Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee Brings Big Flavors To Charleston!
Ethiopian is one of my very favorite cuisines so you can imagine how excited I was to learn of a new restaurant opening in Charleston, SC, only two miles from where Rich and I stay when we visit the area. Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee is located on Dorchester Road in a little strip mall just off exit 16A on I-526. Alas, our first visit occurred before the Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee had actually opened their doors for business. Our next visit fell on a Monday when the restaurant is normally closed. Drat!
The third time was the charm! We were welcomed by owner, Nitsuh Woldemariam, and her husband, Arega Kebede, who works as an engineer by day and restaurant host by night. Arega is excited about Nitsuh’s new venture and works along side his wife to help her to succeed. Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee is not a fancy establishment. It is a cheerful, welcoming place where a family can spread out and get comfortable. The floors are painted concrete and Ethiopian pictures and artifacts adorn the walls. The food is prepared by Nitsuh’s mother and is comprised of longstanding family recipes.
I was surprised to find a restaurant so new to the area, and in a rather obscure location, to be so packed! Tables were filled almost as soon as they were emptied. Good food calls out to those in search of it and the population of Charleston apparently has excellent hearing! Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee is authentic Ethiopian cuisine at very modest prices. The food is fresh and served hot.
Ethiopian food is served without utensils. The injera, a thin crepe-like pancake made of a nutrient-rich grain from Ethiopia, is used both as the plate, onto which several types of stew are served, and as your utensils. You tear a piece of the injera off and use it to pinch a portion of the stew within its folds. Then, like feeding a baby bird, you just pop it into your mouth! It’s a uniquely Ethiopian dining experience.
Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee offers a lentil filled puff pastry vegan appetizer, Sambusa ($3.50) and eight separate vegetarian entrees which come with a side of cabbage and a house salad for $10, with the exception of Ethio-taste Shiro, which is $11. You may also order the combination platter for $16, which includes at least six samples of the vegetarian dishes.
If coffee is your thing, you are in for a real treat! Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee will create a traditional coffee ceremony for twelve ($18) which includes clouds of billowing incense and the inhaling of coffee aromas before drinking. A mini-ceremony serving five is $10.
Ethiopian Cuisine is an apt choice for plant-based diners. There are many holy fasting days in Ethiopia (as many as 200) in which no animal products are allowed. Therefore, Ethiopian cuisine has a natural vegan component. You can always trust that a meal in an Ethiopian restaurant which claims to be vegan, actually is vegan. And I’ve never eaten in an Ethiopian restaurant in which the food was not fresh.
Ethiopian food can be ultra-spicy for the tame American palate. With that in mind, Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee has reduced the heat in their dishes to accommodate American tastes. I tend to like my food with lots of spice so this was a little surprising to me, however, the flavors were so rich, authentic and satisfying, I didn’t really miss the heat. What I also didn’t miss were the high prices! Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee offers substantial meals at very reasonable prices, in fact, the best value I’ve found to date among Ethiopian eateries.
Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee stands above the rest in that the injera they use is made from scratch in house, not sourced from an outside company. It has a very high percentage of teff, which is a difficult thing to accomplish in US climates. It is interesting that the grain performs differently in Ethiopia than it does in the United States. It is believed that the climate is the deciding factor here. Many restaurants adulterate injera with white flour, even self-rising white flour, to achieve the spongy, absorbent holes (called eyes), indicative of perfectly prepared teff. Teff grain can be either white or brown, so don’t let the color fool you. White teff is not the same as white flour. If you have concerns about that, you need only ask.
Nitsuh makes her Injera using a traditional fermentation process which takes days. It not only creates the signature spongy texture with the requisite eyes and the sourdough flavor of traditional Injera but, more importantly, it retains its nutritional value. Nitsuh does add a little wheat flour to the mix, but at one cup wheat flour to every twenty pounds of teff, it’s hardly worth considering. Teff is naturally gluten-free but if you need it to be 100% gluten-free (without any of the wheat flour), you’ll need to call a couple of days in advance so Nitsuh can make a special batch for you.
Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee is right at the top of our list of favorite places to visit in Charleston. If you are searching for wholesome plant-based cuisine served in a relaxed environment by a delightful couple, you need look no farther.
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