The Greater Boston area is home to several Ethiopian restaurants, and all of them seem to be relatively little-known spots. And one of the newest of them, a spot called Lucy Ethiopian Cafe, is certainly under the radar, even though it resides in one of Boston's busiest areas, within sight of Symphony Hall and very close to the Prudential Center. Is it because the restaurant resides in a rather anonymous-looking spot? Or maybe because it sits at a busy intersection with what appears to be little in the way of parking? Or possibly it is due to the fact that Ethiopian food in general doesn't seem to be a hot or trendy cuisine? Well, it could be due to all of these reasons--at least in part--but Lucy is not a restaurant to be overlooked, as the food is delicious, the prices are low, and the people who run the place are as friendly as can be.
The atmosphere at Ethiopian restaurants in and around Boston ranges from sultry and exotic (Addis Red Sea in the South End) to offbeat (Fasika in East Somerville) to plain and simple (Habesha in Malden), with Lucy Ethiopian Cafe perhaps falling somewhere between the former and the latter. The dining spot is housed in a small two-room space in an otherwise unremarkable strip of businesses near the bottom of a large building, with the front room looking a bit like a basic takeout joint (though the paintings on the walls and the traditional baskets in the middle of the room add some character) and the back room being a little more cozy and quiet (the back room is actually where Ethiopian coffee ceremonies take place--more on that later). Both regular tables with chairs and traditional African "basket" tables with couches are available at Lucy, with the couches being very comfortable--almost too comfortable, actually--and the tables being perhaps the better choice for those who need some back support.
Upon first glance, the menu at Lucy Ethiopian Cafe seems limited, but it really isn't, as it includes breakfast, appetizers, vegetarian plates, meat dishes, wraps, and beverages. Apps include a couple of items with injera (a spongy bread that is basically used in place of silverware), including Timatim Fitfit, a wonderful dish of onions, hot peppers, diced tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and various herbs and spices, all wrapped in the bread. The vegetarian combo plates tend to focus on potatoes and lentils, with the Addis Combo having moderately hot and spicy red lentils, savory split peas with a mix of garlic and ginger, and an earthy mix of spiced potatoes and spinach. For those yearning for a dish with meat in it, the Lega Tibs is tremendous, with chunks of lean and tender beef mixed with tomatoes, two types of peppers (sweet and hot), onions, and garlic, all sauteed in oil and a berbere sauce, which features a complex mix of herbs and spices as well as a little kick from red chili peppers. Wraps include avocado, hummus, and tuna options, while drinks include a sweet and nutty Besso (a frothy shake with sun-dried barley and chocolate sauce), a similarly nutty flax shake with honey and milk, and some of the best coffee in the Boston area--so good, in fact, that sugar and milk/cream aren't really needed. Speaking of coffee, Lucy uses the back room for their aforementioned coffee ceremonies late in the day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with women making coffee from scratch using traditional tools and utensils. For those looking to have breakfast at Lucy, two types of omelets are offered, as well as a pita wrap with eggs, cheese, and veggies, and something called Che Che Bsa, which is an Ethiopian-style bread. Prices for most dishes at Lucy are very inexpensive, with two people easily enjoying a good amount of food for a total of $30 or less.
It may seem odd that there is a hidden gem of a restaurant in one of the most bustling sections of Boston, but Lucy surely is that, a spot buried in a little strip of businesses that simply isn't well known at all. And while many folks don't think of getting Ethiopian food as they might Mexican or Italian, this is a place that should be on anyone's radar, including those who have never tried this type of cuisine. Good food, cheap prices, nice people, and parking that really isn't as tough as it looks--it all makes for a spot that certainly deserves some recognition.
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