Forks are for squares. Sure, their pointy prongs make them an incredibly useful eating utensil while effectively keeping our fingers clean, but what is the fun of that? In many countries you find people eating not with utensils, but with their hands.
One such country is Ethiopia. My wife and I are long-time fans of Queen of Sheba, where we were both introduced to the culinary delights of this African country. So when I learned about the opening of Addis Bar & Grill downtown, I had to check it out.
Along with Ethiopian fare, Addis offers Mediterranean options, as well as some basic American food. I wanted something traditional, served on a large platter with rolls of spongy injera. Browsing the lunch menu, I saw that all the traditional Ethiopian offerings were vegetarian. This was ok with me, but my wife remarked that she would have liked to see more meat represented. I couldn’t decide which dish to sample, so I decided to sample all of them. For $8.95 I received the Vegetarian Combo for one, a sampling of six dishes.
The food arrived arranged on a large bed of injera. Injera is a spongy Ethiopian flatbread made from a grain called teff. It is also your utensil – the food comes with rolls of the bread with which you are meant to pick up the food, stuffing the whole wad into your mouth. It sounds messy – and it can be – but it makes for a more immersive culinary experience.
My vegetarian combo came with the following:
Misir Wot – a lentil stew with onion, garlic, spices, and chili pepper sauce (called berbere).
Kik Alicha – split peas, jalapeño, onion, and garlic in a turmeric sauce.
Misir Alicha – lentils, jalapeño, onion, and garlic in a turmeric sauce.
Gomen Wot – collard greens with onion, garlic, and spices.
Atkilt Wot – cabbage with onion, garlic, and turmeric sauce
Fasolia – string beans, garlic, onion, and carrots
Everything was highly satisfactory: soft lentils, crisp vegetables, perfectly seasoned and flavored. The combo is the way to go, I think; the mellow and refreshing cabbage, beans, and collards offset the spicier lentil dishes nicely, and combining two or more flavors in one bite leads to even greater culinary pleasure. Most importantly, there is plenty of food: once you finish all your lentils and veggies, there is the large spread of spices-soaked injera upon which it was all resting.
Queen of Sheba is still my favorite, but for delicious Ethiopian food close to home, Addis is a worthy addition to Louisville’s ethnic food scene.
Addis Bar & Grill is located at 109 S. 4th Street.
Photo: Allan Day