Rating: **** (out of *****)
Location: 338 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ
Hours: 11:30 am - 12 am, 7 days a week
A cornerstone of Ethiopian history is the story of Makeda, Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon. According to legend, Makeda was a beautiful woman who was tricked by King Solomon into becoming his wife. It is appropriate that New Brunswick's Ethiopian eatery is named after this famous queen.
Upon entering, you'll find yourself in a stylish dining atmosphere, contemporary with a tribal flair. In the first room there are colorful basket-weave tables (called Mossobs) with little stools to sit on. These tables don't have much surface area, so if you're sitting at one with someone else you'd better order a communal dish to share. If you'd prefer to sit at a regular table, there is also a lovely candlelit dining room.
The menu offers a large selection of meat and seafood-based dishes, and there are also a lot that are strictly vegetarian. To be honest, I've only had one of the entrees, the "Best of the Best" platter. This is an enormous dish, made to be shared between two, three, or even four people, and contains a bit of nearly everything on the menu. The meal comes with injera, a soft flat bread that's slightly spongy. Injera is not just a food, but an eating utensil as well, as it is used to pick up the various vegetables, meats, and sauces on the plate. I suspect that all or most of the entrees come with injera, but I couldn't say for certain because I haven't had the chance to order them yet. The "Best of the Best" platter, however, is definitely a fun and exotic dish to enjoy with your dining companions.
Be warned, though: the prices are steep. At least to a college student like myself they are. Your best bet, if you don't wish to spend a lot, is to go during lunch hours when the prices are significantly lower. Lunch entrees are about $9-13 for poultry/beef, $16 for seafood, and $7-9 for vegetable. The lunch menu also has some tasty-looking wraps for about seven or eight dollars, and there's a lunch special which consists of one meat entree and two vegetable entrees (or four vegetable entrees) for $7.95. The "Best of the Best" platter costs $25 during lunchtime (remember, you'd be splitting the cost between two or more people). During dinner hours, on the other hand, the same thing will cost you $46, while other entrees are priced in the $19-24 range (vegetable dishes are slightly less).
Despite the prices, Makeda is definitely worth going to. The servings are generous and the food is extremely well-prepared. The staff is friendly and you don't have to wait very long for your food. And besides, where else are you going to find authentic Ethiopian food? According to the web site, it is the only restaurant of its kind in New Jersey. If you're looking for entertainment as well, Makeda has live bands performing on the weekends.
So if you're getting bored with the same old burgers and Italian food, why not go to Makeda and have something truly different?