***To my knowledge, this is currently one of only three legal BYOBs within Boston city limits.***
ETHIOPIAN CAFE (legal BYOB)
377 Centre St
Boston, MA 02130
(b/t Sheridan St & Creighton St in Jamaica Plain)
A tiny ~25 seat restaurant hidden on a busy block of other restaurants and businesses in Jamaica Plain. But well worth seeking out for eat-with-your-fingers, tasty, filling and inexpensive Ethiopian cuisine that goes well with a variety of wines or beers.
And I'm sure they'll give you a fork if you insist, but what's the fun in that?
The spartan interior features a sink in back where you can wash your hands before eating with your fingers. This is of course done with the traditional spongy injera flatbread made from teff grain, which you break into pieces so you can scoop up various vegetable and meat stews (lamb, beef, chicken, never any pork no matter your religion in Ethiopia). Apparently it is traditional to do this with your right hand only (sorry lefties lol).
We started with a couple of the spinach-stuffed sambosa (sambusa?), which were very much like the ubiquitous deep-fried spanakopita triangles you see at Greek restaurants and did not seem very authentic from what I can read online. But tasty. Also available with lentil (and possibly meat?) fillings.
We followed this up with a meat and vegetable combination plate (or you can order individual dishes), which can be customized for any number of people to share and arrives on top of several large injera (more injera on a side plate to rip up). Each meat and veggie was delicious, but very different from each other (a pleasant surprise), particularly the modestly spicy chicken stew, which was almost American BBQ in flavor and featured a couple of legs as well as pulled meat. Our combo featured all 6 of the available vegetable dishes, the 1 chicken, 1 of the 5 beef and 1 of 2 lamb dishes, plus a salad. With so many vegetable dishes on the menu, this would probably be a good restaurant for vegetarians, and they offer a vegetable combo plate as well.
Ethiopian meat dishes are traditionally spicy, and can be extremely spicy. But since this is a BYOB, don't worry, none of the dishes were spicy enough to be wine destroying or requiring only the traditional spicy food wines like Riesling or Gewürztraminer. We went with an Italianate orange wine from Pennsylvania (my favorite wine from the East Coast) and a Cali cabernet, both of which worked well. Bring your own if you want to use real wine stems as they just have tumblers.
2011 Va La Vineyards La Prima Donna
2014 Daou Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
They also serve traditional, made at the table Ethiopian coffee, which smelled wonderful, although we didn't try it.
No dessert offered.
Service was friendly and well-meaning, but we did have to ask for explanations when they were not forthcoming. $51 + tax for a filling meal for 3 people. And the free parking on the street was fairly easy at 5:30PM on a Saturday. Although small, at no time during our visit was the restaurant more than half full (we had a phone reservation, but you probably don't need one unless you have more than 4 people so they can pull some tables together). They also have a couple of traditional mesob woven round wicker basket tables, although the seating around them didn't look as comfortable.
MORE ABOUT BYOB:
If you are interested, I have created a Yelp "Collection" of legal BYOBs in the Boston area (I define Boston pretty liberally lol):
In case you don't know, Boston's rules for byob are as follows:
Permitted Types/Sizes of Alcohol:
A. Patrons may only bring wine and malt beverages into the licensed premise.
B. Patrons are prohibited from bringing distilled spirits and/or liqueurs/cordials into the licensed premise.
C. Patrons may only bring malt beverages in containers no larger than 64 oz., and may bring in no more than a total of 64 oz. per person.
D. Patrons may only bring wine in containers no larger than 750 ml., and may bring in no more than a total of 750 ml. per person.
E. Patrons are prohibited from re-entering the premise with additional alcohol.
A. Licensees shall not charge a "corkage"or any other fee or surcharge for permitting BYOB or providing any service or amenity relative to BYOB.
B. Licensees are not prohibited from providing glassware and/or a bottle opener.
C. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a licensee from discarding an empty or abandoned alcoholic beverage container or its content.
Hours of Operation:
Licensees shall only allow BYOB between the hours of 5:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M.
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