Restaurant, Vegan

Welcome to my first restaurant review!

I’ve been thinking about adding a new category to my blog where I can review the restaurants that I have eaten at.  These reviews will primarily be about all the tasty vegan foods I have found in and around Austin, TX.  I hope to also add reviews about places I visit out-of-town as well!  I am very new to “reviewing” anything really, but everyone loves food and I love being able to tell people about how awesome a vegan lifestyle can be.  I will cover everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and most importantly desserts!  I hope to include pictures of what I had as well as links to the restaurants websites when available.  So here goes nothing!

Last night while trying to pick a place to eat, I suggested to my husband that we should try something new.  Sometimes we have a tendency of going to the same places and even though they are always good, they become less exciting the more frequently we eat there.  I had seen many posts on Facebook from my vegan friends around town about an Ethiopian restaurant called Taste of Ethiopia in Pflugerville, TX (which is on the north-east side of I-35, about 20 mins out of Northwest Austin where we live).  All the pictures I had seen them post of the food looked amazing and I really like trying International foods. Plus, they have a 4.5 star rating on Yelp and with over 500 reviewers, I felt like we couldn’t go wrong.

They are not strictly vegan, so it is a place for everyone to eat.  The restaurant itself was pretty easy to find and had plenty of parking on the weekend because the other businesses around them were closed.  I loved the atmosphere and the quaint feeling of the small, 8 table, inner section of the restaurant.  We were asked if we would like to sit inside or on the patio.  We chose a small table by the window inside.  The hostesses/waitress/busser was very sweet and even though she had broken English she made us feel welcomed and excited to be there.  All the tables had Mesobs on them which are large, shallow bowls made out of straw, with colorful lids on top.  The only way I could describe the lids is that they resembled sombreros made out of colorful straw.  She removed the lid as we sat down and waited for our waiter.

As far as we could tell there was only one waiter.  It took him a second to get over to us because there were about four other tables he was looking over.  Once he did come over he was extremely friendly and asked us if it was our first time here.  I told him it was and that I was vegan and had heard so many good things about the vegan options here.  He said that he was sure I would be pleasantly surprised and explained that anything on the menu that was listed as vegetarian could be made vegan.  After going over the menu and taking our drink order and he gave us a moment to decide on our meals.

We had already looked at the menu before we came so we knew what we wanted to order when he came back.  I ordered The Sampler (priced at $21.95), which was a small taste of each of the vegan foods they offered.  On the menu The Sampler is listed in serving sizes of 2-5.  I asked if they offered a serving for one, but he said two was the smallest.  I didn’t care though because I wanted to be able to try a little bit of everything since I had never had this type of food before.  My husband ordered a beef dish called Siga Tibbs (priced at $11.95) which was beef tips mixed with spices and an array of vegetables.

The plating style here is family style.  This is where the Mesobs came into place.  Our waiter explained that both of our meals would be served together on the same platter but he reassured me that the meat portion would not touch my food and he even offered me my own platter if I wanted.  I told him it would be ok for them to be on the same platter.

We waited maybe 15 minutes and then a tray stand was placed next to our table and shortly after our waiter came out to serve us.  The very first thing he put down was a large tray that fit perfectly in our Mesob and lining the tray was a thin, almost crepe looking item called Injera bread.  In taste, it is similar to sourdough bread and we learned it is also gluten-free.  On the tray next to us he had several little bowls full of all sorts of wonderful smelling foods.  The tray that our injera bread was on had a small, raised section on it that he filled with my husbands beef tips.  Then, going all around the tray he places two small portions of the five different vegan offerings which included:  Gomen (seasoned collard greens), Fesolia (seasoned vegetable stew with green beans and carrots), Yemisisr (a lentil type stew with amazing spices and vegetables (this was my favorite, it reminded me of Sloppy Joes!)), Tikil Gomen (a steamed and seasoned cabbage with other mixed vegetables) and finally Ater Kik (a spilt pea stew with herbs and spices).

After everything was plated so beautifully, there was a small basket of rolled up pieces of Injera bread placed next to us and this was the most fun part of the meal.  The Injera bread is equivalent to American silverware!  Our waiter explained to us that you tear off a small piece of the bread and use it to scoop up your food!  My husband was all about this since he grew up in South America where eating with your hands was an everyday thing.  And even though eating with my hands was frowned upon when I was little, I dug right in with no reserve!  I have to admit, we did take a moment to look around to see if others were eating in the same fashion and we didn’t see a single fork anywhere (although silverware is available upon request).

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The food was amazing!  My husband loved his beef tips (I took his word on this, even though I wouldn’t want to try them).  I slowly made my way around the tray to try a little bit of everything and it was all good.  There were even small servings of salad with a vinegar based dressing to eat as well.  My husband also tried all of my food and loved all of it; so much so that I had to tell him to back off!  We were worried that his meal plus my meal (that was made for two) would be too much food, but instead it wound up being just enough.  We did run out of Injera but just continued to eat with our hands anyways.  I’m pretty sure we could have gotten more, as other tables around us did, but it was just too good to stop and wait for a refill.

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As you can see, you can pretty much eat everything that is placed in front of you.  Our waiter checked on us many times throughout our meal and made sure we had plenty of napkins too.  He was very thrilled to hear that we enjoyed the food so much.  We told him we would make sure to bring some friends next time and my husband was going to tell people at work about it too.

I would definitely come and eat here again.  The food was so rich and flavorful and the service was great too.  If you are bring people for the first time, I would probably mention the lack of utensils just in case they are not as adventurous.  Honestly though, by the time the food comes to the table, you don’t think about anything else but getting it into your mouth, so it shouldn’t be an issue!

I hope you enjoyed my very first food/restaurant review.  Please feel free to leave comments about what you enjoyed, if you have ever been or plan on visiting the mentioned restaurant or if there is anything else you would like to learn about for future blogs!

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