Lucy Ethiopian has opened on Amherst Street, giving Buffalo its first official Ethiopian Restaurant. I was bummed that I could not make it to the restaurant's opening night mainly because the advent marked a big occasion for many of us who have been anticipating landing such an unusual cuisine. All the same, I was finally able to stop in to place a to-go order and was happy when I was welcomed by friendly owners, a bright and cheery atmosphere, and more seating than I imagined. Owners Naima and Abba (photo - see back story
), were working in the kitchen... and at the counter... and at the tables. A true small business. They told me that business has been brisk considering it was still opening week, and as I talked to them a number of people stopped in to place and pick up orders. It was good to see that there were plenty of people who appeared to be fairly keen on the idea of Ethiopian fare in Black Rock.
As much as I wanted to sit down to eat, I was in a hurry so I ordered the veggie combo to go. The dish contained three varieties of lentils and split peas as well as three vegetables - greens, cabbage and green beans. The lentils each had their own flavor profiles - one distinct from the next. The refreshing nature of this food is that though the spices may excite, they are not overwhelming. For me the food is deeply satisfying. The injera, spongy, soft and a bit sour, makes the meal, and ultimately satisfies your hunger without feeling overly stuffed.
While I was mostly familiar with the food, I was especially taken with some sort of vegetarian lentil-filled puff triangles that Naima tossed into my bag. They turned out to be a treat called sambusa, which is basically a fried pastry dough wrapped around filling (normally filled with meat). I searched my fridge for something to dip them in (how American of me), and came up with a Penang peanut sauce. They combo was terrific. Next time I'm planning on ordering the shiro stew (peas) and the misir wat (lentils), which are my two favorites that were included in the veggie combo.
As with many ethnic restaurants in Buffalo I was mildly disappointed to find that there was no authentic juice selection... just soda pops. I hope that in the future Lucy can provide some natural drinks along the lines of SUFF (made from sunflower seed, TELBA (made from flax seed) and/or BESSO (made from barley). Or even a mixture of the three - a drink called 3D that contains agave. There are some delicious layered fruit blends such as avocado and mango that I bet would be popular in the summertime. I also hope to see the Styrofoam take-out containers replaced with something more earth-friendly - an issue that is still pervasive in way too many Buffalo restaurants.
If you're lovin' the idea of having an Ethiopian restaurant in town, but you're pondering why on earth it's called Lucy, you may find the following story interesting. It's the story behind the name:
Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant and Variety Store
388 Amherst Street - Buffalo NY
Hours are: Mon-Sat 7am to 10pm | Sun 11am to 10pm