Little Ethiopia Restaurant Recs
Just south of Olympic Boulevard on Fairfax lies Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia, a single block filled with restaurants and shops. If you’re like many people here in LA, you may never have been there or know much about Ethiopian food. I’m here to tell you it’s delicious, and you should go there.
Ethiopian food is awesome for vegans, because their vegetable dishes don’t contain egg or dairy. You’ll find lots of lentils, but also carrots, cabbage, collards and much more. There’s plenty for carnivores (and pescatarians too), though, including a pretty awesome dorowot (a spicy stewed chicken that is a national dish), beef tartare, lamb and more. It’s all super flavorful and, as you can see from the photos, super colorful. Typically, you’d order a vegetarian combination as the base. If you’re one person, you’d probably stop there, but if you eat meat or fish and there are more people in your party, you’d start adding proteins. It all comes with injera, a spongy bread that you use to grab your food (spongy side down) rather than utensils. I’d liken injera, made with teff flour, to a sour pancake. It’s actually quite tasty and is fabulous for soaking up the many sauces that will come your food.
So you’ve driven to Little Ethiopia. Now what? Three food recommendations, ranging from most expensive to cheapest. Meals by Genet is the iconic gold standard of Ethiopian cooking in Los Angeles (in fact, it’s a long-time resident of food critic Jonathan Gold’s essential restaurants list). It’s more upscale, with polished service. Genet Agonafer is famed for her dorowot, but everything here is consistently delicious, and her veggie combination has twelve different vegetables on it! It’s the featured image for the blog. Meals by Genet is only open for dinner (and not on Monday or Tuesday), and reservations are a wise, wise idea.
The new kid on the Little Ethiopia block is Lalibela. The restaurant is beautiful (and spacious), with a great outdoor dining area in the back. It’s owned by a very nice family who all seem to pitch in here. Service is very good, though not quite as polished/formal as at Meals by Genet. They’re open during the day (daily), making them a great choice for lunch and even breakfast! And of course, the thing that counts most: the food is delicious. While I love their vegetarian combination, if you’re coming with a friend, have an enormous appetite or want some leftovers, get the Veggie Utopia, pictured below:
They also have standout carnivorous dishes, and I was truly delighted with the Ajebush, which combined beef, chicken (dorowot), collards, cottage cheese and more. It’s enough for at least two (hungry) people.
A third great choice on the block that is Little Ethiopia, and a bit cheaper still than Lalibela, is Buna Ethiopian Restaurant & Market. It’s the quintessential hole in the wall, with a grocery store in the front and the dining area in back. Again, very nice folks running it, though because it’s so small, occasionally they can get a little backed up and take a while to push out dishes. Still, it all has great flavor, and they are particularly known for their baked fish, which comes with a quartet of vegetable sides. Like Lalibela, they are also open during the day (daily), as well as in the evenings.
There are a number of other restaurants in Little Ethiopia, and several other solid Ethiopian restaurants spread across LA, but these three are a great starting point. See you on Fairfax!