TravelBites: In Search of Ethiopian at Queen of Sheeba

Many of us in Miami lament the demise of the two Ethiopian restaurants in Miami; Sheba in the Design District and then Kafa in Midtown.  Not sure if it was location or timing, or a bit of both, but it seems to be the only ethnic cuisine currently lacking in Miami-Dade county.

A little research uncovered the Queen of Sheeba in West Palm Beach, a family owned restaurant on a corner of a residential neighborhood that used to be only take-out Soul Food.  

Opened as a full service restaurant serving a mix of authentic Ethiopian and African cuisine in September 2015, we decided to venture up I-95 for a Saturday 7 pm reservation.  The Historic Northwest neighborhood at night can be a little dicey, so we were happy to find parking right in front of the restaurant.  Queen of Sheeba, named after the legendary ruler of Ethiopia, (and spelled with two ee’s “just to be different” owner Lojo Washington says) is small, but very welcoming with lots of authentic Ethiopian décor like carved plates, urns, embroidered pillows and colorful art.  An outdoor seating area in a gated garden area is lovely on a warm night.

But it is the smiling owner and colorfully dressed servers ( one of which is the owners daughter)  that make you feel right at home as you walk thru the door into a cozy bar and living room like waiting area.

We were seated in the main dining room by the window and served a fragrant cinnamon tea while we looked over the menu.  Now Wot and Tibs may sound like a strange new police drama, but in actuality, they are traditional Ethiopian dishes.   That, and the doughy Injera bread that comes with every order and is used instead of utensils to scoop up the dishes.

Doro Wot, which is the National dish of Ethiopian is a chicken dish of seasoned chicken leg and thigh in a sauce of berbere (chili powder) assorted spices and served with a hard boiled egg.

Siga Tibs is a beef dish, also served in a sauce with onion, tomato and rosemary and another favorite authentic dish. Other mains included  Kitfo, beef tartare with cardamom and Asa Tibs, cubed fish with onion, tomato and green pepper.

Each dish comes with a side of salad and choice of vegetable. We selected the Gomen, sautéed collard greens in garlic and Tika Gomen, sautéed cabbage.  Both had a subtle vinegary flavor that was a compliment to the sauced chicken and beef dishes.   Other vegetable choices include dishes with chick peas, lentils and green beans.  A Vegetable Sampler is available with 3 or 5 choices of vegetable and makes for a delicious vegetarian option.

Each main dish and vegetable is spooned onto a plate on top of the injera bread with additional injera neatly rolled on the side.  Instead of a knife and fork, it is totally acceptable to rip off a piece of the injera and scoop up a mouthful.  May not be “first date” food, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing this delicious cuisine.

Starters are also a nice intro, with Qatenga, a buttery injera bread rolled up with berbere and flax and sesame seeds, and Sambusa, sautéed lentil or meat stuffed egg roll shaped patties.

Beverages include tea and soft drinks but also Ethiopian beer, Tej Ethiopian Honey wine, and other wine and beer selections.

Definitely worth the road trip! And maybe encourage them to open in Miami.

Queen of Sheeba is open Tuesday –Saturday for lunch 11:30- 2:30 and again for dinner 5:30-9:30. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Queen of Sheeba

716 N Sapodilla Ave.

West Palm Beach, FL

561 514 0615