I can rarely convince Chris to make the trek to Makeda in New Brunswick . Even I don't care to go for dinner because it's a bit pricy. That being said, it's still a great spot to take a date because it's dead sexy. Sometimes, however, I don't need sexy. I need functional and delicious. We had some friends who came to visit us from my hometown (Huntsville, AL) and they made it a point to mention how much they'd like to try Ethiopian cuisine. We don't have a lot as far as ethnic food goes in Alabama...especially if you're looking for an authentic experience. We have some Asian food (a great Korean place and good Thai as well) but as far as Africa goes? Fughettaboutet!
Washington D.C. has the highest concentration of Ethiopian immigrants in the country so the food is abundant. It's actually close to the top of my list of things I want to do if I ever get the chance to go to D.C. I've only driven through on the way to and from New Jersey. Luckily for me, Philadelphia also has a reasonable selection of places where they throw down with the wats! I'd never been to any of them but I know someone who lives in Philly and has is often out and about so I asked her where to go for the best. She recommended Almaz Cafe. She said the ambiance was humble but the food was top notch.
It doesn't really stick out so you do need to actively search for it. It's a small restaurant without much seating but we got there right around 5 in the afternoon so we had our pick of the few tables they have.
They have the atmosphere of a coffee shop and the offerings to back it up. They also serve breakfast and lunch of the Americanesque persuasion. My daughter ordered the berry salad and they delivered a shimmering bowl of fruit and toasted pecans on top of a bed of lettuce with a side of balsamic dressing. We all stared at her with envy for a few seconds but quickly reminded ourselves that our moment would come. Almaz didn't let us down.
This is the vegetarian sampler. All four of us ordered the same thing. The same smiling faces also brought us a huge plate that was piled high with injera. We quickly depleted it and it was immediately replenished.
For $10.95, you get to try out all four of their veggie based wats. Each one is a unique experience. We enjoyed them all but I think the across the board favorite was the tikil gomen which is the one in the separate dish. I'll probably get an entire meal of it next time. Even now, the thought of it makes me shake my head with wonder at how something that seems so simple can shock the senses with layers of flavorful pleasure.
The service was friendly and the food was full of comfort. To top it off, the prices are very reasonable which makes it a triple threat in the streets of Philly. You can top off your meal by venturing up to Artery and Salvage which is an awesome shop full of handmade arts and crafts from the locals. You can get yerself a souvenir that will beat the heck out of a bear that looks like Benjamin Franklin or a plastic Liberty Bell. I have no doubt that my return to Almaz will bring about thoughts that are similar to what is going through my head right now: It's good to be back.
140 S 20th Street
20th and Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Artery and Salvage
108 S 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103