Our 4th Annual National Black Business Month Foodie Tour took us to several cities, including my favorite, Charlotte, NC. Florida’s ridiculous size and shape make taking a quick road trip to other states challenging, but when you finally get out of the state, driving becomes a bit more exciting and eventful.
We arrived in Charlotte with no reference point for its food scene and were pleasantly surprised to discover an increasingly robust Black food and drink ecosystem that is expanding as more Black Americans relocate to the city. Charlotte is on its way to actualizing something special within the African Diaspora. It’s already boasting several delicious African eateries. One that stood out was Abugida Ethiopian Café located at 3007 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205.
Honestly, I was not fan of Ethiopian cuisine until I experienced the grandma cooking at Awash Ethiopian in Miami. (The food was so good; it was one of the reasons I converted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.) Awash Ethiopian and a recent Ethiopian cuisine binge in Washington D.C. have become my reference points for great Ethiopian food. Both experiences prepared me well to appreciate the deliciousness of Abugida.
Traditional Ethiopian cuisine includes flavorful and spicy stews, fragrant lentil and split pea dishes, and with almost every entrée you will find injera—a tangy, bitter and even slightly sour flavored sourdough bread made from teff flour (super healthy). Abugida, just like my favorite spot in Miami, is Ethiopian grandma cooking at its best.
The Abugida feast was a regal and colorful presentation of health and delectableness inclusive of entrees and other additions on an oversized platter. The manager, Ms. Yodite Tesfaye explained each entrée and served us a cup of their amazing spiced tea and Ethiopian Coffee, the absolute BEST IN THE WORLD. Many folks don’t know coffee is from Ethiopia because of the European and South American dominance in the market.
The Abugida Feast included everything on the vegetarian menu except for shiro and the house salad and was accompanied by beef tibs and the legendary Doro Wet, a tender chicken leg cooked simmered in Ethiopian herbed butter, garlic, onion Berbere with boiled egg. Like the sacred mac and cheese in African-American culture, you must know what you’re doing when making Doro Wet, or there will be a problem. It is so serious, that many Ethiopian men will taste their potential wives’ Doro Wet before even considering a marriage in a culture where arrange marriages are still common, per a friend of mine who is Ethiopian and is in an arranged marriage himself. With that said, the Doro Wet here was incredible.
The Beef Tibs ($10) sautéed in onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, a touch of rosemary and Ethiopian spice butter was a close second. I honestly just started rolling everything up in the injera and going in.
The very last thing I had was one of my absolute favorites. The meat sambusa ($5) is a delicious meat pastry filled with spiced ground beef fried to perfection. The vegan version of the sambusa with lentils, garlic and onions is as delicious as the beef version. The dough reminded me of drop biscuits filled with seasoned beef. Lord have mercy it was like an African Chimichanga. It is an absolute MUST HAVE! I was truly in heaven after having just two bites.
This is now my go-to Ethiopian spot when I’m in Charlotte. I’m super excited to visit again next week when we travel to Richmond.
Oh, and one last thing. If you manage to make it to Charlotte, make sure you ask about the Coffee Ceremony. This amazing experience is very important to the social structure of Ethiopian culture and includes burning incense, placing jebena (black clay coffeepots) over hot coals, and the processing of raw coffee beans. I have gone to so many coffee ceremonies that I will never step foot into a coffee house again.
The food, atmosphere, and service were all first class; and the beautiful Ethiopian art on the walls added to an incredible dining experience. You can give Abugida a call at (980) 237-2760.
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