If you’ve ever found yourself scooping everything with bread during a meal, Ethiopian food is for you. All dishes are served on top of injera, a fluffy, slightly sour flatbread made primarily of teff flour. Utensils aren’t customary in Ethiopia: you just tear off a piece of injera and pick up whatever vegetable or meat dish you like. From Brooklyn to Harlem, Ethiopian restaurants in New York City serve amazing injera and spicy, complex heaps of goodness on top of it.
Awash Ethiopian Restaurant
One of a small chain of Ethiopian restaurants, Awash brings the East Village everything good about the original location in Harlem. You’ll find a modest, elegant dining room with white tablecloths, plus sumptuous smells from the kitchen. On your injera, be sure to order the special kitfo (steak tartare marinated in clarified butter and spices) and doro wat (marinated chicken served with a hard-boiled egg). For veggie-lovers, go for collard greens in the gomen and the beet-carrot medley of the key sir alicha. 338 E 6th St., 212-982-9589, awashny.com
Perhaps the best among the many great Harlem Ethiopian spots, Benyam brings excellence to its flavorful traditional dishes and hip atmosphere. Much of the produce is locally sourced, including the lentils in the azeefa with jalapeno and mustard and the lentils in the sambusa, a savory stuffed pastry like a samosa. Their beef dishes like the tibs wot and kitfo are tender, flavorful favorites as well. 2795 Frederick Douglass Blvd., 212-510-7353, benyamcuisine.com
At Bunna in Bushwick, Brooklyn, guests are welcomed into Ethiopian traditions and culture not only through the food, but also through the frequent demonstrations of Ethiopian coffee ceremonies at the cafe. Bunna, in fact, means coffee in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia. Come day or night for the coffee, a glass of T’ej (honey wine), or a completely vegan offering of yummy dishes at lunch or dinner. They even offer gluten-free Injera if you’re off wheat! 1084 Flushing Ave., 347-295-2227, bunnaethiopia.net
An intimate, candlelit space in the West Village, Injera is, of course, named for the foundational flatbread upon which all Ethiopian dishes are served. If you’re new to Ethiopian food, go straight to the “combinations” section of the menu, where you’ll find vegetarian, chicken, and meat combo platters with plenty of food for two. 11 Abingdon Sq., 212-206-9330, injeranyc.com
Near Columbia University, you’ll find Massawa, an exemplary Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant. Try the vegetable sambusas and tebsi: beef with tomatoes and the traditional spice blend berbere. Unlike other places of its kind, you’ll also find seafood like the shrimp tebsi. With a full bar, you can also enjoy some Ethiopian beer or t’ej. 1239 Amsterdam Ave., 212-663-0505, massawanyc.com
Ghenet bills itself as the place “Where Angels Eat.” That might well be the case, as the transcendent cuisine attests. This Brooklyn outpost has a funky, cozy dining room and serves especially wonderful kitfo, doro wett (chicken), atkelt wett (cabbage, potato, and carrot), and gomen (collards). If you can’t choose, they also offer combination platters. Who knows—you might have wings by the end of your meal! 348 Douglass St., 718-230-4475, ghenet.com