African Flavor

The Cuisine: Ethiopian
The Place: Meskerem

The foundation of Ethiopian cuisine is the bread. Injera bread is flat and spongy with a sourdough tang. In Ethiopia’s communal dining style, it serves as both plate and utensil. Individual, Western-style place settings are available, but for the full dining experience, convince your table to order as a group.

Photo by Kim Hummel 

[rsg2_singledisplay:836}Tucked into a Myers Park shopping center, Meskerem is decorated with Ethiopian wall hangings above booths and glass-topped tables, creating an atmosphere of unpretentious calm. Meats and vegetables arrive on a vast, round injera platter, arranged like paints on an artist’s palette. Ethiopian spices vary in intensity. Awaze sauce uses honey wine and is the mildest, while berbere resembles a thick New Mexico red chili paste. Mitmita, pure ground chili pepper, is spiciest—used as a condiment, one pinch is all you need. Red and yellow lentils, cabbage, and collard greens are all fairly bland as individual dishes, but they work to balance the heavy, complex spicing in dishes like doro wat (chicken stewed with eggs and red wine). Kitfo is a carnivore’s dream—chopped prime beef with butter that can be ordered raw or lightly cooked. Vegetarians get a weekday lunch buffet with several offerings not found on the regular menu: standouts include yefosolya wat, a string bean and tomato salad, and deneh wat, a fiery potato and berbere stew.

Be warned. The friendly, attentive wait staff will bring a nearly endless supply of bread. Portions are vast, and injera has a way of expanding in your stomach. I learned to order the avocado and tomato salad appetizer, expressly so that I won’t be tempted to try to finish the main course. Repeat visitors know to ask for a takeout box early in the night.

Meskerem roasts its own coffee beans in traditional Ethiopian fashion, and the result is a beverage more like espresso than drip coffee—dark and strong, with a golden film on top. It’s probably your best hope if you find yourself too stuffed to move.

Meskerem, 601 S. Kings Dr. (704-335-1197) $$, L, D, BW. Closed Mon.

Categories: Food + Drink, Global Table, Restaurant Reviews