Nestled in the center of the country, Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, is quickly evolving and growing. Addis captures much of the diversity unique to the country, with over 80 distinctive languages and numerous dialects belonging to a variety of religious communities and peoples. The city of Addis Ababa takes pride in its diversity, which is perhaps best represented by the city’s unexpected food culture and lively restaurant scene. Here are ten of the most exciting restaurants to try.
1) 2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant
2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant is along the city’s main road, Bole, and is situated in atukul, a traditional hut with low wooden tables. Ethiopian cuisine is served without silverware, as the custom is to eat with one’s hands. One of the specialties here is injera, (made from tef, a sour-wheat-like grain, mixed with cool water and a touch of yeast, it has a spongy consistency), served with sautéed spinach, caramelized onions, spicy potatoes, red peppers, an assortment of raw beef cubes, and several vegetarian options. Eating injera is a celebration of the Ethiopian grains and produce as much as it is a sensory feast. The restaurant also has traditional dancing every evening at 20:00. (Phone: +251 11 551 8358)
2) Yod Abyssinia
Yod Abyssinia Traditional Restaurant was established in 2003, and is one of the pioneering and most reputable traditional restaurants in Addis Ababa. Yod Abyssinia proudly serves a variety of dishes representing the various nations and nationalities that are emblematic of the diversity of the country. The restaurant accompanies the meal with wonderful traditional music performances, as well as beautiful traditional dancing, promoting the Ethiopian culture and traditions for tourists and visitors alike. (Phone: +251 11 372 0607)
3) Itegue Taitu Hotel
Built in 1898, The Itegue Taitu Hotel was named after Empress Taitu Betul and was the first hotel to be built in Ethiopia. The hotel is set in the quiet hillsides in the center of the city, where cool breezes and the tranquility of the surrounding plains area make this a charming place to dine. The hotel hopes to attract visitors and seeks to honor the tradition of the establishment and the pride of the nation’s food culture. The restaurant uses locally grown ingredients when available and the chefs aim to craft traditional Ethiopian dishes while still incorporating innovative combinations. The restaurant even offers guests a vegan buffet lunch every day of the week. (Phone: +251 11 560 799/93)
4) Elsa Bar and Restaurant
Elsa Bar and Restaurant offers simple, high quality Ethiopian fare in a laid back atmosphere. The menu offers a host of fasting foods (which are also perfect for the vegetarian set), and also offers roasted chicken and a variety of raw meat selections (tere saga assuage), for those wanting to enjoy the local meats available. Not only is the food tasty, but the bar is known as an afternoon watering hole for the locals. It is a great place to enjoy a meal and also to get a taste of the local population.
5) Teshomech Kitfo House
One of the notable aspects of Addis cuisine is kitfo—a raw, spiced beef or lamb. Teshomech Kitfo House, located along an unpaved road with no outward signage, is a clear local favorite. There are no menus offered at the restaurant, instead there is just one thing available: kitfo. The restaurant is considered to be for the higher-end clientele, with an order of kitfo priced at 36 birr, about $2.00. The raw meat is warmed and then spiced with a local mixture known as mit mita, which combines red pepper, mustard seed, and salt. The meat is then blended and served alongside grated cheeses and cabbage, and then wrapped in injera. (Phone: +251 11 618 2424)
6) Lucy Gazebo Restaurant
The Lucy Gazebo Restaurant is located inside the Ethiopian National Museum compound, and is a great spot for expatriates and tourists visiting Addis. The restaurant is situated outside and the view is lush with tropical plants, decorative sculptures and Ethiopian art. The alfresco dining is enjoyable and the menu has options both for vegetarians and those feeling more carnivorous. Ethiopian fare is offered, as well as pizzas, soups, and pasta dishes. The location next door to the National Museum affords the visitor a great place to have a bite and then continue exploring Ethiopian treasures. (Phone: +251 91 260 2706)
7) Bata Traditional Restaurant and Bar
The Bata Traditional Restaurant and Bar is located in the heart of Bole in Addis. The Bata garden view alone is a draw for many of the restaurant’s visitors. Many of the tables are positioned around the amazing and lush greenery of the hotel’s gardens, and it provides a scenic and tranquil atmosphere in which to dine. Bata also offers traditional coffee ceremonies throughout the day. The restaurant menu features the traditional kitfo beef prepared with the unique blend of Ethiopian spices and cheese. There are also vegetarian offerings, or what locals call, yetsom beyeynetu, fasting dishes. They include lentils, spinach, cabbage, potato, and carrots, all seasoned with local herbs and spices. (Phone: +251 11 663 1096)
8) Totot Kitfo
A local’s recommendation, Totot Kitfo is located in a residential area, and is infamous for its kitfo. The restaurant is often so crowded that finding parking near the eatery is difficult, but the food is well worth the wait. The restaurant is traditionally decorated and is also packed with people enjoying kitfo, drinking local beer, and chatting animatedly with their friends and families. Kitfo is traditionally served alongside varieties of ayib, local cheeses similar to cottage cheese that comes plated on a banana leaf and served with injera. The meat is often very spicy for most, especially for tourists, so the ayib helps to cut the heat.
Kategna is widely known for its extensive menu. There are tibs (grilled or sautéed meats with onions and peppers), firfir (shredded injera), kitfo, doro wat (chicken stew), and dirkosh(air dried injera), just to name a few. The service at Kategna is fast and the presentation is beautiful. If ordering the yetsom beyeynetu, expect a huge combination platter of injera topped with a variety of vegetarian stews, sauces, and sides. One of the most satisfying aspects of any Ethiopian traditional meal is ripping off the pieces of spongy injera with your hands, and scooping up all the sauces and meats the plate has to offer. Kategna has a lively energy, and should not be missed. If coming for lunch, make sure to visit either before 12:30 or after 13:45, or be prepared to wait!
Named after Ras Dashen, the highest peak in the Simien Mountains, this eatery is a hidden gem within Addis. The building itself does not look the most inviting, as it’s located inside a former home. The owners of the eatery once lived upstairs, and the downstairs section was refurbished and turned into a restaurant. The dining area is a mixture of quiet intimacy and low key furniture and fixtures. The restaurant is particularly good for its vegetarian selections, but also serves fish. (Phone: +251 11 552 9746)
Source: The Culture Trip