Much like its culture, Ethiopia’s cuisine is diverse and offers a unique dining experience. Catering to the needs of meat-lovers and vegetarians, restaurants in Ethiopia serve both authentic Ethiopian dishes as well as international treats with a twist. Below are 12 of the top restaurants in Ethiopia worth experiencing.
Ben Abeba Restaurant
Restaurant, Ethiopian, European, $$$
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Perched on top of a hill in the rural town of Lalibela, Ben Abeba enamors diners with its panoramic view of magnificent landscapes and its unique architecture. Shepherd’s pie is the restaurant’s signature dish, served as minced meat topped with mashed potatoes. For the daring spice-lover, it comes with hot Ethiopian seasonings. The three-course meal usually starts with a home-baked bread and red chili paste Ethiopians call dekuse or awaze. With most meals priced under 100 ETB ($4), the reward for the great service pales in comparison. The most expensive dish on the menu is the casserole, which diners can savor at only 153 ETB ($6). For dessert, taste the carrot cake.
Kategna is a popular choice among many for its great ambiance and very clean service. Servings are quite large, with one dish sometimes enough for three people. The famous Ethiopian chicken stew, Doro Wet, is among the culinary treats. Appealing for both meat lovers and vegetarians, Kategna special, priced at 286 ETB ($11), provides a great immersion into Ethiopian food. Diners also get to enjoy Ethiopian coffee, served in a coffee pot, and popcorn in the aesthetically beautiful and considerably spacious restaurant. Kategna has four branches in Addis Ababa. Get the best of the Kategna experience at the Lafto mall branch.
Frequented by the Ethiopian diaspora and expats, this place tops all other options when it comes to burgers and sandwiches in Addis Ababa. It’s not exactly the cheapest around, with some prices going up to 233 ETB ($9), but the clean service and consistent taste make it a good value for the money spent. The cheesesteak sandwich, made with thinly sliced beef grilled with onion and bound together with melted cheese and served on a hoagie bun spread with mayonnaise is a must try. The flourless chocolate and raisin carrot are perfect choices to indulge a sweet tooth. The restaurant is located in a warehouse around Kera, in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.
Here, diners are offered the chance to not only enjoy the national dish of Ethiopia but learn the craft of making it. Located 200 meters from the famous Fasiledes castle in Gondar, the restaurant serves a variety of Ethiopian dishes including Maheberawi (meat-centric mixed plate) and Beyayenet (vegetarian mixed plate). The buffet is available all week long with a delicious dessert made of fried banana and teff. Lucky diners get to see the white-cheeked turaco—a bird species native to only East Africa. If the energizing Ethiopian traditional dance Eskesta and some Ethiopian coffee are not enough to keep evening diners warm on the porch, colorful Peruvian ponchos are always a request away.
A local’s recommendation, Totot Cultural Restaurant is located in a residential area and is famous for its kitfo. The restaurant is often so crowded that finding parking near the place is difficult, but the food is well worth the wait. The restaurant is traditionally decorated and is also packed with people drinking local beer and chatting animatedly with their friends and families. Kitfo is traditionally served alongside varieties of ayib, a local cheese similar to cottage cheese that comes plated on a banana leaf and served with injera. The meat is often very spicy for most, especially for tourists, so the ayib helps to cut the heat. The restaurant is located in the sub-city of Bole, next to Nexus House, just off the circular road in between the Bob Marley circle in Gerji and the Megenagna Circle.
This restaurant is environmentally friendly and has got awards to show for it. An hour flight away from Addis Ababa, diners can enjoy a good amount of Ethiopian and European options. For those out to discover the Southern part of Ethiopia, this restaurant in Arba Minch has the best view, which overlooks the forest separating Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo. Paradise Lodge uses ingredients from its own farm. The grilled tilapia fish is a delicious option to consider.
Clearly not a place for vegetarians, this eatery is exclusively limited to meat-centric dishes. The place is barely deserted, as Ethiopians relish raw meat, especially during the non-fasting season. Diners order portions of raw meat in kilograms, which are served next to a small knife to cut the meat with, hot sauces, and injera, or bread. For guests who prefer cooked meals, the gas light tibs (finely chopped and cooked meat) is the safest bet. Raw meat can be an acquired taste for foreigners, so be cautious, as it can make diners vulnerable to tapeworms.
An oasis in the city, the Diplomat Restaurant is a quiet and relaxing place to enjoy a meal. Its location on the 5th floor of the Boston building at Bole provides a good view of the city. The salad bar, complimentary to every dish, comes with the best homemade dressings. Sautéed beef fillet and Tegabino, special homemade stew from peas, are among their Ethiopian specialties. For European dishes, the grilled Nile perch, spicy fish made in Denmark style, or Holand Nile perch served with cheese are preferred choices. Diners can enjoy a live piano performance of Amharic and English music from Wednesday to Saturday.
Located at Piassa, the center of Addis Ababa, Itegue Taitu hotel serves Ethiopian traditional dishes and international treats with a difference. The place represents and embodies the history of Ethiopia as the oldest hotel in the country, with 120 years in the business. Using vegetables from their own permaculture garden, the hotel offers a vegan buffet lunch every day of the week—the perfect choice for a diner who doesn’t have much to spend. With staff that speak English and Italian, ordering meals shouldn’t be a challenge for tourists.
At a close distance from Addis Ababa Bole International airport, Yod Abyssinia is a glimpse of Ethiopia, with historical paintings on the wall and traditional dance performances all week long. Kitfo, minced raw beef marinated in pepper and butter, is the restaurant’s most popular dish. For a price of 460 ETB ($17), guests can pick a meal of their liking from a buffet with over 28 different kinds of dishes. The restaurant, which is open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight, has two other branches at Hayahulet and Sarbet.
When traveling to the Tigray region in the Northern part of Ethiopia, visiting the Gheralta Lodge in Hawzen town for a culinary experience is essential. Ethiopian cuisines are served every Wednesday and Sunday with a complimentary homemade tej (honey wine). Italian-inspired dishes are served the rest of the week, with most guests opting for lasagna. The clean service offers tourists a chance to eat salad servings with impunity. Prices are fixed at 240 ETB ($9) for lunch and 320 ETB ($12) for dinner. The place is extremely serene and has a breathtaking view of the Gheralta Mountains.
A culinary experience cannot be complete without visiting the Kuriftu resort in the city of Bahir dar, an hour flight from Addis Ababa. Although far, the restaurant is a coveted exception, with an amazing view of Lake Tana, impeccable service and presentation, and stunning dishes. The carrot ginger soup is an exotic entrée, followed by Nile perch or Chicken breast, a popular choice of many. For vegetarians, the Beyayenet and Shiro wet on the à la carte menu is an ideal choice. The cheesecake and brownie are the best desserts in the city—all this for 300 ETB ($12) at a beautiful lakeside.