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Review: Ethiopian haven brightens the mood and palate in Malden

Atikilit Beyayinetu

Atikilit Beyayinetu.

With Kelley McLaughlin

Habesha Restaurant
535 Main St., Malden

As the weather turns from bright and autumnal to dull early winter, corners of Boston can feel like rows of endless gray, beige, and brick. This was the oppressively drab mood as we headed through Malden last week, past leafless trees and dead, brown yards in search of some lunch.

The inside of Habesha Restaurant:

The inside of Habesha Restaurant

From the outside, Habesha Restaurant in Malden blends seamlessly into its surrounding row of tan business buildings on Main Street. At first, its inside also appears to be a little dark and a little dated. Once you've settled into your seats and given your eyes some time to adjust, the wooden paneling provides a warm and cozy atmosphere. The darkness is undercut by glowing LED lights and an ornately-decorated and celebratory bar, complete with hanging light bulbs and colorful art and artifacts from Ethiopia, which also liberally adorn the walls. Travel posters of Ethiopia line the back wall, and what appears to be Ethiopian shows and music videos play on a TV. Cheerful, rhythmic music sets an upbeat mood in the background.

The sambusas:


The menu, which is a bit disorganized, features a variety of dishes that are meant to be eaten in the family style. We ordered the sambusa with veggie ($4.15), sambusa with meat ($4.68), shiro ($15.69), and atikilit beyayinetu ($17.99).

The sambusa with veggie comes as one large pastry. The wrapper is thin and crispy, the lentils are plump and well-seasoned, and the jalapeños add a refreshing vegetal note, as well as a little heat.

The sambusa with meat comes as a set of two. These crispy pastries are filled with ground beef and jalapeño. They are moist and fresh, and the 9‑year old who ordered them devoured them joyfully.

The injera:


Ethiopian food is traditionally eaten without utensils, and both entrées came with generous amounts of injera, a spongy sourdough flatbread which is a staple of many dishes. It is tasty, filling … and fun to play with. It is also a perfect vessel for scooping up the variety of stews and vegetables that we ordered.

The shiro:


The shiro, ground peas with garlic, comes as a large serving. It is sweet and creamy, a perfect counterbalance to the natural sourness of the injera.

The atikilit beyayinetu became our star entrée for its flavor and variety, as it offers a diverse vegetable combination platter with several vegetarian dishes, including the shiro. The menu lists the individual items only by their main ingredient: peas, lentil, spinach, cabbage, potato, carrot, green beans, or salad. Each is cooked with different blends of herbs and spices, but they all play well together, and all of the flavors highlight the natural deliciousness of the ingredients. Besides the shiro, we particularly love the spicy lentils, which are rich and flavorful.

The meal and the atmosphere both feel family style, easing visitors into a familiar, relaxed, and comfortable joy. We nearly forgot that we were there to work, we were so busy tearing off bits of injera and scooping up the hearty stews while we laughed and chatted and got out of our chairs in the otherwise quiet lunch hour to dance to the music. We left Habesha with a happy heart and a satisfied stomach.

Review from the Independent Review Crew.

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I love Ethiopian food and almost any spicy cuisine. I will definitely be checkin this place out. Thank you.

Voting closed 4

We haven't gone to the other end of the Orange Line to eat for ages and ages. Habesha was one of the last places we DID visit. My recollection -- everything we had there was wonderful. (I love getting to "eat my plate").

Voting closed 2

a tip from an Uber driver. Superb all around!

Voting closed 2

We used to go a long time ago when we lived in Everett. Excellent place.

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So, why am I saddened by this review?

Because I have celiac.

The injera served by every Ethiopian restaurant around here is not 100% teff flour. Teff flour is gluten free. Unfortunately, all the Ethiopian restaurants near here blend it with wheat flour, which would make be quite ill.

I have to travel out of state to eat Ethiopian. I know a place in NJ. I've been to a few near Washington DC. But, if I just want to run out to nearby Malden, I can't eat it with injera.

Someone please explain why the teff flour is mixed with wheat? Shouldn't it be all teff?

Voting closed 1