Indianapolis has a lot of chain restaurants. In fact, it’s home to one of the most chain restaurants per person in the U.S. (see article in Indianapolis Monthly, Chain Reaction; this article gives you some insight into what kind of food you can typically expect in Indiana). Unfortunately, people here are often a little reluctant to try things that are unfamiliar, so it can be a bit of a challenge to find an ethnic restaurant let alone one that is independently owned and operated.
In our quest to find great restaurants in Indy, B.B. and I went to an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant on the Westside of town called Major Restaurant. Not accustomed to Ethiopian and Eritrean food, we asked the friendly restaurant owner what he recommended. He suggested that we try a sampler plate with a variety of vegetables (collard greens, cabbage, salad, lentils) and meats (lamb and chicken).
The meal was served on a large plate along with side plates of injera, a bread used to scoop up the food. This flat bread looks a bit like a crêpe but tastes similar to sour dough bread. The injera is made out of a grain called teff which is only grown in Ethiopia and India (see article Whole Grains: Teff ). Teff is an ancient grain similar to quinoa in that it is high in fiber, iron, protein, calcium, and is gluten-free.
If you are a vegetarian, it’s a great place to eat because of the wide selection of vegetarian options including lentils in varying degrees of spice. There are different kinds of flavours used including sesame and safflower oils, ginger, shiro.For those not quite adventurous enough to try the full selection of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, you can also stick to something more mainstream like spaghetti (both Ethiopia and Eritrea were occupied by the Italians in the ‘30’s and 40’s). However, you’re definitely missing out on fantastic cuisine if you don’t give it a chance (live a little and try it!).
Knowing that Eritrean coffee is delicious, we also ordered some Ethiopian Coffee which was roasted and the beans were brought to our table on a straw mat (the aromatic smell and crackling of the beans is very enjoyable). They then took the beans away to grind and it was brought back in a clay pot called a jebena. This is poured into a small cup called a cini. The coffee is similar to espresso. It was delicious coffee! Adding to the coffee experience was a small dish of incense.
The food was very satisfying and I highly recommend giving this restaurant a shot. It’s a little difficult to find, but if you take I-465 and get off at exit 12, Washington Street, it’s just East of the exit (inside the 465 loop) and near a funky 5-way intersection (take a left).
Major Restaurant, 1150 S Mickley Ave, Indianapolis, IN (317) 240-2700.