5 East African Restaurants to Try on International Avenue
Where to go if you're looking for authentic Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somalian food.
Owner Daniel Asfaw offers a classic Ethiopian menu in a modern-styled space at new restaurant Ensira.
Photograph courtesy International Avenue BRZ
It's not called "International Avenue" for nothing. The section of 17th Avenue S.E. that runs eastward from Deerfoot Trail for 35 blocks contains a wealth of restaurants and eateries serving up authentic cuisine from all parts of the globe. Here are five places to try if you want a culinary tour of Northeast Africa.
This new Ethiopian restaurant (the official opening was Saturday, Jan. 30) has a bright, modern room with contemporary decor. Despite the modern look, the food is classic Ethiopian fare — hearty, rich stews and vegetable dishes, served in the traditional style where diners eat with their right hand, using torn-off pieces of spongy injera bread to scoop up the dishes. Ensira also serves traditional Ethiopian coffee and is fully licensed. The name means "let us work together" in the Amharic language. Open for lunch and dinner.
3515 17 Ave. S.E., 403-475-9573
A sampling of the food at Ensira. Photo courtesy of International Avenue BRZ.
This family-run restaurant has been a go-to place for Ethiopian food in Calgary for more than 10 years. Named after King Fassil, who reigned over the region from 1632 to 1667, this is a traditionally decorated room, with a menu of regional favourites including stews, fish with green chiles and fresh lemon and several vegetarian dishes, served Ethiopian style (no utensils). Open for dinner.
3608 17 Ave. S.E., 403-387-0555, fassilethiopian.com
This popular stop on the International Avenue Jane's Walk is owned by a couple known to their patrons as "Ruth and Sammy." Hdmona (the name means "home") features the regional cuisine of Eritrea, which is similar to that of Ethiopia, but with a more pronounced Italian influence (the Italians were a colonial presence in the region) and is best known for elaborately staged traditional coffee ceremonies (special booking required) that start with the roasting of green coffee beans and include incense and traditional breads and other accoutrements. Hdmona is also fully licensed and has a patio.
2881 17 Ave. S.E. 403-699-9690
This East African market, bakery and cafeteria is run by boss-lady Zulinka, who has created a hub for the Somali community, selling non-perishable food imports as well as traditional goods such as decanters for homemade perfumes that Somali women make for themselves. The restaurant features a daily special of beef, goat or chicken stew with fragrant Somali rice cooked with cumin, cardamom and cinnamon, as well as East African lentil samosas (bagia) and Somali pancakes (malwah). Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
4002 17 Ave. S.E., 403-244-1909
If you think you might like to try camel, this Somali and East African restaurant has it on the menu on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There's also a daily offering of lamb and goat soup and a morning Somalian breakfast special of sheep or lamb liver, traditional enjera and chapatti (flatbread). Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Fridays from 1-2 p.m. for prayers.
4202 17 Ave. S.E. 403-455-4412
For more information on International Avenue restaurants visit internationalavenue.ca