Embracing New Foods and Cultures


Emma Gilheany

Cafe Abyssinia is a small Ethiopian restaurant hidden among the hustle and bustle of Magazine Street. If you are adventurous enough to seek out this restaurant, you might just experience not only great food but also a whole new culture.

This is what I had in mind when my friends and I decided to go to Cafe Abyssinia one afternoon, since I previously had never had any experience with Ethiopian food. When I looked at the menu, I had no idea what to order or how things worked there.

Our waiter could tell we were uninitiated and kindly suggested what we should order. Don’t be worried about not knowing what to get if you go here. Senai, the manager and co-owner of Cafe Abyssinia, said that around 40 percent of people that go in the restaurant every day are first timers, so you definitely will not be alone.

Based on our waiter’s suggestions, we ordered the Awaze Tibs, which is a beef dish, Lamb Alicha and Doro Wot, a chicken dish and also the national dish of Ethiopia. It was served on one large platter family-style. My friends and I each ended up having a favorite of the three dishes, so it worked out perfectly (my favorite was the Doro Wot). If you are vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry because some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes are vegetarian, according to Senai.

One of the most interesting aspects I found about Ethiopian cuisine is how you eat the food. You are not given utensils. Instead, you are given this spongy, dense bread called injera, which you pick up the food with. It is a very strange consistency, and it is a bit shocking when you first pick it up. However, it actually tastes very good, and it goes really well with the dishes.

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of trying a new ethnic food that I might not have ever been exposed to otherwise. If you are looking to try Ethiopian food, I would definitely check out Cafe Abyssinia. The people who work there are very friendly and eager to offer advice on what to try.

Senai said that, originally, the restaurant was opened because there was no Ethiopian restaurant in New Orleans, or even Louisiana when they started seven years ago.

“Americans love the food, as well,” Senai said. “Ninety-nine percent of customers come back.”

In New Orleans, there are so many different types of food available that everyone should definitely venture outside of their comfort zone while living here. Being exposed to new cultures and food can be a really great experience; it is always exciting to try something new, and it will make you more likely to try new things in the future.

I know that I have personally been really affected by this new experience of trying Ethiopian food. That may sound excessive, but my friends and I enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a tradition to try a new type of food each week. Since trying Ethiopian food, we have also experimented with Vietnamese and Korean BBQ (which we loved, by the way).

In a city this diverse, it would be a crime not to try the many options available while you have this city at your disposal. So, get your friends and go check out Cafe Abyssinia, or if you wanted to try Vietnamese or Korean BBQ, there is Mint on Freret Street and Little Korea BBQ on Magazine Street, so you do not have to go far. I promise you will not regret it.