JebenaInterior.JPG
The menu at Jebena Café isn't very different from the one at Seattle's many other

Ethiopian restaurants. If anything, it's a bit smaller, a factor

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Jebena Café Does a Service to Ethiopian Food

JebenaInterior.JPG
The menu at Jebena Café isn't very different from the one at Seattle's many other

Ethiopian restaurants. If anything, it's a bit smaller, a factor that may contribute to Jebena's ability to produce brighter vegetable dishes, more intricate and appealing salads, and softer injera, the spongy flatbread that serves as plate, utensil, and staple food of Ethiopian cuisine. The food, with its lift from freshness, sets Jebena above some of its Ethiopian restaurant competition, but the service and atmosphere set Jebena apart from almost any restaurant in the city.

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It is unclear which is more surprising: that this sleepy Pinehurst Ethiopian restaurant has a line out the door on a Monday night (well, there isn't really anywhere else for a line to go in the petite eatery), or that in order to help out, a loyal customer was apologizing to waiting patrons as she helped the server by clearing her own table. Even with just a five-minute wait, the staff apologized profusely about it. This respect, of the previous patron toward the restaurant, and of the staff to the diners, was present in every aspect of the meal. Respect of great ingredients in the freshness and care in cooking, respect of customer dietary needs in offering gluten-free injera, and respect of the diner with excellent service.

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It seems only fitting that a place that cares so much about the customer experience also cares that much about serving quality food. The meat combination is always an easy way to take a baby step into Ethiopian food, and here is no different. One order feeds nearly two people and introduces you to qey wot (lamb stew), beef tibs (a sautéed meat dish), and whichever of the vegetable dishes are fresh in the kitchen: possibly a mixed cabbage dish, a baby-greens salad, some lentils, and a scoop of garlicky spinach. The bright green of the spinach highlighted the difference between Jebena Café and other Ethiopian joints, where the slightly yellowed hue of overcooking is ever-present. Similarly, the light hint of crunch left in the cabbage and in the beef's peppers served as a textural reminder.

The light-green walls and blonde wood floors offer a warmth that is matched by the red-and-white checked tablecloths. The décor creates a homespun feeling that is only enhanced by the friendly and casual service, all of which make customers feel right at home. Thus, they help out by clearing their own table, they hugs the owner, they attend the café's coffee roasting classes, and above all, they happily line up on a Monday night for a meal at Jebena Café.

Follow Voracious on Facebook & Twitter. Find more from Naomi Bishop on her blog, The GastroGnome, or on Twitter.

 
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