People around Columbia have been excited to hear that an Ethiopian restaurant* has opened on Main Street. There’s been a little buzz about it, mostly in the Free Times, so I went with Patrick to check this place out for an early dinner on a quiet Saturday night. We arrived to find that we were the only customers there, and luckily took a seat way towards the front windows.
A server came over to take our orders, and gave us basically three menu options: the veggie plate, the key wot, and something else that started with a “t” …we think, that came with no further explanation of what it was. We ordered the veggie plate and the key wot. While Patrick and I were looking around, talking, and playing on our phones we overheard an eruption of angry words. Our server was talking on the phone about someone with a bad attitude, which we surmised was about the lady cooking once our server walked out of the front door and never reappeared again.
So the cook brought us a platter of injera, which is a spongey flat bread, Ethiopia’s answer to the tortilla, naan, or dinner roll of other countries. When I had Ethiopian food in D.C., the various meats and vegetables came out on a platter and we were able to serve ourselves a variety by using the injera to scoop up from the shared platters.
When the cook came over with three containers of vegetables and ladled them directly onto the injera, I was a little puzzled. From left to right is green beans, spiced lentils, and collards.We dug in, subconsciously trying to eat quickly so we could get out of there, because after serving us, the cook was on the phone speaking in another language, presumably about the situation that had just occurred.
But before I go any further, the food. Let’s get into that. During the tenser part of the evening before the server stormed away, I kept hearing beeps that sounded like a microwave, and said as much to Patrick. Yep, he said, it does sound like that. So when our food came I at least expected that it would be warm, which it was not. The green beans with chunks of potato were mildly flavorful and easy to scoop up in the injera and transfer to my mouth. The lightly spicy lentils were my favorite of the trio, full of flavors that weren’t too far out for an American palate. In fact, I started moving in on Patrick’s lentils in favor of some of my collards. I’m not the world’s biggest collard fan but I did eat most of mine here. I think if they were warmer it would have been easier for me to finish them off.
Once we decided we were done, and went through about six napkins each trying to get our fingers clean I went up to the front counter to pay, not wanting to sit there any longer in the empty restaurant. After paying $11 for the veggie plate (the key wot never arrived and luckily wasn’t even written down on our ticket) we scurried off and into the cool, tensionless air of Main Street. “So… that was… something,” one of us said. And that’s the story of the Ethiopian restaurant that everyone has been so curious about. I think it was actually lucky for them that there were no other customers in that night.
*Not going to name it by name on here because well, c’mon.