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Experiment with Ethiopian Food on Fairfax in Little Ethiopia, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to a thriving Ethiopian food scene. There are dozens of Ethiopian restaurants in the city, and they offer a wide variety of traditional Ethiopian dishes.

Those who know me know that I love going to Ethiopian restaurants. We went often when we lived in the New York area, and I think Los Angeles offers even more Ethiopian food options. I also like the idea of the whole family eating from one plate - its a change from the fork and spoon routine!

This (see photo) is how an Ethiopian plate is served. You always eat Ethiopian food with friends and family. The platter is communal, everyone eats from one plate. The etiquette is to serve food on the Injera bread that soaks up all the flavors of the stews that are on top of it. I promise it tastes better when you eat with your hands, no silverware :) There are two amazing spices that make the food distinctly Ethiopian. Berebere powder and Shiro. You can find both of these in an Ethiopian market.

The history of Ethiopian food in Los Angeles is a long and rich one. The two Ethiopian restaurants in the city were Messob and Rosalind. Messob was founded by Rahel Woldmedhin on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles in 1985. Rosalind, opened in 1988 on Fairfax Avenue, founded by Fekere Gebre-Mariam. Over the years, more restaurants were established on this strip and the Ethiopian food scene grew in Los Angeles.

Over the last 7-8 years, the Little Ethiopia area near Culver City has been my go-to for traditional Ethiopian meals and I have been to most of the restaurants on the strip. Parking during dinner time is difficult in this area. I like the idea of Ethiopian Sunday lunch!

Since we are a vegetarian family, we always order the Vegetarian Platter, which has a mix of vegetables and protein (lentils) preparations, served with Injera bread, made from teff. The cuisine is known for its use of spices and its focus on vegetables. Here are some of the most popular vegetarian preparations in Ethiopian food:

  • Yemisir: This is a lentil stew that is flavored with onions, garlic, and spices.

  • Misir Wot: This is a red lentil stew that is flavored with berbere, a spice blend that is made with chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and other spices.

  • Shiro: This is a chickpea stew that is flavored with onions, garlic, and spices.

  • Gomen: This is a cabbage stew that is flavored with onions, garlic, and spices.

  • Atkilt Wat: This is a tomato stew that is flavored with onions, garlic, and spices

  • Injera: This is a spongy, sourdough flatbread that is made from teff flour. It is the traditional eating utensil for Ethiopian food, and it is used to scoop up the stews and vegetables

  • Timatim Fit Fit: This is a salad full of injera soaked in tomato-pepper-onions in lemon juice

If you are meat-eater, check out their lamb, beef and chicken preparations. Meat is commonly eaten in Ethiopian cuisine. Some of the most popular meat dishes in Ethiopian cuisine include doro wat (chicken stew), tibs (sautéed meat), and kitfo (raw beef).

Ethiopian Restaurants in Los Angeles

Lalibela is a newer Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles, but it's quite popular! The food is delicious, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is modern and stylish. Lalibela is a great place to go for a special occasion or a romantic dinner.

Thoughts: This restaurant is my daughter's favorite. I love how quick the service is, and it feels Americanized, and I say that in a good way. My daughter can eat without being worried about spice levels. I like that they have a Veggie Utopia which has many more vegetarian items that are not available in their regular combos.

Rosalind's s one of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in Los Angeles, and it has been serving up delicious food for over 30 years. The food is authentic, the service is friendly, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Rosalind's is a great place to go for a taste of traditional Ethiopian cuisine.

Thoughts: We like Rosalinds' because of its flavor profiles. If I have friends visiting who like spicier food, I would choose Rosalind. Their berebere dishes are spicy! Service is a little slow but the place is bigger and they have a bar area too.

Right next to Rosalind is Merkato. It is affordable than the other spots, it is smaller, like Buna. These are also good spots to buy Ethiopian grocery, if you plan to cook.

Messob is also a great restaurant choice. Fancier look and feel. It has some good media around it! Messob was founded in 1985 by Rahel Woldmedhin on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, and then the restaurant relocated to Faixfax. The restaurant is now run by her son, Berhanu.

Thoughts: This is a good date night place as there is a full bar, with Ethiopian beers, wines and cocktails.

Rahel has been around since 2000, founded by Rahel Woldmedhin. I like that Rahel is vegan. They have a brunch buffet thing that is a must do! The focus is on vegetable stews! Don't miss their vegan desserts and interesting juices.

Thoughts: I distinctly think of cardamom-forward dishes when I think of Rahel! And gluten-free. Ask in advance, and you might find GF options.

Finally, there is Awash, founded in 1992 by Mesfin Bekele. This place is the real deal (it's a secret gem) and you see mostly locals here. You might see dishes here that you may not find on the strip - This place is not on the strip, just maybe a mile off! Food is great.

Thoughts: I would go here with an Ethiopian friend to feel a little less out of place!

First published: 5/25/2022

Revised: 4/18/2023


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