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Queen of Sheba- Tampa Ethiopian

As a relatively new resident in Tampa one of the things that I have missed here is Ethiopian food. Thankfully a wonderful new Ethiopian restaurant is moving into the space vacated by Manengo's at 3636 Henderson. Queen of Sheba is still in a soft opening (call before you go) but it is excellent. The vegetarian, chicken and beef dishes were all outstanding. The family opening the restaurant went out of their way to welcome us. They fed us well beyond our fill with an array of dishes selected by the proprietor. Afterwards, the server brought incense and delicious Ethiopian coffee. This is a substantial contribution to our culinary landscape. Highly recommended.

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  1. Oooh great. I've never tried Ethiopian cuisine before. What are the prices like? My college student buddies and I have pretty pathetic budgets, but I'd love to get some friends together to try this new place.

    I know so little about Ethiopian food, but does one eat with one's hands at an Ethiopian restaurant? Was that the norm at Queen of Sheba?

    1. Oh I'm so excited! Another ethnic choice in Tampa- can't wait to try. Thanks for letting us know. I just tried Ethiopian for the first time in Manhattan.

      1. Will you post the phone number if you have it?

        1 Reply
        1. re: rikkikm

          Agent Orange: Yeah, you eat with your hands. Be prepared to share because everything comes on one big plate.
          Rikkim: The phone number is: 813-872-6000.

          If you go, post back about your experience.

        2. This is GREAT news! I will definitely plan to check this out!

          1. I ate there last night. Not as good as the Queen of Sheba in NYC, but is very good. Unfortunately it is in a storefront that is a known graveyard for restaurants. It deserves to thrive.

            3 Replies
            1. re: clupton

              Where is it located? Anyone with recommendations for first timers are appreciated.

              1. re: TampaAurora

                Ethiopian food as I know it is characterized by spicy meat and vegetable stews scooped up with pieces of "injera", a spongy bread that resembles a rather large, whitish pancake.

                1. re: TampaAurora

                  the exact adress is: 3636 henderson blvd tampa fl, 33609

              2. Tried Queen of Sheba last night. It was packed. Call ahead and make a reservation before you go. We had the vegetarian mesob (platter). In terms of taste quality, it was excellent. Probably not as good as NYC as indicated by the previous writer, but we'll take it here in Tampa. The portions seemed on the small side. A few of the items were barely two bites worth. They need to work out some kinks in the service. We were seated 10 minutes before we received a menu and another 10 before our order was taken (and that was only after we got up from the table to ask someone to help us). All in all, definitely give it a try. We will be back.

                7 Replies
                1. re: panicattack

                  We went last night and I couldn't believe how crowded it was given the terrible weather. The entryway was just as crowded when we left near 9pm as when we arrived at 6:30. I guess all that press they've been getting really works. It's a lovely place and the servers and hosts were very gracious, although one member of my party said someone told her we were there too long and they wanted to seat someone else. I don't know if that is true, but there was a slight "eat and street" vibe. I don't recommend ordering the combo meal (#15) that they push because as panicattack said, the portions seemed small. The others that ordered individual meals did better for quantity. It was tasty, and I've only eaten Ethiopian once in Manhattan- but I preferred the Manhattan version. I also think the odor of incense is best reserved for churches, meditation rooms, homes- not for restaurants.

                  1. re: rikkikm

                    you're running with the herd if you go to any place the week or two after it is reviewed. best to wait for it to cool off a bit.

                    1. re: andy huse

                      The reservation was made weeks before the reviews appeared and was based on the recommendations of the hounds. I never intentionally "run with the herd." I would much rather be a trailblazer.

                      1. re: rikkikm

                        By your past posts, I know you are. I'm convinced a lot of food and blog writers all over the country get helpful hints on the boards of Chowhound.

                        The swift success of QoS is proof that Tampa was dying for an Ibex replacement. I just hope the support lasts. I'd like to see competition, and better yet, restaurants serving other kinds of African cuisine.

                        1. re: andy huse

                          You hit it on the head, with Ibex. I just emailed my girlfried to tell her about QoS because we used to go to Ibex together. Thank you for helping me remember. I can't wait to go to this one.

                    2. re: rikkikm

                      BTW, I expected it to be spicy. The only thing spicy that we tried was a red lentil dish.

                      1. re: rikkikm

                        The owner is very observant. The first time we went I asked for extra mitmita and awaze (two hot condiments). The next time our food was much hotter.

                  2. Hi all - I went for lunch there today and was very satisfied ... I've eaten at Ethiopian restaurants in many different cities and this one definitely holds its own, and it's very authentic and traditional. As always it's a great option for vegetarians - I eat plenty of meat but I'm always happiest with the vegetarian platter when I go for Ethiopian food. *Every* Ethiopian restaurant I have ever been to has a vegetarian platter consisting of 5-7 little lentil and/or vegetable and/or egg and/or nut and/or salad dishes on a bed of Injera, and it's always what I order. This one stacked up well and I left feeling I'd definitely gotten my much-needed Ethiopian 'fix' that I have been waiting for since I moved to Tampa.

                    1. They also make some things that aren't in the menu. There is a dish called "Gored Gored" - raw cubes of beef in awaze sauce - that I really love.

                      New website - http://www.ethiopianrestauranttampa.com

                      1. Thanks to CFishman posting this. We tried it in mid December a few days after the original post.

                        We'd been in New Haven this summer and had Ethiopian several times. We'd missed it from Boston and New York. Since moving to Sarasota, it has felt like a culinary 'Land of the Lost'. With a random craving for Ethiopian, I searched here and was absolutely shocked there was a place within 200 miles. Days later we were there. They didn't have menus, the place was near empty on a dull looking strip, and a fellow was auditioning for a music gig.

                        To keep it short, the food proved movingly exceptional. On that particular day, it eclipsed New York (yes, the Queen of Sheba there) and New Haven, and rubbed shoulders with memories of Boston. We sampled several dishes and were most surprised by some of the non meat, though we are both committed carnivores. After a sincere look from wife to waitress, they upped the spice level for us. Still light for us, but would put many crying.

                        It qualified as one of the best meals we have ever had at a resteraunt in Florida. We spoke with the chef/cook for a bit afterwards, as she came out to our table. I wanted to give it a positive write-up and hoped Q.o.S survived, but we were soon away on business to Hong Kong. It is now several months later, and sounds that the place has gotten good reviews. I'm glad to hear it. I joined Chowhound just to write this place up. I hope they exist for many many years.

                        1. anyone been lately or have any more menu suggestions?

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: rhnault

                            I am glad you asked. My wife and I went on tuesday night for the first time since the grand opening in the beginning of February. The food was great, particularly the lamb. The portions were the right size. The service was perfect. Really, everything was just as it should be. Whatever kinks they had as a new restaurant, it seems they have worked them out. My wife asked if I would write a post about it but I decided not to because I had started the thread and everyone already knows my thoughts about the place. The Queen of Sheba appears to be thriving which I hope will encourage restauranteurs to offer other underrepresented cuisines.

                            1. re: CFishman

                              My husband made a reservation today and if the food is even close to as good as the phone call was friendly and pleasant we should be in really good shape! He said he hung up feeling like he was invited to someone's home for dinner.

                              1. re: CFishman

                                We went Friday and it was really really good. Had a chicken dish that seemed like a pretty basic curry with breast meat. It was not that exciting but we also had the Vegetarian sampler which was wonderful. I love all the spices, especially the cardamom. Also tried the Ethiopian beer which has a lovely honey finish and finished off with the coffee "ceremony". At first the incense annoyed me a bit but then it seemed to do it's trick and I was laughing and didn't mind it. Our service was great and the owner came by several times. She is a lovely woman.

                                1. re: rhnault

                                  Just tried it this evening, excellent for my first time eating Ethiopian, the owner came by a few times and delivered our entree's and explained how to eat it with the injara, very authentic...I will be back, excellent flavor in the meats and veges, the lentils were a bit hot, i didnt care for the taste, but everything else was very good. It would be nice if they played some Ethipian type music in the background and maybe dinned the lughts a bit for atmospherre, but it is the food that you come here for.

                                  1. re: rshally

                                    I agree with everyone that the food is great. I'm very disappointed with the portions for the prices. My husband and I were there tonight and paid $10.99 for a chicken leg and a hard-boiled egg (Doro Wat) We loved Ibex and Nile (a long time ago in Tampa) and Diamond Ethiopian in Chicago. This is not our first visit to Queen of Sheba and each time we felt overcharged. We won't be back, I'll wait til my next visit to Chicago.

                                    1. re: spfoodie

                                      i was also a bit disappointed in this regard. the owner offered uws more when we finished the portions we had, but by this time we were stuffed on all the injera. she sould boost portions as served. offering more after you've eaten seems half hearted. This food is not expensive any way---- chicken and eggs and lentils. It is a good business plan--- stuff people with injera.

                                      1. re: andy huse

                                        Maybe it's because I'm a regular, but I always get extra things on my plate that weren't ordered, and really enormous portions.

                                      2. re: spfoodie

                                        I agree with the assessment that portions are way small...we went with another couple, ordered two appetizers and an entrée each. One of the entrees was Doro Wat and it was not even a whole chicken leg (it had obviously been stewed for a while and approximately 1/4 to 1/2 of the meat had cooked off the bone). We all felt very hungry. We typically go to a Thai restaurant order appetizers and three entrees (for four people) and never make it all the way through the entrees. The service was painfully bad (something we had anticipated based on reviews we read); worse than we could have imagined (difficult to get a beer). On a positive note all of the employees were very friendly and seemed happy.

                              2. My husband and I recently took a friend from Orlando to QoS. It was out third trip to QoS and the first Ethiopian experience for our friend.

                                We had a good experience overall, but there were some real bobbles. First, one of the Ethiopian dishes that we enjoy the most, kitfo, was served to us fully cooked when we specifically discussed it with the server and asked for it raw. During the course of the meal, the three of us ordered drinks twice. Once a drink was forgotten and had to be requested again and once the wrong beer was brought.

                                A friend from work also complained about portion size from her visit. She said on the followup visit that they told the server that the had ordered the vegetarian meal for two and had gone away hungry and she told them that they could ask for more of any of the dishes. This is nice, but I'm not really comfortable with this way of doing business; I've never encountered this practice in any other restaurant of any kind (including Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago and DC). Shouldn't the menu say something if this is what is expected of the customer? It would never occur to me to ask for more. Or maybe only select customers are being offered more?

                                What bothers me the most, though, is the incense. What is with that infernal incense? Incense is at least as noxious as cigarette smoke, and you can't burn cigarettes in a restaurant any more. I want to smell the food when I am eating. I love the food at QoS; I'm thrilled that there is finally an Ethiopian restaurant in this area again. But as an asthmatic, I will limit my visits there to when I simply must have Ethiopian.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: BeaN

                                  I tried QOS a couple of months ago because of all of the hoopla on this board. It was my first experience with Ethiopian food. I thought it was absolutly awful. I have no idea what everybody loves about this food. The "bread" that you eat with reminded me of a cold sourdough pancake, yuck! Some of the meat dishes were ok but I cant see any reason to go back.

                                  I don't mean this as a critique of QOS as much as a critique of Ethiopian food in general. I just don't get it I guess.

                                  Ethiopian food is the only world cuisine I have tried that I can say without a doubt is awful.

                                  But hey, that's just me and I could be wrong.

                                  1. re: FrankC

                                    My first Ethiopian restaurant experience was in D.C., and I, too, was less than impressed. My next stop: QOS--and now I love it! I think it's better than restuarants in DC and Philadelphia (Zagat rated!) that I've eaten at. The bread is definitely what surprised me the most at first; now that I have it in my mind what it is like--sour and spongy--I think it's fantastic. And I think eating from the same plate is so moving. Don't give up on Ethiopian food!

                                2. This restaurant sounds fantastic, can't wait to try it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Manderley

                                    I was there on tusday with friends. I love the food. The service was great they are very helpful and the menu is great it explains everything you eat. We had plenty and some left on the plate. Great place to visit.