In an effort to leave behind everyday food, Elizabeth Kerin suggested trying Ethiopian food – an intriguing and lesser-known cuisine.
According to an article by Sarah Reiss in D Magazine, Dallas provides a haven for many East African immigrants to enjoy a taste of home. In fact, the article says that DFW International characterizes the Lower Greenville area as Little Ethiopia. The Dallas area boasts over 15 Ethiopian restaurants, beating New York and Los Angeles.
Among these Ethiopian restaurants, Arif Cafe arose from piles of Yelp reviews as least expensive while maintaining authenticity. As we are tabula rasa in regard to Ethiopian food, this café seemed the perfect opportunity to enlighten our previously uninformed palates.
The restaurant has no seating and, happy to save time, we decided takeout seemed to be the best option.
Calling ahead ensured that the order would be ready upon arrival. One of the restaurant’s cooks, Tabib, quickly helped determine what would make the best sampling of traditional Ethiopian cuisine.
Just past NorthPark Center, a house-like building next to a small, side parking lot holds Arif Cafe. Inside, an open space and counter held simply the cash register and a coffee machine.
Two of the most popular platters included traditional beef tibs and a vegetable variety served wrapped in injera, a bread with the consistency of sour dough crêpes.
The tender and mildly spiced meat complemented the bitterness of the injera. Ethiopian food is not for the faint of heart due to its reputation for being very spicy.
The vegetable tray included greens, lentils, couscous and a tomato salad, and the various vegetable spreads freshly accompanied the meat.
Tabib made up the platters to perfection. And as we were unfamiliar with Ethiopian food, Tabib demonstrated how to properly eat it: using the bread as a utensil to wrap up the platter of food into bitesize tastes. Definitely tempted to use forks, we found that this method of eating required napkins for us, who already struggle with being messy eaters.
Ethiopian stews and sambusa (fried dough with peas in the middle) are also available. For dessert, baklava provided a sweet, but not too sweet, chewy addition to dinner.
There is no advertised menu, which becomes a drawback when trying to order. However our entire order came to around $27, including the tip. Split between three people, this meal was filling, affordable and unanimously satisfying.
8367 Park Ln
Dallas, TX 75231
Daily 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.