Samad Ahmadi put two years into transforming his Edgewater auto garage into Paradise, the Middle Eastern restaurant that served as a showcase for his eye-popping, idiosyncratic outsider art. Last year he decided to get out of the restaurant business, but he wanted to preserve his vision, a riot of mosaics and bric-a-brac. He turned to his neighbor, Emebet Afework, former owner of Abyssinia Market a few doors down Broadway, who agreed to leave it mostly untouched. Afework had long wanted to get into the restaurant biz—her uncle owned Ethio Cafe, and her market traded in Ethiopian spices. In January she and her husband, Kaleb Gebremariam, reopened Paradise as Green Village Restaurant, unique not just in its decor but in its dual offerings of Ethiopian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It's not really such a strange combination, Afework says. After all, Ethiopia and Eritrea are just across the Red Sea from Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Working inside a shingled cooking area at the front of the restaurant, Afework turns out all the standards with a sure hand—falafel, baba ghanoush, ful, tabouleh, and kebabs on the Middle Eastern side of the menu, wats, tibs, and kitfo on the Ethiopian side. We found the falafel a touch dry, but a generous portion of Jerusalem salad was very fresh, redolent of mint and parsley. Beef tibs were flavorful if chewy, but the standout was lamb kebabs, so moist and perfectly seasoned that we recommended them to a couple of curious passersby we ran into on the way out. Green Village also offers a range of modestly priced combo plates served with salad, hummus, and rice or salad and injera—for $13.95 the vegetarian sampler gets you five Ethiopian dishes and hummus and baba. Service is gracious, and the reasonable check comes in a little decorated box. The place is permanently BYO; the upstairs balcony functions as a private space that would make a trippy setting for a party. —Kate Schmidt
Still in Edgewater, but 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: open since February, 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. Lalibela is BYO for now. —Kate Schmidt
We had conspicuously overordered—an injera-lined platter each of yebeg alicha (lamb stew), lega tibs (a red beef stew), lamb tibs, and a veggie combo—but at the end of our meal at Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant 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 yen 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 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 boxed-up leftovers 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. BYO. —Tasneem Paghdiwala