Boston only has a few Ethiopian restaurants, but they are all very good, and their locations are spread out so that many Bostonians can get to at least one easily enough (though South Shore residents may have a slightly more difficult time of it). And while the food at these places makes it tough to choose which one to go to, the atmosphere at each is pretty different, ranging from exotic (Addis Red Sea) to a bit rough-and-tumble (Fasika). And somewhere in the middle is an unassuming spot in Malden called Habesha, which may be the best bet for those who are perhaps more interested in food then environment.
Habesha Restaurant is tiny place located in a strip of small stores just north of Malden Center. With an old bar taking up much of the dining room, beams going from ceiling to floor, and a handful of tables scattered about, the interior of Habesha has a layout that suggests it was a local watering hole or perhaps an old-school restaurant in the past. Posters of Ethiopia on the yellow walls, drapes in the window, white tablecloths, and dim lighting throughout do give the otherwise plain-looking room a bit of charm, as does the world music softly playing in the background. Service is friendly and helpful, with servers being more than willing to answer questions about the dishes listed on the menu.
The menu at Habesha includes mostly beef, lamb, and chicken dishes, with prices being quite reasonable for the amount of food diners receive (many items are around $10 or $12). Spice lovers will likely be very happy here, as all kinds of spices are used in the dishes, including hot paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger. For those unsure of what to try, the Habesha Special is a good place to start, as it comes with a number of items, including lentils (with a lot of paprika mixed in, giving them a smoky taste), spinach, split peas, cabbage, chicken, beef, and salad. If you like your food hot and spicy, the awaze tibs (marinated beef with garlic and spices) is an outstanding choice, with a sweat-inducing mix of garlic, hot paprika, hot chilis, ginger, and cardamom in the sauce. There are milder dishes as well at Habesha, including yebeg tibs (lamb with onion, pepper, and rosemary), gored gored (cubes of beef mixed with butter), and a vegetarian dish that has peas, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, green beans, lentils, and spinach. As is the case with Ethiopian food, there is no silverware; instead, a spongy flatbread called injera is included with each dish, which allows diners to create a sort of sandwich or scoop to eat the food.
Habesha is certainly an excellent option for Ethiopian cuisine, and while the atmosphere is a bit more subdued than at the other Ethiopian restaurants in the Boston area, it is attractive enough and pretty comfortable as well. Its nearly invisible location makes it easy to miss, but parking is relatively easy and it is close enough to Route 60 and Malden Center to be pretty convenient to get to. The city of Malden, which is slowly but surely becoming a destination place for dining, has yet another winner of a restaurant with Habesha.
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