Unlike New York’s burgeoning Senegalese and Ghanian scene, the city hasn’t experienced much expansion of the Ethiopian restaurant concept in the past few years. Ironically, the city’s most celebrated chef of Ethiopian descent, Marcus Samulsson, is known for his Swedish cooking and now soul food fusion at Red Rooster. The restaurants below are longtime neighborhood favorites that bring an air of authenticity to their menus and reliably sate their fans.
ghenet NYCs 5 Best Ethiopian Restaurants

(credit: ghenet.com)

Hours: Mon – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tues to Thurs – 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fri – 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.,Sat – 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun – 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Having departed from its longtime Nolita perch to Park Slope a decade ago, it didn’t take long for this casually elegant spot to establish itself as old guard in the slope. All the standards are here, including spongy injera (sourdough flatbread) bread used in place of silverware, veggie-friendly or meat stews (Wats), and honey wine. It’s the beef dishes (Siga, Gored Gored and Wat) that stand out here as well balanced, with just the right amount of spice. Strong Kafa coffee for dessert is sweetened in the traditional manner, with a dollop of honey placed ceremoniously under the tongue.

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awashny NYCs 5 Best Ethiopian Restaurants

(credit: awashny.com)

Hours: Daily – 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Named after a tributary of the Nile in Africa, Awash is a perennial favorite for both Columbia U. and NYU students, thanks to two strategically located outlets. The older UWS spot is fairly bare bones when it comes to decor, but the food is good and portions are large. Special Kitfo ($15.50)—raw ground beef marinated in Ethiopian butter and chile powder—is particularly well represented here. The East Village branch (338 E 6th St) may be a little more “user friendly,” with a young staff, eager to guide first-timers toward a variety of combo platters, including vegetarian options.

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ethiopianfood NYCs 5 Best Ethiopian Restaurants

(credit: Thinkstock)

Hours: Daily – 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

The former Meskerem space relaunched last fall as Meske, and is receiving buzz for having upped the quality of its meals since the reboot. Given that a decade ago, Washington D.C. expats and even people who’d spent time in Ethiopia considered it the most authentic of NYC’s few options, it’s heartening to witness the revival. Decor is bare bones, the service is friendly and you’ll even receive a mini-history lesson in the relationship between Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines. The filling vegetable combo ($13.95) is available at a discount ($9.50) before 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

queenofsheba NYCs 5 Best Ethiopian Restaurants

(credit: shebanyc.com)

Hours: Sun to Thurs – 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Fri and Sat – 11:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.

An interesting phenomenon with NYC Ethiopian is that they tend to be clustered: If you don’t see what you like at one, step around the corner. This 10-year-old Meske neighbor has something of a reputation for “mainstream” appeal, and is does a brisk pre-theater business. The restaurant is accommodating (Kitfo beef, which is generally served raw, can be ordered medium and well done.) Grab an Ethiopian beer (Meta and Addis are both popular) to cool the spices.

massawa NYCs 5 Best Ethiopian Restaurants

(credit: massawanyc.com)

Hours: Daily – 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

One of the grandaddies of NYC Ethiopian, this 23-year-old Morningside Heights go-to is welcoming and unassuming, with a very dedicated fan base. The Beghe (lamb) combo ($17.50) is a rich, flavorful sampling of Tsebhi (spicy chunks) and Alitcha (slow-simmered lamb in a thick sauce). Budget diners will appreciate the bottomless tej (honey wine) poured throughout dinner. Added bonus: The website provides a link to TSOM foods, where you can buy your own Berbere (spices), Tesmi (vegan butter) and other ingredients for DIY Ethiopian dishes. Note: Injera bread is often gluten free. Be sure and ask how it is made.

Related: The 8 Best Gluten-Free Food & Restaurants in NYC

Robert Haynes-Peterson is an editor and freelance writer living in New York. He is certified by the American Sommelier Association through its 24-week Vinification and Viticulture program, and the government of Mexico through its Master Mezcalier program (continuing). His work can be found at Examiner.com.

  1. Confused says:

    For years I’ve heard that people are starving in Ethiopia, so I never really understood what Ethiopian cuisine was. I guess I’ll have to check it out…

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