In one of the most unlikely places, we discovered a gem of an Ethiopian restaurant located in the recesses of a small family owned convenience store, appropriately name Family Convenience Store. The chef, Tirhas Negassi Woldebabr, was once the chef of a favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the same city, called The Blue Nile. We had reviewed The Blue Nile several years ago and were dismayed to learn that it had closed. What I remember best was how delicious the food was, especially the Ethiopian Peanut Soup served with an unforgettable bread, Ambashi, which is the national bread of Ethiopia, according to Tirhas’s husband and partner, Mehari. T. Ocbamichael. With overtones of honey, it was a perfect complement to the to-die-for peanut soup.
Now, the couple has opened up the Family Convenience Store, and Tirhas is back, juggling batches of batter between three grills, efficiently making injera and ambasha breads for her customers. She also prepares a wonderful menu of Ethiopian stews, called Wot (pronounced What), served on the spongy sourdough injera flatbread for which Ethiopia is famous. She offers packages of fresh injera for sale in the store, as well as with the dinners she prepares for eat-in or take-out service. Their daughter, a newly graduated high-school student, helps out in the store when she’s needed.
Mehari manages the Family Convenience Store, which offers all the standard items one can find at an American convenience store, but it also provides a range of Ethiopian goods, such as an assortment of spices, teff flour, and false banana root. I bought some of the false banana, though I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with it. I just couldn’t resist! You may wonder whether there is a demand for Ethiopian products in the area, but it seems there is. Harrisonburg boasts a thriving Ethiopian community of 400 families. It is no wonder a constant stream of native Ethiopians drifted in and out during our visit, picking up bundles of fresh injera for their families or filling the small tables in the back to enjoy a meal.
Tirhas was kind enough to show us how she makes both injera and ambasha, which is almost unbelievable since Ethiopians tend to guard their injera recipes with their lives. Making injera is an art that takes time to master. Some people never get it right; Tirhas certainly does.
But let’s get to the food. While there isn’t a huge variety of vegan fare, it is certainly enough to give you a filling taste of authentic Ethiopia with a good balance of nutrients. We ordered the Gomen (collard greens), Misir Wot (spicy red lentils), and the Diniche Alicha (potatoes, green beans, and carrots), which included a tasty salad of tomatoes, lettuce, onion and jalapeño peppers with a lemony dressing. The injera is some of the best we’ve tasted anywhere. It was soft and pillowy, with a slight sourdough flavor.
While we were speaking with Tirhas, we ran into Rick Yoder, who had popped in to let her know that he was bringing in a party of four later that evening. A former economics professor of Eastern Mennonite University, Yoder is now a Health Systems Consultant for low-income countries. Rick had once lived in Ethiopia and tells us that this convenience store/restaurant is a very typical venue there. He says he loves the food and attests to Family Convenience Store’s authentic flavors. What he particularly likes is that it hasn’t been Americanized like a lot of the Ethiopian restaurants he’s tried in this country. Not having visited Ethiopia ourselves, we can’t attest to that, but we can say this food is equal to or better than many of the Ethiopian restaurants we’ve visited and the injera, which is the heart of any Ethiopian meal, is among the best.
Do yourself a favor the next time you are tooling down I-81 South and are hankering for some good Ethiopian cuisine. Stop by Family Convenient Store and enjoy the best Ethiopian food within a 100-mile radius!
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Tirhas swears by the Heritage grill. She has been using one of hers for twelve years and she has bought two more to keep up with her baking demands, making three injera in quick succession. She feels they are the best, especially for the price. You will need the lid, which is purchased separately. I, personally, have a Wass digital grill (mitad). You can get it at half the price listed on Amazon at almost any Ethiopian market, but you will no doubt pay a lot in shipping costs. I’ll add a link to that product below. I am happy with my purchase but have not had it long enough to verify its longevity.
Christian’s in Charlottesville Virginia’s Downtown Walking Mall – Vegan Pizza Just Doesn’t Get Better Than This!
This is a post that is long overdue. In June of this year we attended the Richmond Vegetarian Festival and stayed in neighboring Charlottesville at a homey Air B&B where our dogs were welcomed. After the festival we arrived back at out lodging, tired and hungry. We sought out the quickest solution for a vegan meal. Calling around to various pizza establishments, we finally settled on Christian’s in downtown Charlottesville. Located in the walking mall it was a barely over a mile from where we were staying, at Fairhaven Guesthouse, located just minutes from downtown. (more…)
It’s that time once again to make the long anticipated trek to the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival, held in Lee Park, just one block off the historic downtown mall in Charlottesville, from 11am-5pm. It is shaping up to be a stellar event and the weather forecast looks promising!
Enjoy live entertainment throughout the day while sampling some of the best vegan and vegetarian food in the area. Vendors showcasing animal friendly products, rescue organizations, fitness organizations and more will be available for your perusal.
Celebrating their 13th year, Richmond Vegetarian Festival, one of the most happening vegfests in the country is less than THREE WEEKS away, June 20th, from 12-6pm. Richmond Vegetarian festival boasts thousands of visitors each year at the shaded grounds of Bryan Park and the numbers just keep growing. One hundred plus vendors will be nestled among trees in the dappled oasis of the park’s Azalea Gardens where great food and entertainment for the entire family can be leisurely enjoyed at this FREE event! Mike Goldberg (of WTVR-CBS6) will be the ever-popular Master of Ceremonies. Even your pets are welcome!
Our first stop on our sojourn to the Big Apple is a restaurant we’ve shamefully overlooked for far too long. Firefly Fare is located in downtown Roanoke in the busy Market Square and is the very best place in the area to get good plant-based cuisine. We’ve stopped there many times to and from other parts of the country and it is high time we paid them their due.
Located in the historic City Market Building, smack dab in the heart of downtown Roanoke, it is less than 10 minutes from I-81. Parking is not always a given and you may have to circle the block a few times before something opens up. But it is worth that minor inconvenience to experience the fresh and flavorful cuisine served up at Firefly Fare.
Over time we’ve tried just about everything on the menu and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single thing we didn’t enjoy. Firefly Fare also offers a fresh juice bar with concoctions such as Gingered Grasshopper, a refreshing blend of spinach, celery, cucumber, kale, apple, lemon and ginger.
Firefly Fare offers a set menu with daily specials. Their ingredients are sourced from local farmers, which also means the menu is likely to change according to what produce is currently available. From Farm To Table is the watchword for Firefly Fare. Good food comes from fresh ingredients and you can’t get much fresher than this, not unless your grow your own vegetables. (more…)
The closest thing to Broadway one can find outside of New York City, at least in the US, is the Barter Theater. The Barter, Virginia’s state theater, has put Abingdon on the map, making it a destination for tourists from around the world. One has only to attend a performance, any performance, to recognize the breadth of the talent that resides in this tiny corner of SW Virginia.