The best places to get kitfo, sizable vegetarian combos, and more Ethiopian specialties.Less
Opened before FasTrak was a thing, New Eritrea is a Sunset staple with a loyal fan base that spans generations. It’s also the coziest spot on this guide. Stained glass lamps cast a dim red glow throughout the long space, and the restaurant, including the atrium-like back room, is packed nightly with diners sitting elbow-to-elbow and passing around baskets of injera. All of the vegetarian dishes are plant-based, so bring a bunch of vegan and meat-loving friends without issue.
We’ve never ordered something we didn’t end up loving at Moya. The snug Ethiopian spot on the corner of Minna and 8th Streets in SoMa does both vegetarian and meat dishes equally well, and the food, coupled with a relaxed ambiance, is perfect for casual dinners and in-and-out lunches. What makes this counter-service spot stand out is the depth of spices and layers of flavor. We love the buttery kitfo with the tangy housemade cheese, smoothly rich shuro, and berbere-kissed misir wot.
House of Tadu in Mission Bay is a great place to meet for a quick dinner, like with a third-tier friend you finally made plans with after dodging their texts for six months. It’s easy to be in and out within 45 minutes as the counter-service operation is dialed in. Don’t skip the chicken tibs with their larger-than-usual tomato chunks that add an extra hit of juicy sweetness. Or the comforting misir wot, which is packed with onion and garlic and cooked to a textbook thick consistency.
On random weekdays when your fridge is so empty it could grow tumbleweeds, get to Axum Cafe. We love this Lower Haight spot for more reasons than we can count, but we’ll start with the fact that this sun-yellow space always has tables available. Another? Their portions are massive, with flying saucer-sized platters that are generously loaded with heaps of spicy kitfo, hamli, and saucy alicha you’ll want to somehow clone so you have a never-ending supply.
For a quieter meal surrounded by woven baskets, postcards, and Ethiopian flags, go to Cafe Ethiopia. The Mission spot is warm and homey, and feels like you’re in a friend’s apartment, if that friend had a large collection of Ethiopian paintings and art on display in their living room. Heavy pours of tej, or honey wine, are on deck, and the comforting food matches the relaxed space. This spot does a good job at executing classic Ethiopian dishes you’ll see on menus around town.