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Try one of New Jersey’s five Ethiopian restaurants if you’re an food fan looking for something different.

Flavorful and fun to eat, if you’ve never tried Ethiopian before, you’re in for a treat. Injera – a spongy, sourdough crepe made from tef flour – is the tangy centerpiece of the meal. A pizza-shaped  injera serves as the platter for everything else. Entrees typically come with at least two vegetarian sides. Each portion is served on a sinlge injera platter. Injeras are always served on the side as a handy way to scoop up your food. Rip off a piece and dig in. Using your hands for an entire meal is always a big hit with kids, as long as they don’t mind getting their fingers dirty. (Use only your right hand if you want to eat the customary way.)

Featuring both meat and vegetarian dishes, Ethiopian food can be mild or as spicy as you like, depending on the sauce – Berbere (red peppers with cardamom, basil and spices – classic and always spicy), Awaz (red pepper with garlic and onion – a little spicy) and Mitmitta (red pepper with cardamom – less spicy). For an appetizer, try  Sambusas – the Ethiopian “empanada” or “samosa” – usually stuffed with spicy beef or lentils. Ethiopian menus feature meats (beef, lamb, chicken), fish and vegetables prepared as stews – wats (or “wot”) (spicy) and alechas (mild). The stews are thickened with an herbed clarified butter called niter kibbeh. Common dishes are Doro Wot, chicken stew, typically with hard boiled egg and berbere sauce, and Misir Wot – spicy lentils. For grilled or sauteed meats and vegetables, order tibs, like Yebeg Tibs (sauteed lamb cubes). For a twist on steak tartare, try the Ethiopian version, Kitfo, raw beef mixed with kibbeh one of the red pepper sauces. End your feast with excellent Ethiopian coffee or be adventurous and order tej, a fermented honey mead.

A traditional Ethiopian table (mesob) resembles a tall hourglass-shaped basket, surrounded by low woven chairs. In New Jersey, Mesob  and Lalibela have regular tables.

Ethiopia straddles the Horn of Africa between Somalia and Eritrea, formerly the Ethiopian territory touching the Red Sea. Eritrean cuisine varies slightly from Ethiopian, I’m told, with some Italian colonial influences on the menu. Modern Ethiopia borders Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation, to the West. A major trade route for thousands of years and home of the ancient Abyssinians, Ethiopian food is a truly historic cuisine.

There aren’t many places you can find Ethiopian food. New Jersey’s Ethiopian community is small compared to other immigrant groups. There are established Ethiopian communities in Jersey City, East Orange and East Brunswick. I’ve only found five Ethiopian restaurants in New Jersey so far: two within a few blocks of one another in South Orange (Lalibela is our favorite), one nearby in Montclair (Mesob), one in New Brunswick (Dashen), and a Dominican restaurant in Long Branch (Ada’s) whose Ethiopian owner serves an Ethiopian menu on weekends. New Jersey is well-represented, considering there are only 12 Ethiopian restaurants in New York City. I’ve tried three of the five Jersey Ethiopian spots, and look forward to eating at Desta and Ada’s soon. There might be others in the beautiful Garden State. If you find them, let EthnicNJ know. I’ll add them to the list, and to the map.


Mesob Across America: Ethiopian Food in the U.S.A. (New Jersey)


8 Responses to “Ethiopian”

  1. Anthony says:

    Thanks for the tip!

  2. Ayelet says:

    Unfortunately, Makeda no longer exists.. But there is a cute new one, that’s called Desta, in 88 Albany St.
    New Brunswick. We’ve eaten there and it was good. Kids loved it.

  3. Anthony says:

    I need to try it soon!

  4. Eva says:

    I go to school at Rutgers and have been to Makeda 3 times now– delicious!! Would definitely recommend it!

  5. Anthony says:

    Makeda is the Ethiopian spot in New Brunswick. It’s on my list of places to try.

    I haven’t found a Nepalese restaurant in NJ yet, but some places might serve a few dishes. For example: China Spice in Jersey City.

  6. Meade says:

    Does anyone know about the Ethiopian restaurant on George St. In New Brunswick by Rutgers? An Ethiopian man I used to work with said it was good. I also would like to try Napelese food. Any good ones in NJ? Thanks.

  7. Anthony says:

    No utensils is very popular with our kids. It’s a great way to eat.

  8. Michelle says:

    I’ve been to Mesob a few times and really like it. I love that you can try a bunch of different dishes. Plus you get to eat with your hands!