Best African Restaurant
Ethiopian and Eritrean food is an acquired taste for some, but once you acquire it, you're likely to keep coming back for more. Spicy, tasty, and quite healthy, the Abyssinian dining experience centers around injera, a spongy, pancake-like bread which is used to sop up the juicy beef, lamb, chicken, legumes, and vegetables that comprise the basic Ethiopian diet. Traditionally, you eat with your hands. The East Bay is home to a growing East-African community and an ever-expanding number of Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants (which offer highly similar fare). That means that it's easier than ever to get doro wot or chicken t'ibs in many neighborhood locales, with North Oakland boasting the highest amount of Ethio-cuisine density. Messob is a relatively recent addition to the Piedmont Avenue food scene. This cozy little spot impressed an Ethiopian friend's visiting mother with its traditional qualities, which is probably a more solid endorsement than any review from a food critic could ever be. The no-frills decor doesn't exactly evoke the legend of Solomon and Sheba, and there are fewer menu items here than some of the more established East Bay restaurants, but the emphasis seems to be on quality over quantity. We're partial to the kitfo, ground beef slathered in spicy Ethiopian butter and traditionally served raw (although you can also order it with varying degrees of done-ness). Vegetarian entrées such as shiro wot (seasoned and pureed garbanzos) and ater kik alicha (split peas and ginger in tumeric sauce) are equally tasty. One thing Messob offers that you don't always find in Ethiopian restaurants are two Piscean entrées: fish gored gored and fish t'ibs. That should appeal to catfish lovers, or anyone seeking a change from American soul food to the original soul food. Wash it down with some tej (honey wine) or a Meta beer.