Bored with barbeque? Latin food leaving you listless? Try something a little different tonight: Ethiopian food. Tampa has two highly rated Ethiopian restaurants and one Ethiopian catering company that will deliver fabulous food right to your home. Anthony Bourdain, an American chef and host of the Travel Channel’s hit TV show “No Reservations,” believes that Ethiopian cuisine will be the next big foodie craze. Spicy, fragrant and fun to eat, Ethiopian dishes generally have three staples: a spice mixture called berbere, a spiced clarified butter called niter kibbeh, and a pancake-shaped, sour-tasting bread called injera that accompanies each dish. The young and young at heart will love it because they can toss the silverware and dive right in with their fingers. Whether you want to try one Tampa’s award-winning restaurants or dine in, treat yourself to the exotic and flavorful dishes of Ethiopia.
Queen of Sheba
Hours: Mon to Thurs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri to Sat – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun – 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Queen of Sheba opened in 2007 and won Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay: Best New Restaurant award in 2008. The colorful African décor creates a unique and exotic atmosphere and the friendly staff will greet you like family. The extensive menu includes both spicy and mild flavors, entrees made with chicken, beef, seafood and lamb, and vegetarian choices. If you can’t decide whether you want to try the beef-based quantu firfir or the vegetarian tikikl gomen, opt instead for the queen’s eight platter, which can be ordered for one person or up to four people. This combination platter can be made mild or spicy and may include all vegetarian dishes upon request. All dishes are served over injera with extra on the side so you don’t miss one delicious bite. After you eat, you can wind down with a hot cup of bunna or Ethiopian coffee. At the end of the evening, you can even take a little piece of Sheba home with you and browse the shop in the front of the restaurant. There you will find hand-crafted jewelry, baskets and Ethiopian coffee and spice mixtures so you can relive the experience whenever you choose.
Hours: Tues to Thurs -11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fri to Sat -11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. Noon to 3:30 p.m.
Abol Bunna opened in 2009 and serves authentic Ethiopian cuisine, but also tries to accommodate its Western guests. For example, if you really would like to use a fork, one will be provided to you. Furthermore, there are two seating sections: one with the usual table and chairs, and another section in which you can experience “eating like an Ethiopian:” small stools encircle a mesob table woven from straw. Basins filled with water and soap are brought out to guests both before and after eating, and food is served family-style. The menu includes both mild and spicy entrees and numerous vegetarian options. If you can’t decide between the duba wet or awaze tibs, create your own tour of Ethiopia by selecting three different dishes and bringing them all together on one combination platter — and of course, everything is served with a healthy portion of injera. Wash it all down and unwind with a steaming abol bunna (cup of coffee) or tea infused with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger root.
Ethiopian Cuisine Catering, LLC
If you feel like having an adventure in the comfort of your own kitchen, try Ethiopian Cuisine Catering. You don’t have to order for your whole office to enjoy the flavors of Ethiopia, just call and order for home delivery. Place your order, put the silverware away, and then relax and experience a taste of Ethiopia without ever leaving your home. Whether you like it mild or spicy, vegetarian or meat-filled, these delicious entrees are made just for you.
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Amanda Mole has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil and cooking since she was tall enough to reach the stove. She believes that food provides more than just vital nutrients: it is an irreplaceable part of countless cultural and social activities. As a Tampa Bay resident for the past 21 years, she is well acquainted with the incredibly diverse range of restaurants, bars, and food festivals that the area has to offer. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.