Addis Abeba is not only Ethiopia’s capital, it’s also Evanston’s token Ethiopian restaurant. Sadly, it fails to deliver on the quality of the food itself. A few barriers prevent Addis Abeba from being a popular restaurant worth visiting for Northwestern students.
The dinner menu basically binds any guest to paying at least $14 for his/her meal. If you use your money wisely, you can order a combination of meats and vegetables (total – 3 or 4 portions).
With this unofficial $14 minimum also comes the restriction of each guest having to order at least one entrée each, lest you’re willing to pay a $3 sharing charge.
The quantity of food that comes with this price tag might be justifiable, but the quality is certainly not. At the end of our meal, Christina and I paid $18.40 each.
College students are rarely willing to drop more than $10-$15 on food in one sitting. For those looking to splurge on an elegant meal, I advise you to keep looking.
Our waitress kindly explained a bit about Ethiopian cuisine and recommended her favorites after I asked what was worth ordering. After waiting 10-15 minutes, our meals arrived.
An Ethiopian meal commonly consists of injera and tibs. Injera is a soft, pancake-like flatbread that represents intimacy and loyalty in Ethiopian culture. Made with fermented teff (an Ethiopian grass) flour, it’s supposed to taste sour. The bread was light, easily able to tear, and was full of bubbles and holes embedded in the surface. The tradition is that you rip off a piece of the bread with your hands, using it to grab protein and vegetables. As intriguing as this bread concept initially was, I could only keep eating it for so long before I grew tired of the taste.
Tibs, which is meats and vegetables sautéed together, comes on a huge platter, and is sectioned off into portions of meat and vegetables, which each guest gets to customize.
They offer protein options such as lamb, fish, chicken and beef. Vegetable possibilities include yellow split peas, chickpeas and lentils. The food typically comes prepared in wot form – that is, an Ethiopian stew. And the Ethiopian salad that often comes with your meal is basically chopped Romaine lettuce with a tangy dressing.
Christina and I ordered fish, chicken, lamb, chickpeas, lentils and potatoes. We were able to share our whole meal with each other because all of our food came on one platter.
The fish was dry and not generous in portion. The vegetables were truly nothing remarkable. The chicken also tasted dry, despite being drenched in sauces. And the sauces themselves, which tasted like tomato and curry, were lacking in flavor, and overall not memorable. This disappointed me because Ethiopian cuisine tends to rely heavily on spices in the sauces, often full of chili pepper powder, ginger, cloves, cumin and cardamom. These flavors did not emerge in our food…
If I had to describe the meal in one word, I’d pick “unsatisfying”. Despite how full I felt at the end, the food was simply not appealing.
The lack of hype
On a Saturday evening at 7 pm, Christina and I were the only students among three other groups dining in. Everyone else was older, and the restaurant was strangely quiet.
Considering that many restaurant heavily rely on word-of-mouth of students to draw a crowd, the fact that there were no students in the restaurants presented a warning sign. This restaurant is probably not on many students’ radars, and for good reason.
Despite being Evanston’s token Ethiopian restaurant and being rated as a Chicago Healthy restaurant on Yelp, Addis Abeba is too far south off-campus to draw a meaningful crowd.
While the restaurant does a decent job of portraying the culture of Ethiopian cuisine with its lack of silverware (an integral part of the culture) and authentic décor, the food is simply not appetizing enough to warrant another visit.
If you do decide to visit, you’ll get a better deal if you visit during lunch hours. Apparently Addis Abeba does lunch specials, unlimited Ethiopian coffee and an overall cheaper lunch menu.
1322 Chicago Ave Evanston, IL 60201