Tucked away in a small strip mall on Lewis is Tulsa’s only Eritrean and Ethiopian Cafe. Run by Yonas Abraham and his family, the cafe welcomes visitors with decor of their culture. When we visited, the owner greeted us immediately, explaining the two sheets of menu. With the amount of dishes on the menu, this was helpful, but ultimately, the preciseness of the descriptions was lost by the time drinks had been ordered.
The vastness of the menu offered something for everyone. Vegetarians or vegans would be satisfied with the many choices available, from lentil combinations to a collard greens mix, but for those devout omnivores, there were chicken, beef and lamb entrees. Each section offered a choice of entrees or a combination, which generally gave a sample of every entree in the section as well as a few of the vegetarian options.
The menu helpfully informed us the combo meal would be enough for two or more people, which calmed any worry about the initially expensive looking menu items. As for drinks, the different types of coffee and tea available rivaled a coffee store and provide for an excellent way to end meal with friends.
A split plate of veggie and chicken sambusas started the night. The pastry and sauce were the stars of this dish. Beautifully golden-brown on the outside, the pastry was the perfect thickness to add flavor without overwhelming each bite. Inside was either a mixture of lentils and spices or chicken and spices. The veggie ones became my favorite, so I was more than a little bitter when someone ate more of them than I could. The chicken ones were a little drier, which was partly why they weren’t my favorite, but they promised flakes of spiced chicken with each bite. The sauce, viscous and a light red-orange, was sweet with a bit of a kick at the end. I would’ve been satisfied with calling it a night after that dish, but we went ahead and ordered an entree anyway.
The lamb combo, which offered all three lamb entrees and your choice of four vegetarian entrees, was almost too much food for three people. Injera, a sourdough-risen, spongy flatbread, covered the plate and provided a dividing line between entrees. This bread was used to sweep up the food, making this not the best place to wear your nicest clothes. For someone used to chapati and roti, the sourdough taste was a little unnerving, but I still managed to eat my share.
The lamb entrees showed a remarkable diversity of cooking techniques. One was cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, while another was spicier but still very tender. The last had chunks of meat and vegetables. For vegetables, we’d chosen collard greens, green beans and carrots, lentils in both sldkf and slk. The green beans and collard greens mixes both had been cooked to a consistency where they remained solid but were mushy in your mouth, and the seasonings on these made them stand out. The lentils were a warm, thick dish that I really wish I knew how to make.
The struggle with this meal became deciding which entree I wanted the most of, leaving those less favored to my dinner companions. But even with this hardship, each of us made sure to try everything.
All throughout dinner, the desserts in the counter at the front had tempted me. In the end, we settled on a flaky peach pastry and a caramel wrap. Other choices included cookies, which were thicker than any I’d ever seen, and pastries with different fillings. Later, it turned out there’d been some miscommunication and that one of us thought the other was getting a cookie, but this just became more reason to return. The caramel wrap had a thick layer of pastry, and a thicker layer of caramel filling lining the bottom. It wasn’t totally what I’d been expecting, but it was gone by the next day anyway.
For those looking to break from their dietary norm, this cafe promises a comfortable, yummy time. Nowhere else in this city, unless your family or friends are from these countries, can provide you with the same experience. Just be sure to bring someone to share the dishes with.