From Ethiopia to the West Bank: Dilla’s Ethiopian Restaurant
Ask Wagari Hiripa Hunde what his biggest challenge managing his mother’s Dilla’s Ethiopian Restaurant has been, “The winter; this is the most difficult climate for me,” he’ll tell you with a big laugh.
Coming to the West Bank in the last six months, he’ll also tell you, “I am very lucky. I arrived here on Saturday and by Monday morning I was working in the restaurant.” Wagari relocated from Ethiopia on the border with Kenya, and is the oldest son of restaurant owner Beko Tufa. The immigrant son knows it has been the incredible hard work of his mother, who began as an employee at Red Sea 12-years-ago and bought the building at 1813 Riverside 3 years later.
Dillas is named for the town in Ethiopia on the tarmac road between Addis Ababa and Nairobi that was a transfer and trading point and center for the coffee trade. Wagari and his mother Beko both immigrated from Dillas.
We often made the mistake thinking all East African food is the same – Kenyan, Ethiopian, Somalian, and Sudanese – but that is roughly the equivalent to claiming Spanish, Portuguese, Moroccan and French food are all the same because they share geographic borders or proximity. Due to the rise of Ethiopian born and Swedish raised former Minneapolis chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson who has risen to international fame, Americans have become more familiar with this unique and delicious nations cuisine.
“They all eat rice, chickpea, curries and Sambusa but Ethiopian food is very different,” explains Wagari who also eats Kenyan food, “Ethiopians cook a chicken on the fire for hours. The teff in injera is fermented.”
Teff is a grass not wheat and is high in protein, gluten free, the appearance of a crepe and the mild taste of sourdough bread. You won’t find pork or shellfish served in Ethiopian.
Eating at Dillas is a festive treat for couples, groups or families. At the center of the table is a large round platter of spiced meats, vegetables, and legumes served on top of the injera an unleavened flat bread. Shiro, originating in Eritrea, is a stew of chickpeas, onions and garlic. Baskets of the injura are served in baskets and each diner at the table will tear away pieces of the crepe-like bread and use it to scoop up the tasty delights. The food service marks the shared and highly social occasion Ethiopians assigned to eating their meals.
Vegetarians and Vegans are right at home at the Ethiopian table because there is such an incredible array of non-meat options bursting with flavor profiles – spicy, sweet, and earthy – a food often eaten family-style with large trays of gratifying delights where utensils are optional. One flavor that stands out on the centerpiece platter is the MiserWot made with Berberie seasoning and rich red blends of ginger, garlic, cardamom, sun-dried chiles, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, coriander and other spices.
Dilla’s Ethiopian Restaurant
1813 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis
Open: Mon-Sun: 11:00am – 1:30 am