Nile Ethiopian in Orlando Is Worth the Three-Hour Drive

Categories: Travel Hog

ethiopian-small.jpg
It tastes better than it looks, guaranteed.
When I tell people Ethiopian food is my favorite, I'm often met with a blank stare. It's understandable, particularly in Miami, where you can't find this kind of cuisine within a 200-mile radius. The closest eatery is Nile Ethiopian in Orlando, tucked away off the madness of International Drive.

So, what the hell is it? It's a delicious mashup of spicy, stew-like dishes, all served atop and eaten with a spongy flatbread called injera. Red lentils, split peas, cabbage (and lamb, beef, and chicken for meat eaters) are all standard additions to this East African fare.

And trust me, eating it is worth every damn minute of the three-hour drive to Orlando.

See also: Miami Needs An Ethiopian Restaurant For Christmas

Miami wasn't always without Ethiopian options. We had a restaurant or two at one time, but they faded into oblivion right along with a million other Magic City eateries. The last one, Sheba, closed several years ago, and much to my chagrin, there are no signs of any to come.

The good news is Orlando's sole joint is exceptional. From service to execution, they do Ethiopian right, and it's always a pleasure eating there.

injera.jpg
Injera, a spongy, yeasty flatbread made with fermented teff flour. Use to to eat everything on your plate.
Because I'm an herbivore, I always stick with Nile's vegetarian combination, an assortment of various meatless dishes, as follows:

  • Kik alicha: A mild stew-like dish of yellow split peas cooked with onions, garlic, and green peppers.
  • Misir wat: Red lentils cooked with onions, garlic, and red pepper sauce.
  • Gomen wat: Moist and tender collard greens cooked with onions, garlic, and oil.
  • Tikel gomen: An intensely flavorful mix of cabbage and carrots cooked with garlic and ginger (by far my favorite).

It's served on a piece of injera, which, honestly, looks kind of like a dish towel. It's grayish, it's flat, and it has the texture of a kitchen sponge. Don't be put off. Made with a fermented flour called teff, it's slightly sour and pairs perfectly with their standard spices. The meal also comes with a basket of the bread, each piece looking like a drab Fruit Roll-Up. You tear off little pieces to use as a scoop for the other food on your plate -- no silverware. The food is typically also served family style, so it's to your advantage to make sure your dining companions wash their paws before dinner.

All of the above dishes are fairly mild, but there are plenty of spicy Ethiopian options, including doro wat (a chicken stew), among others. Ask your server for advice. He or she will be happy to oblige.

Speaking of service: It's stellar. Once on a particularly trying Orlando trip, I showed up at the restaurant for takeout. It was closed despite what I'd read online. One of the owners was pulling up just as I was sinking into despair, and she told me they'd changed their hours. But when she saw my look of absolute dejection, she offered to cook for me anyway.

Now that's service.

So next time you're passing through town before or after Disney, skip Medieval Times and IHOP and opt for some Ethiopian grub instead. You might be pleasantly surprised. But bring some wet wipes. You'll need 'em.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.

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11 comments
Jimbo99
Jimbo99

I wouldn't eat this if I were invited over as a guest. Make sure you eat before going. This food isn't anything special, if you want hummus, get hummus, don't pass it off as authentic Ethiopian slop.

Dex305
Dex305

Next time i am in Orlando I will be trying this place out

Jonathan Arnold
Jonathan Arnold

Funny I'm reading an article on this restaurant as I ate here a few months ago on a biz trip. The place is definitely authentic. The food was good but I wasn't blown away. I don't think it would work in Miami. This type of cuisine people would eat once in a blue moon. I kinda compare it to The Melting Pot as just one of those places you would eat at maybe once or twice a year. With that said, if your in the area and want to try something COMPLETELY different and enjoyable, I RECOMMEND IT.

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

"When I tell people Ethiopian food is my favorite, I'm often met with a blank stare."

Because no one expects there to be food in Ethiopia, nevermind a restaurant with food from there.

Zach Thrasher
Zach Thrasher

Sounds a little weird but I'm down to check it out.

Desirée Marengo
Desirée Marengo

Philip George Zach Thrasher Anthony Maldonado Amy Jeanine go check this place out and tell me if that's true!

tammyrf
tammyrf

You are a Philistine. Your ignorance is showing.

tammyrf
tammyrf

Old joke. Not funny. Read a book sometime.

realtvaddict
realtvaddict

Fuck you.. I'm surprised u got internet access in a shitty ass trailer park.

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

@tammyrf "It tastes better than it looks, guaranteed." Hey, I didn't caption the photo either ? LOL, as for the service rating in the story, yeah they better suck up to me after bringing this out and charging $ 12-15 a plate for it ? Sorry you don't like my review, but at the end of the day others will scrutinize it far more harshly than I will.

Besides, why drive 3-4 hours, they serve this over at Rice House of Kabob.

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