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Reno: Zagol Ethiopian now open

Went the other night and had somewhat of a mixed experience.


Staff was very friendly, service was good overall.

Although their website and menu tout Ethiopian beer and honey wine (plus non-Ethiopian beer), their liquor license won't be in hand until later this month (23rd or 29th, I think they said), so only soft drinks, coffee, etc. are available.

It was not packed (to say the least), and potentially as a result of that, they don't seem to offer everything on the menu. We ordered a three-item meat combo plus a vegetable dish, but unlike every other Ethiopian place I've been to, we were not allowed to select what the three dishes in the combo were--it was take the three things they offered. It's unclear whether or not any other dishes would have been available a la carte.

Of the meat dishes, the Key Wat (beef stew) was our favorite--great, rich flavor. The Kitfo ("minced" beef with butter and seasonings) is served "raw, rare, or well done"; we got what was described as medium, which was a bit too underdone for us for ground beef. My wife detected some spiciness to it, but to me the taste of butter was too overwhelming to taste much else. The Beg Tibs (lamb) had good flavor, but the lamb was quite overdone and chewy. The Kik Alicha (yellow split peas) was pretty good, could have used a bit more seasoning in my book.

Finally, I felt the portion size to be fairly small considering the prices.

Overall, a bit of a disappointment, but I don't think they've even been open a week yet. There were some good flavors there, and it would be great to have an Ethiopian place in town, so I hope things start gelling a little better as they get more experience

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  1. I have to admit the website looks nice....but I'm afraid the location is going to be less than optimal. "Walking distance from the Renown Medical Center" ... is that a good thing? :-). A place like this (ie exotic for Reno) would do a lot better in the California Ave or old Southwest neighborhood, IMO......

    They will have to do some heavy-duty marketing to bring up the crowds. I'll wait a week or two and then try it....

    1 Reply
    1. re: janetofreno

      Yes, the location is a bit off the beaten path. They are in somewhat of a dead pocket on 4th St., in a corner building. If you turn north off 4th, there is angled parking on the street right in front of their door (which is actually on the cross street, although their official address is on 4th).

      It will be interesting to hear how things have changed by the time you visit.

    2. This may get kicked because it's not specific to the post, but why is this under "Sticky Topics" on the California board...any idea?

      1 Reply
      1. re: nancyhudson

        No idea...I certainly didn't try to make it a sticky...after Janet's reply, it was de-stickied, when I replied to her, it was re-stickied, but the issue seems to be fixed now.

      2. I am eager to try this! Are they open for lunch?

        2 Replies
        1. re: barbara k

          For some reason, their hours are not listed on their website. Call 786-9200 and ask them!

          1. re: clarence6ybr

            I went today for lunch, I thought it was good. I was the only one in the place from 11:45-12:30, so I hope others check it out and that it survives to be broken in. The interior was quite nice, and I liked the food but found the pricing a little odd. Anyway, I am curious about what all of you think! It is just so great to have our ethnic culinary scene grow.

        2. I went to eat at Zagol today. I parked and walked across the street to the restaurant. It was 11:15 a.m. and they didn't open until 11:30 a.m. I was told as I walked into the restaurant, so I turned around and walked back to my car. In the middle of the street were two men, a tall one and a short one. The short one had just handed the tall one some cash -- it looked like three $20 bills folded in half -- and the tall one handed the short one a small packet made from folded wax paper.
          "This is $60 worth?" the short one asked.
          "Yes it is," the tall one replied. The short one seemed uncertain and asked again. The tall one insisted it was $60 worth.
          Eating at Zagol could be an interesting adventure.

          1. I went to Zagol today for lunch. I got the key wat. It came soon after I ordered. There was a big plate with thick, spongy bread with a scoop of key wat on one side, a small serving of green salad on the other and a lot of real estate in between. I thought the stew was okay, but nothing special. The ingredients in the salad didn't seem to be the freshest. I guess for $10 it was okay but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. Also, it wasn't crowded.
            I want to give it another try. The chicken is only drum sticks and thighs. It sounds a little bit like Tandoori chicken.

            1. An update: five of us ate there tonight. The restaurant was featured today in an article in the paper, and apparently everybody except the owners had read it. The place was packed, and the owner expressed surprised to us at how busy it was....while apologizing for the slow service and explaining that a waitress hadn't shown.

              The service was slow, but it was friendly. The portions don't seem particularly big...but somehow I left stuffed. I think that injera expands in your stomach :-)

              BTW, I was the only one in our group of five that liked the injera. Everyone else thought it was too spongy. As we had two Pakistanis and an East Indian in the group, there were the inevitable comparisons to Indian/Pakistani food. They all decided they liked crispy naan better than spongy injera.

              But I digress. Here are the dishes we shared: Salad, Kitfo, Beg Tibs (lamb ribs), Goden Tibs (basically beef ribs sauteed with onions), Shiro (a pea dish similar to daal), Gomen (advertised on the menu as collard greens but we were warned we would get gabbage instead..), and the Kilkil. The latter is a vegetable combo that is advertised as being available Wednesdays and Fridays only...we thought maybe that meant it was somehow special. But it was really very boring; someone described it as hospital food. Basically overcooked carrots and green beans in a bland sauce. The one true miss of the evening.

              Everyone's favorite was the beef ribs. Tasty and tender. The lamb was also very good, and not overcooked. The Kitfo was quite spicy, unlike your experience. The Shiro tasted heavily of peas, but was somewhat bland. I really liked the Gomen...I think that was DH's favorite too. Very tasty...and of course I like anything that contains sauteed cabbage :-)

              We tried the Ethiopian honey wine, btw. Like the injera, it may be an acquired taste. Its more like a sherry than anything else...and the two of us that drank it think it might be fortified. It definitely had a punch. Two of our party ordered Ethiopian beer, and interestingly enough were served too different KINDS of Ethiopian beer without being asked. DH got a lager, and T. got "Hakim Stout" Both were ok; more memorable for the bottles than anything else.

              All in all we enjoyed our evening. Overall, I liked the food a lot better than DH did. He just doesn't find it spicy enough. I do think that its a little pricey for what you get...Dinner for five before tip and with four drinks was $110....

              1. I finally made it to Zagol this week - I don't think much has changed since the original post and replies. My daughter had the Kilkil - fresh green beans (altho they tasted like mushy canned), carrots, onion and green pepper flavored with garlic, ginger, tomato and Ethiopian spice and I had the Beg Tibs - fresh lamb sautéed with purified herbal butter seasoned with onions, green pepper, tomato spices and fresh rosemary. They were small portions served on a shared platter of injera (traditional Ethiopian bread - an acquired taste, maybe?) with a small iceberg lettuce salad to share on the side. We were the only patrons during the lunch hour on Friday. It was just okay and pricey for what you get. It wasn't bad, but nothing special. I don't think I'll go back.