Ethiopian food is without a doubt one of the world’s tastiest cuisines. After all, you get to try a huge number of dishes in a single meal, all the while scooping happily with pieces of delicious injera (Ethiopian bread) and sipping on honey wine or Ethiopian beer. I always leave feeling stuffed to the gills and very, very pleased with my decision to get Ethiopian.
Luckily for us, New York City has some great Ethiopian restaurants, and there are always plenty of vegetarian options available! Many of these restaurants are in Harlem, along with many of the other great African restaurants in the city, but there are definitely a few further downtown in Manhattan as well! Without further ado, here’s the list of the best Ethiopian food, NYC edition.
Our number-one top favorite: Benyam
If you’re looking for casual, no-frills, traditional Ethiopian cuisine, Benyam is your spot. The restaurant is a single small room with white walls and simple décor. The service is incredibly friendly and welcoming. It really feels almost like you’re stepping into someone’s home. And, lest we forget, the food is INCREDIBLE! The injera is everything you could ever want, and the veggie sampler is fantastic ($16.99 for one person or $31.99 for two). A friend informs us that the meat dishes are equally delicious.
If you’re looking to get dinner on a weekend night, we’d recommend making a reservation. You’ll definitely get a seat eventually, but the restaurant is small, and you might have to wait for thirty minutes or more to get a table. Benyam is open every day of the week except for Mondays. It’s located on Frederick Douglass Blvd between 148th and 149th Streets.
Slightly fancier, also great: Zoma
Zoma is a great option if you’re looking for excellent Ethiopian food in a slightly more formal setting. Zoma is a bit larger than Benyam. It has nice touches like warm hand towels that expand in little hot water dishes, and it has a full bar with tasty cocktails. The food and the injera at Zoma are also excellent. We love (no surprises here) the vegetarian combo for two at $30.59. Bear in mind that combos at Zoma are only for two people, not for one, so be ready to share!
Zoma is large enough that there is usually a table open. On really busy nights, you might wait at the bar for a few minutes if you don’t have a reservation. Zoma is open every day of the week for dinner, and it opens at noon on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s on Frederick Douglass Blvd and 113th Street, just north of Central Park.
For something a little different: Massawa
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights
Massawa is definitely a Columbia hangout, and it will most likely be full of students at any given time. The food at Massawa is totally good, but what makes it stand out from other Ethiopian restaurants is its salmon tebsi dish ($23.50 per serving, but the serving is big. If you’re two people, we’d recommend splitting the sambusas or ful as an appetizer and then splitting the salmon tebsi as well). This salmon dish is definitely not authentic, as Ethiopia is a fully landlocked country, but it’s pretty tasty. Definitely worth a trip and a try.
Massawa is open every day of the week for dinner, and every day except Thursday for lunch. It’s on Amsterdam Avenue and 121st Street.
Good but not quite as good: Meske
Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen / Theater District
Totally a fine option if you’re downtown and don’t want to trek to Harlem. However. The food is just not as good as the food uptown! Meske does have very large, very cheap bottles of unfiltered Polish beer. So that’s good to bear in mind.
Update (1/30/20): We recently visited Meske for the first time in a while, and we discovered that the injera was cold and flavorless, and that the Polish beer was no longer on the menu. Here’s to hoping that it’s a temporary aberration, but at the moment, we can’t really recommend this restaurant.
Our least favorite Ethiopian food in NYC: Injera
Neighborhood: West Village
“What about this super high-rated restaurant that I read about?” you may be wondering. It’s true, the food is good. But. It feels like a club. It’s dark and club-lit and has loud music. Fine if that’s your thing, and it has great reviews, but it’s just not for us.
Did we miss your favorite Ethiopian restaurant in NYC? Let us know in the comments!