Home Best of Guides A Guide to Ethiopian Food in Montclair + Beyond

A Guide to Ethiopian Food in Montclair + Beyond

by Yiwei Gu
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Ethiopian food has long been a coveted cuisine — and so it’s no surprise that the vibrant cuisine, once seen as exotic and rare, is now gaining popularity in global cities such as Munich, Amsterdam, and of course, New York City. The ingredient list features a long list of legumes, greens, sturdy vegetables. Berbere, a potent spice blend often made in-house, renders the simple ingredients great complexity and depth. Stews, spreads, and dips are to be enjoyed by tangy flatbread called injera. To help you enjoy this delicious cuisine, read on to find where the most beloved Ethiopian restaurants are in North Jersey and New York City – including Essex County.

Awash | 338 E 6th Street, New York

A nationally acclaimed Ethiopian restaurant and a mainstay of the East Village food scene since 1994, Awash is a must-visit. Make sure to order the kitfo — finely chopped raw beef kneaded with clarified butter and chili spices, similar to steak tartare but creamier and with the spices blended in. Get collard greens on the side, and sop up everything with injera, as the dish is traditionally eaten. 

Benyam | 2795 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, New York


(Photo credit: Benyam)

A family restaurant in the heart of Harlem, Benyam meals start best with sambusa, a lentil-filled pastry similar to samosa, or the avocado salad, which customers swear by. For entrees, get the tibs, made from cubes of meat or fish marinated in a potent power spice. Its texture can be loosely described as a hybrid between a stew and a stir fry, which renders a creamy and yet structured texture. 

Read More: The Best Seafood Restaurants in Essex County

Ghenet Brooklyn | 348 Douglass Street, Brooklyn

Ghenet Brooklyn

(Photo credit: @ghenetbrooklyn)

The funky, cozy spot should be on the bucket list for your next visit to Brooklyn. The menu offers a good many unique vegan options, including kategna — injera rolled and sauteed with spices — and atkelt wett — tender cabbage, potato, and carrot with spices. Meat options are plenty as well.

Haile | 182 Avenue B, New York

Another East Village gem, Haile’s menu features some of the most classic Ethiopian dishes. Try the doro wat, a dense, fragrant chicken leg stew with onions, clarified butter, and berbere — a heady spice blend of chiles, garlic, fenugreek, and other warm spices. A similar vegetarian version is yemisir wot, made with red lentils.

Makina Cafe | Food Truck in Long Island City

Makina Cafe

(Photo credit: @makinacafe)

Makina translates to truck, and as the name suggests, here you can get nourishing and healthy Ethiopian/Eritrean from a truck. The ordering is similar to that of a fast-casual restaurant. First, choose a base of injera or yellow rice, and proceed to protein — beef or chicken, stewed or sauteed with berbere, vegetarian options also available, and finish with vegetables — plenty options of lentil stews, or tenderly cooked vegetables. The truck can be found around Long Island City, and make sure to head to their Instagram for details.

Massawa | 1239 Amsterdam Avenue, New York


(Photo credit: @massawanyc)

Founded in the late 80s by Eritrean immigrants, Massawa is probably New York City’s oldest East African restaurant. The vegan-friendly menu features Ethiopian classics as well as Eritrean meat dishes. Try the shiro, a thick, fragrant split pea stew. For meat or seafood, get the zegeni, a stew simmered for hours in a tomato-based gravy spiced with berbere. Another interesting choice is tebsi, which is cubed meat or fish sauteed with tomato and berbere. 

Meskerem | 124 MacDougal Street, New York

A casual Greenwich Village establishment frequented by NYU students and the downtown creative crowd. The menu makes it easy for the undecided. Order a combo platter, which comes with five traditional meat stews and a lentil spread. The honey wine is also a must-try.

See More: Must-Try Hibachi Spots in North Jersey

Mesob | 515 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair


(Photo credit: @mesob_restaurant)

A vibrant spot on Montclair’s buzzy Bloomfield Avenue. The menu features a great variety of Ethiopian classics. Vegetarians will love the vegetable sampler, which comes with six different dishes from the large vegan selection, featuring all kinds of legumes and hardy vegetables marinated, sauteed, or simmered with spice blends. There are also plenty of meat options.

Walia | 11 Village Plaza, South Orange

A down-to-earth family restaurant in South Orange ranked among yelp’s top Ethiopian restaurants in the country, Walia is another go-to in North Jersey. Order a mixture of meat and vegetable stews served on injera, which according to some eaters are some of the best in the tri-state area. Favorite dishes include Misir Alicha Watt — lentils simmered with an earthy turmeric spice, and Doro Wot — chicken leg stewed with spicy berbere blend.

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