From East Hollywood to Koreatown, LA is full of big, bustling neighborhoods. Little Ethiopia is not one of them. But despite its small size (roughly one long block between Olympic and Whitworth on Fairfax), it’s still jam-packed with some truly elite cuisine. From markets and vegan restaurants to coffee shops and big-group dinner spots, here’s our guide to the best places to eat and drink in Little Ethiopia.
If there’s a crown jewel of Little Ethiopia, it’s Meals By Genet. This tiny spot isn’t just tops in Little Ethiopia, it’s one of the must-visit restaurants in Los Angeles. Yes, the hours are funky and the price point is higher than what you’ll pay in the rest of the neighborhood, but guess what? It’s worth it. The food is truly top notch (the spicy chicken dorowot is a must) and the vibe inside is perfect for a date night - or any meal when you can’t handle another bowl of pasta.
Rosalind’s is where you go when the party comes to Little Ethiopia. The food is good, but Rosalind’s large space caters better to your big-group dinner than anywhere else in the neighborhood. The interior is colorful and festive, with individual thatched roofs attached to the walls, and a crowd that’s enjoying the tiny dance floor and live music on the weekends - plus a full bar stocked with all the traditional Ethiopian beer and wine you can handle. Let’s party.
For more three decades, Messob has been a Little Ethiopia staple - one that perfectly combines the upscale, romantic feel of Meals By Genet and the festive atmosphere of Rosalind’s across the street. And that means it’s also an ideal casual date spot. The food is as good as it gets, but at Messob, the art of gursha (hand-feeding your lover) is taken quite seriously. So roll up that ball of injera, stuff it with lentils, and put that baby right into your date’s mouth.
Like its name suggests, Merkato is very much a functioning market. But there’s also a tiny adjacent dining room that’s cranking out some of the best and most affordable food in the neighborhood. Our move is to always to go vegetarian at Merkato because frankly, it’s too good to pass up. Their Vegi Combo is a must-order, with gigantic helpings of four different vegetarian options clocking in at a cool $11.99. Grab yourself a quick glass of Ethiopian honey wine and have yourself a lunch.
OK, so this is definitely not an Ethiopian restaurant, but it is in Little Ethiopia and it is an excellent coffee shop. They have a fantastic range of both tea and coffee and a solid grab-and-go sandwich menu, as well. There’s free Wifi, and if you live in the area, there isn’t a better place to roll in with your laptop, grab a cup of coffee, and get some work done.
Buna Ethiopian Restaurant And Market
Directly next door to Merkato is another market and restaurant, Buna. With about six tables in the whole joint, this is easily the smallest restaurant on the block, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in everything else. The delicious food and cheap prices are one thing, but what really sets Buna a part is their open kitchen, allowing you to sneak a peek at how the whole operation goes down. And it’s awesome. Our move at Buna is the meat combo, involving both the lamb and beef stew, and all the injera one can handle.
Little Ethiopia Restaurant is a great neighborhood spot for breakfast - particularly fit-fit, which is basically shredded injera, spices, and butter. It’s like Ethiopian breakfast hash and you want all of it. Also, go in with some friends on the coffee ceremony (order before the meal) and watch your coffee being roasted right at your table. And the $6.99 lunch special never hurt anybody, either.
Ethiopian cooking certainly doesn’t shy away from fish and meat, but that’s not to say there aren’t outstanding vegetarian and vegan options. And Rahel is here to prove it. The only all-vegan restaurant in Little Ethiopia, Rahel has developed a cult following with its vegetable-focused menu and a yemitin shiro wot (chickpea stew) we can’t get enough of. And every day from 11am-3pm they host an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet. See you there.
Just around the corner from the main Fairfax strip on Pico, Awash is an old-school Ethiopian restaurant that revolves around one thing - meat. They offer vegetarian selections, of course, but stick to the beef and poultry here. Particularly, the Special Kitfo - an Ethiopian-style steak tartare mixed with garlic, onions, and jalapenos.