Ethniche

Denver's Eight Best Ethiopian Restaurants

The food and the scene at the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant are equally vibrant.
The food and the scene at the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant are equally vibrant. Maureen Witten
Ethiopian immigrants found their way to Colorado in large numbers beginning in the early 1980s, adding their food and culture to metro Denver. The population has continued to grow, as have the number of Ethiopian restaurants — many run by one person or family who takes care of seating guests, describing the menu, cooking and serving the food, tending the bar and making sure every customer is comfortable and happy. Dining out Ethiopian-style isn't a hurried, modern experience; instead it's a chance to savor the many spice blends and cooking styles of the country — especially its meatless offerings. Here are the eight best Ethiopian restaurants in metro Denver, in alphabetical order.

click to enlarge Axum Ethiopian Restaurant, 5501 East Colfax Avenue. - BRANDON MARSALL
Axum Ethiopian Restaurant, 5501 East Colfax Avenue.
Brandon Marsall

Axum Restaurant

5501 East Colfax Avenue
303-329-6139

Just as Axum is a very important city in the history of Ethiopia, Axum Restaurant is very important to the Ethiopian expats who call Denver home. The focus here is on tradition, and the menu lists many preparations of meat and veggies typically served atop spongy injera bread and without utensils. A meal here is a shared, familial experience, one that takes you far away from East Colfax — exotic as that stretch of road might be. Come later in the evening; Axum becomes something of a dance party for the Ethiopian community once the sun sets. You have to see it (and feel it, and taste it) to believe it. axum-restaurant.com
click to enlarge Sarah Gebre pours Ethiopian coffee at Comal. - MARK ANTONATION
Sarah Gebre pours Ethiopian coffee at Comal.
Mark Antonation

Comal Heritage Food Incubator

3455 Ringsby Court
303-292-0770

A comal is a metal or clay griddle used in Mexico for cooking tortillas and other foods, so you're probably thinking we picked the wrong restaurant for Ethiopian fare. And, yes, Comal Heritage Food Incubator does serve Mexican cuisine for lunch every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Thursdays are reserved for chef Sara Gebre's Ethiopian cooking and coffee ceremony. Don't expect the lengthy menus found at many other Ethiopian eateries; this is the kind of meal that makes you feel you're in someone's home, being served a warming lunch from the heart. Soft injera, almost purple from the dark teff flour imported from Ethiopia, serves as the base of a number of veggie dishes and stews made with red or green lentils, split peas, and potatoes and carrots. The aroma of complex spices fills the air, and the bold flavors make every drop of sauce worth mopping up. After the food, the aromas of roasting coffee and gentle incense replace the spice. If you miss Thursday, you can also find Gebre serving up a buffet-style lunch at Food Bridge Marketplace (998 Navajo Street) on Tuesdays. facebook.com/comalkitchen
click to enlarge It must be good if it's name the Ethiopian Restaurant and wis wrapped in the colors of the country's flag. - BRANDON MARSHALL
It must be good if it's name the Ethiopian Restaurant and wis wrapped in the colors of the country's flag.
Brandon Marshall

The Ethiopian Restaurant

2816 East Colfax Avenue
303-322-5939

For many, this red, yellow and green restaurant on East Colfax is their first Denver experience with Ethiopian cuisine. After all, this is the Ethiopian Restaurant, and the colors on the building recall the country's flag. Fortunately, the kitchen represents that country well, with an array of dishes designed for both everyday meals and celebratory occasions. This is a family-run operation, so the pace is slow and relaxed, offering a chance to enjoy Ethiopian beer or honey wine before platters of food heaped on injera arrive. The doro wot here is exemplary, with slow-cooked chicken in brick-red sauce, but a vegetarian combo platter is a great way to sample the variety that can be found in lentils, chickpeas, greens and other veggies. facebook.com/TheEthiopianRestaurant
click to enlarge Kitfo with housmade cheese and stewed greens at Megenagna. - WESTWORD
Kitfo with housmade cheese and stewed greens at Megenagna.
Westword

Megenagna

306 South Ironton Street, Aurora
720-532-0266

Two doors open to Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant and Grocery; pick either one. If you go in through the market, you can peruse fresh-baked goods and packaged Ethiopian specialties before heading for the dining room. The other door leads directly to the restaurant, decorated with palm-leaf awnings that straddle the tables, supported by bamboo posts. Heavy, rough-hewn chairs and a bamboo coffee bar add to the village ambience of the charming little space. Friendly staffers are happy to talk to you about the different types of kitfo and tibs offered. Orders come with generous amounts of injera and vegetable stews made from lentils, chickpeas and rich spices. facebook.com/megenagna.grocery
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation