I live in the northeast suburbs of Memphis, and often bristle at the downtown/midtown criticism of my neighborhood as nothing but a sea of chain restaurants and those kind of people that still use forks at Chinese places. Sure, these things exist, but the spaces in between reveal a wealth of gastronomic diversity and enthusiasm, as well as a diverse immigrant population that might surprise you if you don't live in the area.
In an area that is associated with a car culture, I have amazing choices within walking distance (2 mile radius): two Thai places, one Vietnamese, a giant international grocery store, an independent bakery, three Middle Eastern restaurants, two Indian, and much more. Just last week I was going past the movie theater (half a mile away) when I noticed a brand new Ethiopian restaurant (right next door to the grilled fish and chicken place owned and inspired by a South African), and a couple of doors down from the fun dim sum joint, and within view of the Taiwanese bubble tea cafe.
The name of the restaurant is, simply:
1134 N. Germantown Parkway, Ste. 107
Cordova, TN 38016
Open Tuesday - Sunday
Takeout is available, but I'd really suggest eating at the restaurant and bring some friends. I fell in love with Ethiopian food years ago at Abyssinia in Midtown, and learned the joys of true communal dining. Not just eating at the same table, but from the same large dish with hands and injera.
If you're unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine, you have to start with the odd light brown spongy bread that lines the bottom of platters and is used to pick up food. This is injera, a sort of light sourdough pancake traditionally made from teff, but also made from regular wheat flour. Injera is not as strong as tortillas or naan. Closer to crepes but with way more bubbles, and often the size of a medium pizza when fully unrolled and uncut. Using only your right hand, you tear off pieces of injera to grab thick stews and vegetables and other goodies, and then eat the bread when it gets soggy (and delicious). I particularly love the leftover pieces at the bottom of the platter that have been soaking up the stew juices for the entire meal. I'll reach a point of sensible satiation and decide to stop eating the protein and vegetables, but will still continue nibbling on injera.
It's so much fun to eat together from the same platter, especially since everyone will have different favorites and different combinations, and there's a gentle combination of trying to enjoy the heavily seasoned meat without depriving your fellow diners.
When I found the restaurant, I didn't want to wait to recruit some fellow food enthusiasts in the Memphis metro area. So close to my house and it's been so long since I've had Ethiopian? I'm there. But I'd never eaten it alone, and wasn't sure how this would work. Thankfully, the restaurant is well-equipped for the solo diner. If you're eating in a group they will plate everything more traditionally, but I was delighted with my large platter that ran me a mere $12. I ordered beef tibs--a grilled beef dish that's normally reserved for special occasions back in the home country. The beef was cooked with onions and berbere (a chile/ginger/garlic spice blend) and served with stewed potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, a little salad (sort of a dry salsa with parsley, onion, garlic, chiles), and creamed corn. Peeking out of the bottom right is stewed spinach, which is often combined with a kind of ricotta-like cheese.
The waitress asked me if I needed a spoon, but I politely declined and dove in with the injera. The food was amazing and while I didn't quite scrape the plate clean, I got close. So many wonderful, exotic flavors, and such a different style of dining, all amplified by the Ethiopians around me speaking solely in Amharic. This kind of experience really fires up the food lover soul on every sensory level.
A few days later, I had to go back but this time I tried takeout. I decided to go with the doro wat, the most famous Ethiopian dish. There's a dense chicken stew served with the above sides plus a whole boiled egg. The doro wot was delicious, but consuming it out of a styrofoam container wasn't quite the same.
Right now the menu is temporary, and I can't wait to see what they offer in the future. Check it out, and if you eat there, let me know what you think.