Injera, red lentils, and wet wipes: these are your best friends at Taste of Ethiopia. The El Cerrito restaurant is unconventional and unabashedly authentic, and it has easily some of the most flavorful food in the area.
The owner of Taste of Ehtiopia, Tsege, started the restaurant in February with a simple yet ambitious mission: "I love cooking. I love fresh food. I always wanted to own fresh serving Ethiopian restaurant," she said. And so she opened Taste of Ethiopia to serve authentic Ethiopian food to the East Bay.
Reading Taste of Ethiopia’s slogan, “It’s all about finger licking food!!!”, it might be easy to take the phrase as just another tagline — and to wonder why there are so many exclamation points. But be warned: Taste of Ethiopia really means that eating their food involves a good deal of finger licking. Those exclamation points aren’t messing around.
Take one of their most popular items, the veggie combo with chicken and steak, for example. It comes out on a large plate laid with Injera, a spongy, grey-brown bread that’s somewhere between Naan and a tortilla. Piled on top of the bread are mashed corn, red lentils, green beans, steak, chicken, cooked greens, and a fresh salad.
If all of this seems like a lot of food, that’s because it is. The combo easily has enough food for two people. In addition to all of the veggies and meat, the platter also comes with a basket of rolled up Injera, but that’s it. No fork, no knife, which is exactly how Ethiopian food goes. It’s time to dive in.
Delicately grab a piece of Injera, find your veggie or meat of choice, and proceed Injera-first. As you work to wrap the spongy bread around the food, you’ll probably notice that it’s going to start tearing. Now covered in spices, sauces, and chunks of meat, the bread will quickly lose its former delicacy and will become a sopping mass of food. That’s when it’s time to eat it. Really. Your fingers will probably be covered in whatever sauce flavors your food, but that’s exactly what this is all about, remember?
Let go of any worries about getting messy, and enjoy the meal. The flavors go from spicy, to sweet, to salty in the matter of a few bites. It’s versatile, fresh, and a bit of a challenge, but that’s part of the fun.
The Ethiopian heritage of the restaurant flows from the floor to the ceiling — literally. Splotchy tan, gold and brown walls look like something out of an Ethiopian village, and a smattering of colorful woven Mesob baskets, hand-carved wooden chairs, and curvy Ethiopian coffee pots — Jenebas — make it feel like you are right inside the owner’s home.
Taste of Ethiopia is one of the most unique and flavorful dining experiences in the area. It’s a must-visit for those with an adventurous spirit who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty — but visitors should be advised not to wear too much white.
Taste of Ethiopia
11740 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
Tel. (510) 778-1905
Lunch: Tuesday - Sunday: 12 pm to 4 pm
Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday: 5 pm to 8 pm
View their Yelp page here.