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Ethiopean - Berkeley/Oakland?

evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 08:51 AM

I love good Ethiopean food - but have not had any for years. I have seen the various restaurants on Telegraph but I have a feeling that none of them are very good. Can anyone recommend one?


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  1. lexdevil RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 09:30 AM

    Cafe Colucci on Telegraph or Messob on Piedmont.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lexdevil
      Robert Lauriston RE: lexdevil Jan 28, 2010 07:49 AM

      I can vouch for those two.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        cfarivar RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2010 06:56 AM

        I third a vote for Colucci. Get the fried potatoes as an appetizer and the shrimp tibs. :-)

    2. a
      abstractpoet RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 09:31 AM

      My favorite spot in Oakland is Cafe Colucci. By no means am I an expert, but it's the best Ethiopian food I've had anywhere.

      Messob was pretty good the the one time I tried it, but maybe a step down from Colucci.

      4301 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

      Cafe Colucci
      6427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

      1. o
        oaktowngirl RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 09:37 AM

        Why do you have a "feelng" that none of them are very good? The Telegraph area is the closest thing to a "Little Ethiopia/Eritrea" I have seen in an American city. I like Cafe Colucci, Red Sea is okay, has a lunch buffet. Addis has a line on weekends.

        6 Replies
        1. re: oaktowngirl
          Ruth Lafler RE: oaktowngirl Jan 27, 2010 10:31 AM

          Apparently the only other US city with a lot of good Ethiopian food is Washington DC. But the places in Oakland, while they vary in quality, are pretty authentic, in that the seem to be run by recent immigrants from Ethiopia/Eritrea.

          Enssaro on Grand has gotten some raves recently -- it's next on my list.

          366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            abstractpoet RE: Ruth Lafler Jan 27, 2010 11:14 AM

            Enssaro is very popular (and Yelpers seem to love it), but I was not impressed the one time I went (about a year ago). The food was OK, but none of it was memorable. Don't know if anything has changed since my visit.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              daveena RE: Ruth Lafler Jan 28, 2010 08:28 AM

              I had a very good meal at Ensarro the other night - we ordered the special kitfo raw and spicy, and it was really, really good. Definitely spicier than I've had it at other places, but cooled down by the creaminess of the Ethiopian cheese. Doro wat was great, with really flavorful and tender chicken. Lamb tibs were really good as well. We rounded it out with a few veg dishes, which were all good, but their meat dishes are the ones that stand out for me.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                kishoripapa RE: Ruth Lafler Jun 30, 2010 01:20 AM


              2. re: oaktowngirl
                evacarleton RE: oaktowngirl Jan 27, 2010 10:33 AM

                Thanks for the recommendations. I remember, I did go to one twice (the one at Telegraph and Russell) and it was not very good. I guess I said I have a feeling that they are not good because I have previously researched this, and it seemed to be there not one standing out is being really good. I will try Cafe Colucci then - thank you.

                1. re: evacarleton
                  Joel RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 02:31 PM

                  Ethiopia, at Telegraph near Russell (close to Ashby) is very close to my house, has a nice outdoor area in case the weather ever gets better. The food is not spectacular, however they were very accommodating to specific dietary requests and for larger groups. Very nice people.

                  Cafe Colucci has good food, is more crowded, and is very noisy inside. They have outdoor tables -- fronting on Telegraph Avenue, though.

                  So we usually prefer the calmer atmosphere at Ethiopia.

                  Best food, I think, is Finfine.

                  2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  Cafe Colucci
                  6427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                  Ethiopia Restaurant
                  2955 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA

              3. escargot3 RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 10:41 AM

                Another good one to try is Finfine in Berkeley -- on Telegraph at Carleton, in the same complex as Fondu Fred. Small, but really good food.

                2 Replies
                1. re: escargot3
                  Joel RE: escargot3 Jan 27, 2010 02:24 PM

                  Personally I like Finfine.
                  The Ethiopian women who are wonderful Nursing Assistants at the place in which my aged mother resides prefer their own home cooking; however they usually recommend Addis.
                  The Ethiopian phlebotomist at the Blood Bank also likes Addis, although he told me "they're really all about the same."

                  2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  6100 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    Melanie Wong RE: Ruth Lafler Jan 27, 2010 04:03 PM

                    Before the mods remove these posts, a reminder that you can communicate with each other to work on dates and locations here,

                2. chefj RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 05:23 PM

                  I really like Addis. Grew up eating Ethiopian food in DC. Addis is really good ,has a reasonable seating situation and heat. Cafe Colucci has great food to but they pack you in like sardines and have a couple of space heaters.

                  1. t
                    Tom Simonson RE: evacarleton Jan 27, 2010 08:27 PM

                    I work in an environment with quite a few Eritreans and some Ethiopans. I recently asked some of the waitresses that I know the best whether there was any particularly good restaurant in the Bay Area. It's slightly off topic, but I got a very strong recommendation for Sheba in SF - Sheba Lounge / 1419 Fillmore Street / San Francisco, CA 94115-4114

                    It does have piano music as well. The website is not really up and running. My friend said that for her taste it was much nicer than the East Bay restaurants.

                    In the East Bay, another good friend recommended a new place - it is almost next to Colucci. I could not hear the name clearly - it was something like Dariah. She said that the food was prepared with more hotness/spice - more for the Ethiopean palate than some other places. I drove by - it may be right on the corner, two doors down from Colucci, but I could not stop to check it out.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: Tom Simonson
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Tom Simonson Jan 28, 2010 07:59 AM

                      Dareye used to be across the street from Colucci, but moved a couple of miles down Telegraph, to near 25th St. That space is now the Hide-A-Way Cafe--diner-type menu.

                      Two doors down from Colucci is a grocery store and in between is a gift shop. I believe all three are owned by Fetlework Tefferi.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 28, 2010 08:42 AM

                        I'm confused. The Hide-A-Way Cafe was there forever (okay, not forever, but at least 15 years). Then it changed to an Ethiopian restaurant and then it changed back?

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Jan 28, 2010 08:57 AM

                          They never changed the sign--design review for signs is a major bureaucratic hassle in Berkeley.


                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 28, 2010 09:02 AM

                            I'm still confused. The website you posted says it's an Ethiopian restaurant. You said it's "now" serving a diner-type menu. BTW, I believe it's actually in Oakland, so Berkeley sign regs would not apply.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              Oaktown Al RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 14, 2010 08:19 PM

                              The Dareye Hide-A-Way (formerly the non-Ethopian Hide-A-Way Cafe) has great Ethiopian breakfasts. Haven't found another Ethiopian restaurant on Telegraph which serves breakfasts.

                              1. re: Oaktown Al
                                Ruth Lafler RE: Oaktown Al Apr 14, 2010 08:53 PM

                                What's served as part of an Ethiopian breakfast?

                                BTW, we had a chowdown at Enssaro, and I thought it was excellent.

                                366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                  Oaktown Al RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 14, 2010 10:42 PM

                                  Cheapest--and my favorite--is a hot cracked grain cereal in spiced Ethiopian butter. Also various egg, veggie and meat combos, seved in traditional style. Plus juice, coffee, tea, wine, etc.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                    moto RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 15, 2010 04:11 AM

                                    from relatively recent visits to Finfine, Enssaro, Colucci, and Messob, my wife and I both prefer Ensarro, with Finfine second, not that the other two are deficient. we almost always get vegetable/legume samplers and prefer the veg's lightly cooked and not drowned in the clarified butter. Finfine was recommended by my spouse's Ethiopian colleague, and has a bit of the same cramped feel as Colucci (both seemed to be the busiest of the four places, as well).

                                    4301 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                    2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                    366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                                    1. re: moto
                                      Ruth Lafler RE: moto Mar 27, 2012 12:16 PM

                                      Just a quick note that I had dinner last night at Messob and wasn't particularly impressed. Not in the same league as Ensarro or Colucci, IMHO. One thing it its favor is that they do use teff to make their injera.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                        oakjoan RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 29, 2012 06:02 PM

                                        Ruth, if Ensarro is the place we had the chowdown last year I'm with you. It was quite deelish.

                                        1. re: oakjoan
                                          Ruth Lafler RE: oakjoan Mar 29, 2012 09:59 PM

                                          Yes, the last Ethiopian chowdown was at Enssaro.


                                  2. re: Oaktown Al
                                    Joel RE: Oaktown Al Apr 15, 2010 04:08 PM

                                    For a while (maybe still) the Hide-A-Way was serving dinner:

                                    Dareye Hide-A-Way Cafe
                                    6430 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                          2. re: Tom Simonson
                            Fine RE: Tom Simonson Jun 29, 2010 05:47 PM

                            Just came across this thread.

                            When I first became of aware of Ethiopian restaurants--Blue Nile, circa '81, followed by Sheba, also on Telegraph, not long after--what pleased me more than anything else was how fiery hot many of the dishes were. I feared the timidity of the American palate would tame that authenticity pretty fast and, I suspect, that's exactly what happened, based on the few recent meals I've tried at various Ethiopian and Eritrean spots.

                            I recently visited Little Ethiopia (actually so-named with signage) in LA and had what might well have passed for baby food at a highly recommended spot. Even Ethiopia's famous hot sauce, berbere, was blah.

                            Not too long ago I read a recommendation in the SF Chron's "Insight" section from an Ethiopian writer or professor (found it--actually it's Verghese!) for a place deep on the Peninsula, Zeni's, San Jose, which I've yet to try.

                            One would have hoped that over three decades of increaed exposure to the world's cuisines, many infused with hot peppers, as well as the increased availability of chiles such as habaneros in produce departments and as plant starts, SFBA diners would have become far more enthusiastic about the joys of hot foods and cuisines featuring them would no longer have to water down their flavors, but ....

                            1. re: Fine
                              Melanie Wong RE: Fine Jun 29, 2010 06:44 PM

                              You'll find many reports in recent years here on this site recommending Zeni's in San Jose (not the Peninsula).

                              1. re: Fine
                                chefj RE: Fine Jul 3, 2010 02:23 PM

                                I am not sure if am reading the meaning of post correctly but I think that many of the restaurants serving chili hot cuisines are more popular and are not skimping on the heat. Ruen Pair, Chia Thai Noodles, China Village, Spices!, Addis, Jayakarta, Ajanta just to name a few.

                                Jayakarta Restaurant
                                2026 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                Ajanta Restaurant
                                1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                                Ruen Pair
                                1045 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                                1. re: chefj
                                  bigwheel042 RE: chefj Mar 27, 2012 08:26 PM

                                  True, but these are still the exceptions and not the rule. For every Ruen Pair or Lers Ros there are a hundred "Thai" restaurants cranking out too-sweet pad thai and listless curries night after night. The tragedy is that at least some of these hundred probably have real skill at making certain native dishes and simply don't put them on the menu for fear of driving away skittish customers.

                                  1. re: bigwheel042
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: bigwheel042 Mar 28, 2012 08:32 AM

                                    And Ruen Pair closed.

                            2. h
                              happenstance RE: evacarleton Jun 30, 2010 05:05 PM

                              Has anyone tried Yayu on Lakeshore yet? I am embarrassed to say that even though I walk by it almost daily, I haven't yet tried it.

                              Lakeshore Cafe
                              3257 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                              1. z
                                zippo RE: evacarleton Mar 27, 2012 02:21 PM

                                Fetlework Tefferi who owns Cafe Colluci and Brundo, an Ethiopian market and spice shop, has recently opened Brundo Culinary Studio in a steel warehouse in West Oakland with classes in spice blending, coffee roasting and Ethiopian cooking. Sounds interesting.


                                and a pdf on the studio:


                                Brundo Culinary Studio
                                1960 Mandela Parkway
                                Oakland CA 94608

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: zippo
                                  Ruth Lafler RE: zippo Mar 27, 2012 04:06 PM

                                  Very interesting! Thanks!

                                  1. re: zippo
                                    Dave MP RE: zippo Mar 30, 2012 05:13 PM

                                    This post was featured in the Digest Overheard column this week. Thanks for the great tip!


                                    1. re: zippo
                                      oakjoan RE: zippo Mar 30, 2012 08:00 PM

                                      Yeah, very interesting. Thanks zippo!

                                    2. a
                                      aloisius RE: evacarleton Mar 28, 2012 04:28 PM

                                      My favorite is Cafe Eritrea d'Afrique on Telegraph. Cafe Colucci is a good standby for when Cafe Eritrea is closed. There is something a little more Americanized about Colucci that I can't put my finger on.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: aloisius
                                        fruti RE: aloisius Mar 30, 2012 07:49 PM

                                        Cafe Eritrea is also my favorite and I've tried almost all of the others mentioned. Also enjoy Finfine and Colucci but Eritrea stands out with their amazing veggie combo. They serve humus and ful along with other standards like collard greens. Service can be slow but it is so worth it to me.

                                      2. DiveFan RE: evacarleton Mar 29, 2012 04:34 PM

                                        For reasons I can't recall we usually end up at Red Sea or Addis in Oakland.
                                        On the last visit, I had one dish that was unexpectedly great was gomen - spiced collard greens.

                                        The only 'complaint' that I've had is that after dark, you must bring a Flashlight to read the menus! What's with the overly dim lighting?

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