Since moving to Fort Wayne in 2002, I’ve witnessed a revolution in dining options. I will never forget the first time I rolled into town. I was greeted by an onslaught of chain restaurants lining the city’s major corridors. At first glance, there weren’t a lot of choices for ethnic foods either.
To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. But, after discovering some of the culinary gems hidden in out-of-the-way neighborhoods, I became hopeful that a movement towards locally established restaurants would take hold.
Slowly but surely, as the locavore movement made its way to the Midwest, more local options started cropping up. Today, Fort Wayne has become a city of restaurants, offering a nice mix of ethnic and traditional cuisine, satisfying even the snobbiest epicureans, myself included.
The most recent locally-owned dining option to hit the scene is Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian restaurant located on East State Boulevard in the former Lemongrass space. Since I moved here, three or four restaurants have tried to make a go of it in that space without luck, but I am hopeful that Fort Wayne is ready to embrace something new and adventurous.
If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, you are in for a treat. Though it is one of the most unique cuisines in the world, the food is rather simple, but steeped in tradition. It is typically shared from a common plate, signifying the bonds of friendship and loyalty. Don’t be taken aback by the lack of utensils. Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands, though utensils are available upon request at Queen of Sheba. Most dishes contain vegetables and meats seasoned with bebere, a spicy combination of chili powder and other local spices, and served atop injera, a sourdough flatbread that is used to pick up each bite.
A vegetarian buffet is available on weekdays, featuring a wide variety of vegetable dishes and an endless supply of the tangy injera. I especially like the Gomen (fresh collard greens) and Miser Alicha (lentils marinated in ginger, garlic, onions, olive oil, and curry).
On weekends, a full buffet is available, featuring both vegetarian and meat dishes. This is a great way to try a variety of dishes. If buffet is not your style, you may order from the menu at any time.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Doro Kay Wat, two tender chicken legs simmered in spicy sauce and served with a hardboiled eggs.
- Siga Wat, cubed prime beef sautéed and simmered in a spicy sauce.
- Ye’miser Sambussa, two hand-wrapped thin pastries filled with brown lentils, onions, scallions, peppers and herbs.
- Ezekiel stew, a hearty dish made with sixteen kinds of grains and beans.
Regardless of whether you order from the menu or choose the buffet, you’ll surely enjoy the experience.
Coffee aficionados must opt for the coffee ceremony. Beans are roasted in front of guests in a clay pot and the preparer walks around wafting the smoke throughout the dining room so participants may sample the scent of coffee. My coffee snob friends said it was some of the best they’ve ever had.
The strip mall ambiance leaves something to be desired, but your taste buds will thank you. Each dish is carefully prepared with an exotic blend of unique spices, and the opportunity to eat with your hands is kind of fun too! And a special bonus: the owners are extremely helpful and willing to answer your questions and make recommendations from the menu.
Queen of Sheba
2805 East State Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46805
Monday-Friday 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Saturday- Sunday 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
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