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"Pick something exciting": Ethiopian edition

So the Lad Charming and I have pretty much used up the stock of diners in the greater Bryn Mawr- Collegeville area and I figured it was time for some adventures beyond the comforting booths of Minella's. (Okay, with appropriate stops for Chinese, Persian, sushi and Thai, we're not totally lost in the collegiate abyss.) Back in D.C., finding decent Ethiopian is a matter of walking a couple of blocks, but I could use some advice on Philly. I've heard Dahlak and Abyssinia and Goijo mentioned here, but there was something about Abyssinia perhaps not being reopened yet? Minor concerns include a non-picky vegetarian and a dedicated carnivore, decent parking and preferably decor a step up from plastic tables. (I love hole in the walls, but I kind of feel like a proper night out for once.) Thanks so much for any thoughts.

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  1. those are the only three i've tried and i'd be interested in hearing about others, too. i think abyssinia was reported reopened. all three are pretty amazing, in my opinion. honestly, i can't tell much of a difference between them, but there have been large gaps of time in between my visiting each.

    dahlak definitely has the best ambiance of the three, but their hours are limited - i think dinner only? at least, i drove by once during a weekend lunchtime and they were closed. their website is no help either. if it weren't for them spelling it out on the menu, gojjo would not even look like an ethiopian place - looks more like a bar. their apps menu is skimpy and includes some american foods (my little brother, when in town for thanksgiving, was thrilled to find cheese fries on it). i've been there twice including last saturday, and one complaint is that they keep the temperature COLD in there! i noticed this both times. abyssinia was a bit grungy, and the very slow service annoyed me. so (slight) negatives taken into account, dahlak would probably be my first choice, followed by gojjo.

    all three places have vegetarian platters. i really wish i knew more about these lentil dishes so i could tell you what my favorite one is called, but all i can really do is describe it as a butternut-squash-colored lentil puree (though squash is not in the dish - it just sounded like a better color description than "dull carrot colored"). the yellow dish with the lentils intact is the runner up. i like to ask them for extra spicy, which at gojjo means a stripe of some hot-as-hell pureed mix on the injera platter. i loved it. my SO usually gets the lamb tibs which also look pretty spicy. you'll definitely find things for carnivores and vegetarians alike at all three.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rabidog

      Brilliant, thanks. Is that the Dahlak in Germantown or West Philly? There seem to be two of them, and this would be for dinner. (Also, I'm basically cold blooded- a chill is definitely not a plus unless it's Capogiro).

      And thanks for the lentil notes, sounds great. I know Ethiopian is usually brilliant for both extremes, but you never know.

      1. re: chocolatstiletto

        Don't know about Germantown, but I do know that the one rabidog is refering to is the one in West Philly. There's also a municipal lot a few doors down from the restaurant, so that's a good option for those driving in.

        1. re: chocolatstiletto

          i have only been to the west philly one.

          i posted on another thread recently about my last experience; victory's golden monkey goes really really well with ethiopian food. that combination really hits the spot... and i know gojjo and dahlak both carry it. can't remember about abyssinia.

      2. Of the 3, I really think Abyssinia is by far the best food, especially for vegetarian dishes.

        However, Dahlak is hands down the nicest in terms of decor. Abyssinia is a hole in the wall with slow service (if you ever go, just go in expecting that and your experience will be fine), and Gojjo is really a bar.

        If you do choose Dahlak (West Philly version is the one I've been to), for this trip, I would keep Abyssinia in mind for a more low-key excursion later.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PhillyA

          Strongly second PhillyA's point about Abyssinia. The food is much better than at Dahlak (I haven't tried Gojjo).

          We've tried both locations of Dahlak and thought the food at both was really blah. All the dishes taste the same - like overcooked brown stew - and the injera ain't great either.

          By contrast, flavors at Abyssinia are bright and each dish is distinct and interesting. I agree the decor isn't as nice as at Dahlak, but I felt a lot happier stepping out of Abyssinia after a great meal (and just $9 poorer) than I did leaving the pretty room and boring food at Dahlak.

        2. Kaffa Crossing (44th & Chestnut). Very good food. Very reasonable prices. Pleasant service. BYO. Nice atmosphere as you can see:

          http://www.kaffacrossing.com/

          Highly recommend.

          1. Having dined a # of times at the places mentioned (in the area many years) , I would add to expect slow, uneven service at all these places. The only exceptions to that rule I have found are the two most recent members of the club - Blue Nile on Baltimore and Kaffa Crossing on Chestnut. To plug Kaffa again on this thread, there you also have the chance to take home breads/pastries from the excellent bakery upstairs called four worlds (hands down one of the best crossiants I've had in ages) and have excellent post dinner tea/coffee selection.
            Tell your veggie to eat the okra, and your carny to eat the lamb - enjoy!

            1. I second (or third) the recommendation for Kaffa Crossing. Also, I like Almaz Cafe at 140 (I believe) S. 20th Street (just north of Walnut), although it is a very casual (more a plastic table) kind of place. (really, a casual cafe that happens to serve Ethiopian food). I prefer both of these two places to the other West Philadelphia restaurants, although admittedly I haven't been to them (Dahlak, Abyssinia, etc.) in quite a while.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Hansel

                almaz, kaffa crossing, blue nile - these places look great! i'm going to have to get out there for ethiopian food soon. are they all BYO? any particularly memorable dishes?

                1. re: rabidog

                  Almaz was just ok. Kinda greasy if you ask me. Cute little place (what there is of it) and the owner was nice but would not rush back...

                2. re: Hansel

                  And a fourth recommendation for Kaffa Crossing. The food is comparable to the other spots-- I like the vegetarian sampler platter-- but it has the nicest atmosphere (relaxed University City coffee house vibe, art on the walls, etc.), which based on the OP, sounds like it'd fit the bill best.