GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – Are you in the mood for something different? Have you had baked chicken three times this week? My next stop on the hidden food gem trail took me to a very unexpected place, Little Africa on Fulton Street in Grand Rapids. This place is serving up some amazing Ethiopian food. It was something really out of the box, but so worth a trip over to try.
Ethiopia is a country tucked on the Eastern side of the African continent. The food is quite different than anything I have tried before. It contains a lot of spices such as, chile peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt, some are not common in foods we eat here, so your taste buds are in for a treat. You know what else was unexpected? Little Africa’s owner, Lou. He has owned Little Africa on and off since 2000 and is doing a tremendous job running a one-man operation. My favorite part was the kitchen Lou cooks in. It’s a home kitchen! That’s right, with the same Maple cabinets and range oven that you have at your house. It added even more charm to the cafe and showed the real passion Lou has. Him and many customers in the cafe were on a first name basis, one customer even exclaimed, “Lou we’ve missed you!” as she came barreling in. Lou, an Ethiopian native, is just a nice guy who is excited for people to try his cuisine.
The cafe itself is small and cozy. It has an easy going atmosphere, you just sit down and order at your leisure. There’s a definite African flare inside with the different decorations, funky music, and cool furniture. If you’re interested in learning about African culture, this is the place to start.
Try the tea, just do it! It’s absolutely delicious and enhances the taste of the food. It’s $2.50 for a pot, which is enough for two people. It comes in a tea pot with cute little China teacups. It has a very strong allspice smell that’s intoxicating. But here’s the surprising part, the tea was sweet! So picture this strong spicy smell with a sweet finish, it is unexpected and so tasty. When I commented on how much I liked the tea, Lou simply responded by saying, “Yes, it is very good.”
The group platter
If you’re going to Little Africa with two or more people, go for the group platter. Instead of closing your eyes and choosing something, you get a little bit of everything for $9 a person! Little Africa is all vegan, so their dishes are made up of different types of “wat” which are like thick vegetable stews. On the platter came different vegetables like soy bean, cabbage, lentils, and collard greens. The bread is called “injera” which is like a large sourdough flatbread. It was really flat but had tons of tiny air pockets and a hint of a vinegar taste that was perfect for scooping up the stews. Oh yes, you don’t have silverware here. The bread is your fork, spoon, and plate! It’s a fun and different way to eat and if you want to your kids to branch out their taste buds, they would have a ball eating food this way! You get a little water bowl when the food comes to clean your fingers. At first you think, “I’m not an animal, I can eat neat and clean” and then you blink your eyes and your dunking your fingers for the 100th time. The little bowls were helpful, convenient, and brought the whole experience together.
You get a ton of food on the platters. The food feels filling since the stews are thick and chock-full of veggies and high in protein. When I was done eating I was more than satisfied, but did not feel that gross, heavy kind of full, just happy and energized. A word of advisory, this place is cash only!
I’m pumped that a place like Little Africa exists right here in Grand Rapids. It’s real deal Ethiopian food, a cuisine that I probably would not have normally tried. If you want to experience a new cuisine in a cozy and laid back atmosphere, Little Africa is the place to go! Lou is awesome and is good at acclamating his guests into what Ethiopian food and culture is.
Address: 956 Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503