Seattle's Best Ethiopian Restaurants

Jebena

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

Seattle's Best Ethiopian Restaurants

Seattle's sizeable Ethiopian community has given rise to some fine restaurants serving all manner of regional Ethiopian food. Here's a round-up of the best.
27 July, 2021

Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants began arriving in Seattle in large numbers in the early ’80s, with the first restaurant serving Ethiopian cuisine popping up in 1982. The community struggled to adapt injera recipes designed for high-altitude Addis Ababa to sea-level Seattle, resorting to self-rising wheat flour to make the staple teff flatbread. But once they did, they also found a welcoming audience for their vegetarian-friendly, flavourful food in Seattle.

These days, there are nearly almost more Ethiopian restaurants in the area than there were Ethiopians back then, with most of them serving a standard spread of lentil stews, salads, and meat dishes. But among the dozens of shops around town, many set themselves apart with a specific specialty, sweet space, or simply great service – this list shows where to find some of those spots.

Ahadu Ethiopian Restaurant

Ahadu Ethiopian Restaurant

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

Most days, people come to this Northgate shop for the vibrant vegetables and tender meat dishes, but Thursdays and Sundays, the line of people snaking out await the beef. Before opening the restaurant, owner Menbere Medhane and her husband owned a butcher shop. As they transitioned, they continued to bring in a whole, fresh cow a few times a week, selling some to customers and using the rest in dishes like kitfo – raw beef gently warmed with spiced butter. 

Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant

Meskel

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

Though currently on temporary hiatus as of May 2021, this longtime Central District gem plans to re-open soon, just in time to enjoy a bottle of Harar beer on the spacious patio. The excellent qanta firfir – spicy stewed dried beef and injera in a berbere sauce – stands out on the menu, but if the grill is fired up, whatever special is coming off it is a must-order. When open for indoor dining, the main room of the remodelled house is almost as pleasant as the patio, while the boisterous downstairs bar shows soccer matches on a giant projection screen.

Delish Ethiopian Cuisine

Delish Ethiopian Cuisine

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

When the sun streams through the high stained-glass windows into this sweet corner space, it warms the room nearly as much as the friendly service from owner Delish. Yes, the restaurant takes its name from the friendly owner, but it could just as well describe the food his wife cooks in the restaurant’s kitchen – particularly the azefa, a bright and kicky lentil salad that stands out from the veggie combo here and makes Delish’s platter stand out from the dozens of similar ones around town.

Qeerroo Restaurant

Qeerroo Restaurant

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

Though Ethiopia – and the Ethiopian community in Seattle – includes a wide variety of ethnicities, most of the Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in town share a fairly similar menu. Qeerroo breaks that mould, bringing specifically Oromo cuisine to the city, and since like many Oromo, the owners are Muslim, the food is Halal. Fatira, one of the dishes uncommon at other spots, wraps egg and spicy peppers in a flaky flatbread, like a breakfast burrito made with Indian paratha. 

Sunset Cafe

Sunset Cafe

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

A South Seattle staple, though no longer under the original owners, this restaurant and attached shop serve as a hub for the community, with crowds often gathering on the front porch. Sunset boasts one of the largest menus (and enormous portions to match), with dishes like kikil – lamb backbone – and spicy ground beef menchtabish. They also offer an array of breakfast options, including ambusha, a thick, traditional spiced bread. 

Shewa-Ber Bar and Restaurant

Shewa-Ber Bar and Restaurant

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

One of the newest entries to Seattle’s Ethiopian scene, this restaurant’s name alludes to the owner’s Central Ethiopian heritage, though the food varies little from the usual fare. But the restaurant’s pleasant, bright space on Jackson offers a nice setting, often redolent with freshly roasted coffee – a nice accompaniment to a plate of chechebsa, their house-baked bread tossed in clarified spiced butter and berbere. 

Wuha Ethiopian-American Cuisine

Wuha Ethiopian-American Cuisine

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

One of the opening vendors at the Food Innovation Network’s ‘Spice Bridge’ Tukwila food hall, owner Liyu Yirdaw adapts Ethiopian dishes usually served family-style into fast-casual, single-serve meals. She rolls ground beef up with cabbage in injera rolls and stuffs sandwiches with spicy stews. The star, though, comes from the side dishes: Ethiopian-style stuffed jalapeño peppers.

Jebena Cafe

Jebena Cafe

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

Named for the Ethiopian coffee pot, this spot offers Ethiopian traditional coffee ceremonies, espresso, and all the standard foods – all served by owner Martha Seyoum, famous for her kind and personal hospitality. The feta-topped fava beans (foul) at breakfast, house-made yogurt, and crunchy fried quatena all shine on the menu, and Jebena offers gluten-free injera with 24-hours’ notice.

Enat

Enat

Photo by: Naomi Tomky 

An elder statesman of the North Seattle scene, Enat’s big portions and affordable prices keep people coming back for their menu of Ethiopian staples. But it also offers a few weekend and occasional specials to watch for, including kibebew, a raw beef dish spiced with jalapeños and onions, and genfo, a thick porridge served with a well in the centre, filled with spiced butter.