Ethiopian restaurants seem to have one overarching attitude that is exuded throughout multiple locations: friendliness. At every place, the owners are friendly, the servers are helpful and the regulars are jovial. Everyone is welcome, from newcomers to years-long devotees. So bring a crowd, order some delicious dishes to share and enjoy this unique experience. As the Ethiopian tradition goes, those who eat from the same plate will not betray each other. Fair warning: Be prepared to get messy, as Ethiopian cuisine is eaten with your hands.
140 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Hours: Mon to Fri – 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Area: Rittenhouse Square
A block from Rittenhouse Square sits a neat little gem of a restaurant that’s quiet and perfect for studying or people watching. Owners Almaz and Solomon are proud of the diverse menu, offering plenty of coffee, breakfast, soup, salads, sandwiches, cake and ice cream options. The star of the menu, however, is the authentic Ethiopian fare. Most dishes are vegetarian, but there is plenty here for meat eaters as well. Fans of Almaz insist that newcomers should try the Vegetarian Combination for $11.50, which is a sampler containing Misir (split red lentils in berbere sauce), Tikil Gomen (veggie stew), Kik-Alchia (yellow split peas with turmeric, green peppers and spices) and Shiro (mixed legumes made with ginger root, rue seed, bishop’s weed and garlic, in berbere sauce). Each of these options will give you a better idea of the region’s taste, likely leaving you wanting more.
4423 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Hours: Sun to Fri – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Area: University City
Kaffa Crossing is a clean, bright coffee shop in University City serving wonderful Ethiopian coffee and food with a smile. Owner Yonas Kebede is committed to Fair Trade principles and is dedicated to supporting the local economy. The cafe serves Fair Trade coffee and locally grown produce whenever possible. Vegan and vegetarian choices abound on Kaffa’s menu, such as Tikel Gomen (cabbage and carrots cooked with onions, ginger and spices) for $6.95 and Shiro Wot (spicy, ground chickpeas cooked with onions and spices) for $7.25. This friendly spot also has Wi-Fi and live entertainment.
2743 Poplar St
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Hours: Daily – 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
What seems like a tiny dive bar in Fairmount is actually a curious little place with excellent Ethiopian food and a friendly, laid back vibe. Fans of Era can’t get enough of its injera (spongy bread that, along with your fingers, is used as a utensil). If you’re unfamiliar with this cuisine, let one of the amiable servers lead you through the menu. You might try Derek Tibs (beef cubes sautéed with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, spiced butter and mild spices) for $10 or Yebeg Wat (tender lamb simmered in a red pepper sauce with exotic spices) for $9.50. Both options are among the best offered and provide a great synopsis of Ethiopian fare. Era Bar has many drink specials throughout the week, including Yards PPA for $3 and Lager pints for $2. The pool table and jukebox will keep you entertained long after dinner. Leave your plastic at home though, because Era only accepts cash.
Gojjo Bar & Restaurant
4540 Baltimore Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Hours: Dinner: Sunday – Thursday 4 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday to Saturday 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Bar: Daily – 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Area: Cedar Park
Gojjo is a hopping Ethiopian bar and restaurant in Cedar Park. The menu is authentic, with some American, Indian and Greek fare including samosas and mozzarella sticks thrown in for good measure. Be sure to ask about the chef’s specials, because they usually come out perfectly. One of the chef’s dishes that cannot be passed up is the Ugali Na Nyama. This dish includes cornmeal served with either tender lamb or beef, collard greens and kachumbari (a kind of relish or coleslaw) for only $11. But what most come back for time and time again are the Ethiopian cheesesteaks. Yes, you read that correctly. This dish is a Philly staple made with beef tibs and topped with cheese, lettuce and tomato on a roll. When the weather is nice, it’s fun to sit in the two outdoor seating areas, one on the ground floor out back and one on the upper deck. Gojjo also has live music or a DJ, with room for dancing, late into the evening.
229 S 45th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Hours: Daily – 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Area: West Philly
This corner spot in West Philly always has a bar full of happy neighborhood regulars, usually until last call around 2 a.m. What makes it stand out from all the other fun bars in the area is the authentic Ethiopian food that won’t break the bank. Most entrees are under $10, making a visit even more enjoyable. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where the dishes are not what you’d expect in the morning, but are surprisingly tasty. Foul – the dish, not the adjective – is fava beans cooked with tomatoes, onions, hot green peppers and spices, served with Ethiopian ghee (clarified butter) for $5.25. It is a great breakfast choice. As with most Ethiopian restaurants, there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, such as Ye’atikilt Wot, a fresh dish made with string beans, carrots and potatoes, sautéed with onions, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a turmeric sauce, for $7.95. Go with this option for a lunch or dinner meal. Abyssinia offers online ordering, takeout and delivery, as well as friendly table service.
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Trish Deitemyer is a freelance writer living in Philly. She covers Food & Drink and has been writing since 1986. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.