Photo by Katherine Harris
Sampler platter at Dillas Ethiopian
A sampler platter of items served on traditional injera bread.
Dillas Ethiopian Restaurant is the latest addition to the under-recognized Cedar-Riverside ethnic dining enclave. Named after an Ethiopian market town, it’s located within hailing distance of The Red Sea, the longest-running Ethiopian restaurant in the Twin Cities. In fact, Beko Tufa, who owns Dillas and does the majority of the cooking, worked in the kitchen at The Red Sea until just prior to opening her own place and achieving her lifelong dream.
From the outside, Dillas is the kind of place that’s easy to overlook, but the inside is actually quite pleasant. There are two distinct dining areas of booths and tables in addition to a small bar area.
The menu includes the widest selection of Ethiopian dishes I’ve encountered in these parts. An example of the unique offerings is mulu doro—described as a whole chicken that’s marinated in lime juice and slow cooked in a hot pepper sauce. Be aware that this dish needs to be ordered at least five days ahead.
Unfortunately, the breadth of the menu proved a source of frustration for our group. Typically, the best way to enjoy an Ethiopian meal is to order a sampler platter. There are three of them offered at Dillas, but the descriptions are a bit vague: “combination of five entrees,” “vegetarian,” or “meat and vegetable combination.” At most places, specific dishes are listed for combination platters, and diners often can request substitutions for a small upcharge. Try as we might to communicate what we wanted on the platters, we failed the challenge, and although the food itself was in the main perfectly fine, we didn’t end up with a great sampling. While the meat combination included a satisfying rendition of crunchy beef tibs (somewhat strangely paired with undercooked broccoli) and a mild but tasty lamb curry, we would have preferred that the remaining three items were not all versions of berbere-spiced wat stew. As for the vegetarian platter, it included a couple of terrific lentil preparations—one of whole peas and one mashed—but we weren’t fans of either a canned beet dish or the sautéed greens. One dish that absolutely knocked it out of the park was the homemade sambusas. The ground beef filling was visibly mined with chopped jalapenos, and the flavor was wonderfully explosive. Also worth noting, libations include several indigenous beers and wines. It feels like a place that has real potential. Given the breadth of the menu and the uniqueness of some of the dishes, I’d give it another try; maybe I’ll call ahead for that chicken. 1813 Riverside Ave., Mpls., 612-332-2898, dillasethiopianrestaurant.com