Not commonly high on everyone’s ethnic dining list, but well worth trying, is Ethiopian food. There is a sense of communal dining when eating Ethiopian. The bread, injera, is sponge-like and brought out on a large tray adorned with your dish choices on top. The injera is both the meal’s bread and your eating utensil. Yes, Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands. Break off a piece of injera and use it to pinch a bite of your stew or vegetables. One should not miss the honey wine or espresso-like coffees, because they are perfectly piquant. Ethiopian food bursts with flavors, showing off the nation’s history of being on the Silk Road spice route. Flavors hinting at chilis, cardamom and berbere spice blends are common in traditional dishes, but remain a bit unique to each restaurant.
Not only are these Baltimore’s best Ethiopian restaurants, but at the time they are the only Ethiopian restaurants in the area. A handful have closed, but you’re in luck because those that remain are all distinctively great.
Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant
1100 Maryland Ave
Baltimore, Md. 21201
Price: Entrees are $10-$15
Hours: Daily – 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Located on a prominent corner of the cultural district at Maryland Avenue and West Chase Street, Dukem is a couple of blocks walking distance from the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. It is a sister location to the original location on U Street in Washington, D.C. Spices are one of the main components that separate Ethiopian restaurants apart from one another. At Dukem, guide your server by letting them know your tolerance for heat, whether mild, medium or hot, and the cooks will prepare each dish accordingly. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s fasting season was the impetus for the extensive vegetarian offerings in this culture. Order a Dukem vegetarian combo that arrives with up to seven items. Included in the mix are peas, potatoes, cabbage, shiro and chickpeas, to name a few. A dish such as this covers many typical Ethiopian fares. There are also plenty of fish, chicken, beef and lamb dishes to satisfy the carnivores. Try a combo plate for a taste of each. Dukem seems to have the most extensive offerings in Baltimore, and it conveniently offers carryout from 9 a.m. to midnight every day.
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917 Cathedral St
Baltimore, Md. 21201
Price: Entrees are $10-$20
Hours: Tues – 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Wed – 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thurs to Fri – 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sat – 8 p.m. to 2 a .m., Sun – Closed
If you’re looking for nightlife and lite bites, then this newest addition to Baltimore’s lounge scene offers up exactly what you’re looking for. E-Villa provides Ethiopian fare in its appetizer and entree selections. Cross-culture offerings like Ethiopian Spring Rolls with lentils, spinach or beef, and Kitfo Sliders, marinated beef patties topped with tomato salad and goat cheese served on toasted baguettes, adorn the appetizer menu. More substantial options for entrees include unique dishes such as Ethiopian-flavored Short Ribs or the original Ethiopian Tibs dinner, which comes with either chicken or beef. Tib dishes are generally marinated meats cooked and served with a variety of vegetables. Located in Mt. Vernon, the two-story lounge offers an array of music, including jazz, disco, hip hop and international.
Tabor Ethiopian Restaurant
225 W Mulberry St
Baltimore, Md. 21201
Price: Generally less than $10 per person
Hours: Daily – 11 a.m.to 9 p.m.
On Mulberry Street, near Tyson Street and catty corner to the old Martick’s Restaurant, Tabor represents cheap good eats in a very casual, homey setting. A mere pocket full of $10 will feed you quite well at this establishment. Tabor does not have a liquor license, but is BYOB. So bring your favorite brew or wine, but make sure it’s one that stands up to a spicy meal. The meat or vegetable platters are a hot item, and the injera used to scoop up bites of each is known as the best in town for holding together each hearty grab. If unfamiliar with collard greens – a bitter, leafy green – this is a perfect opportunity to indulge because Rabor’s Gomen is packed full of flavor. The dish arrives with plenty of onion, garlic and chili flavor. You will not find a truer Ethiopian dining experience in Baltimore than a visit to this restaurant.
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Dara Bunjon has a passion for food – its origins, preparation and consumption. Her culinary endeavors began as a regular cooking personality on early morning news in Baltimore, where she developed a fanbase. She also owns her own company and co-authored a cookbook. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.