive side, though there's wine and beer, including cans of the grassy Ethiopian beer Bedele, the restaurant is also BYO, and there's delivery, something ED offered for a time but has since discontinued. —Kate Schmidt

Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

6118 N. Ravenswood | 773-465-6710



We had conspicuously overordered—an injera-lined platter each of yebeg alicha (lamb stew), lega tibs (a red beef stew), a veggie combo, and lamb tibs (sauteed chunks of lamb)—but at meal's end we couldn't stop rooting through the remains to pick out the toothy, caramelized whole cloves of garlic buried there. The buttery pureed red lentils in the veggie combo answered my call for spiciness; the lega tibs, oily and red, and yebeg alicha, greenish and creamier, were both cooked in kebe, butter simmered with onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and cumin. Owner Liknesh Tareke tells me that wats, meat stews slow cooked with the fiery hot pepper paste berbere, are the most popular, as well as the spiciest, items on her menu; I'd go back to try them with a tiny cup of powerful Ethiopian coffee. As we packed up our comically high stack of leftovers boxes and settled the comically small bill, my friend and I caught each other eyeing the ruins of the lega tibs for a last undiscovered bit of garlic. —Tasneem Paghdiwala


4801 N. Broadway | 773-334-8787



"Would you like something to drink?" asked the sweet-faced waitress. "Ethiopian beer, or some honey wine?" It was a reasonable question, and the wine, a goblet filled to the rim with sweet mead, was delicious. If only she had asked 20 minutes earlier—like, before we had ordered. This sort of ultimately inoffensive disorganization was typical of our dinner at Demera, an Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant at Lawrence and Broadway, across from the Green Mill. Menus were slow to appear, actual food even slower, and I'm not actually sure we got everything we ordered. But the array of Ethiopian wats (stews) was creative and tasty, a notch above the neighborhood standard, Ethiopian Diamond up the street. The extensive menu features a wide range of traditional preparations of lamb, chicken, beef, and seafood, but we opted for the diners' choice vegetarian combo with a side of doro wat: two chicken drumsticks simmered with onions, garlic, and ginger and served with a hard-boiled egg in a thick, fiery berbere sauce. Presented on a platter lined with deliciously sour injera, the veggies included gomen (collard greens) and tikel gomen (cabbage and carrots) stewed in the same complex blend of onions, garlic, and ginger and served with fresh green pepper; shiro, a mild mix of legumes, ginger, rue seed, bishop's weed, and garlic; and the house specialty ye-selit fitfit, a fluffy pile of injera bits flavored with roasted sesame, garlic, onions, and ginger. There's an upside to the hit-or-miss service: you can linger as long as you want. —Martha Bayne

Ethiopian Diamond

6120 N. Broadway | 773-338-6100



At this large, shabby-comfortable Edgewater storefront there are savory wats (stews) with beef, chicken, lamb, and fish, but vegetarians never need feel deprived. Vegan options include a spicy red lentil wat, yellow split pea wat; gomen (oniony collard greens), slightly sour tikil gomen (cabbage and carrots), and a mild wat made with potatoes and large chunks of carrot, all served on injera, the large, spongy pancake made with flour from teff, a tiny grain indigenous to Ethiopia. For appetizers there are sambusas, samosalike pastry triangles stuffed with meat or vegetables and served with wedge of lemon and a tamarind sauce. Meat dishes include the classic doro wat, chicken stewed in a spicy red sauce with a hard-boiled egg; kitfo, described on the menu as "Ethiopian steak tartare"; and tibs, cubes of various meats or seafood available in a range of preparations and spice levels. There are African beers, served in frosty mugs, and tej, Ethiopian honey wine; service too is honeyed—the staff here couldn't be more genuinely welcoming. On Friday nights Chicago legend Kelan Phil Cohran, a cofounder of the AACM and a member of Sun Ra's band back in the day, plays jazz and ambient horn and harp to a synthesized backing. Ethiopian Diamond II (7537 N. Clark, 773-764-2200), a second location in Rogers Park, offers a Sunday brunch buffet for $13.95. —Kate Schmidt


5633 N. Ashland | 773-944-0585



A bit off the strip of Ethiopian places on North Broadway, Lalibela seems to be devoid of customers every time I pass by, which is a pity: the restaurant serves well-prepared home-style Ethiopian food. On the rainy night we went, our party was one of just two, which made the large space, appointed with thronelike wooden chairs, seem rather desolate. The leisurely service was friendly enough, though, and this is the type of family-run restaurant where the owners' kids are cooling their heels by the kitchen. The menu features the usual wats and tibs but also items I haven't seen at other Ethiopian spots—for example, ye keyser selata, a tasty salad of fresh beets, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and onion. Yemser azifah was green lentils given some pleasant heat with onion and jalapeño; ater kik, yellow split peas, were comfortingly mild. Other vegetarian dishes include inguday tibs, mushrooms with onion and berbere, and quosta, spinach with garlic, ginger, and spices, many of which are imported from Ethiopia. But if you eat meat, you're really in business: the succulent Lalibela special tibs, lamb seasoned with onion, rosemary, and jalapeño, were the hit of the meal. The biggest downside was aural—I've heard people complain about Kelan Phil Cohran's ambient playing at Ethiopian Diamond on Friday nights, but whatever was wailing on the sound system here makes his music sound like hard bop. —Kate Schmidt

Ras Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant

5846 N. Broadway | 773-506-9601



The chef at Ras Dashen, Zenash Beyene, sets a welcoming mossab (short, colorful eating table of woven fiber) for carnivores and vegetarians alike. We've enjoyed the stewlike meats at other Ethiopian restaurants, but here grilled meats stand out: lamb seared to scrumptious caramelization, fish crusted with light coconutty char, and beef dressed with piquant berbere sauce. There are several African beers on offer—try Hakim, an Ethiopian stout with a creaminess that soothes the burn from hotter Ethiopian spices. —David Hammond

Royal Coffee

6764 N. Sheridan | 773-761-8100


COFFEE SHOP, AFRICAN | Monday-Friday 7 AM-8:30 PM, saturday-sunday 8 AM-9 PM | byo

I, along with a lot of Rogers Parkers, was sad to lose Panini Panini, the budget-chic coffeehouse that used to occupy this space, but Royal Coffee takes its place and then some. There's still umbrellaed outdoor seating, still ice cream. And the coffee—imported from Ethiopia and available by the bag as well—is terrific, bright, deep, and chocolatey all at once. Best of all, the menu of omelets, sandwiches, salads, and dessert crepes has now been supplemented with Ethiopian choices. At breakfast, options are Ethiopian-style scrambled eggs with tomato, green pepper, onion, and injera or a combo of traditional dishes: fava beans, injera in beef stew, chechebsa (shredded flatbread coated with spiced butter and berbere), and kinche, the last especially rich with niter kibbe, clarified butter. Kitfo, "Ethiopian tartare," is available too, as are beef, chicken, or lamb tibs and, my favorite, a vegetarian plate with red lentils, split peas, gomen (chopped greens), and a combo of potatoes, green beans, and carrots. The bagel with lox is also very good. —Kate Schmidt

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