In one of the most diverse cities in the country, we have the unique opportunity to expand our cultural horizons by eating at a wide variety of authentic ethnic restaurants. Coming from a suburb, I had not been exposed to several cuisines until I came to Rice, including Ethiopian food.

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge serves Ethiopian dishes in a colorful setting that includes a lounge (somewhat randomly placed) in the back of the restaurant. Lucy is a great spot for newcomers who are unfamiliar with the culture or food. First, they explain Ethiopian terms on the sides of the menu. Although I went with a large group, none of us were very familiar with the dishes on the menu. As a result, our server graciously ordered all the food for the table after taking into account our dietary restrictions and explained what was in each dish as it was served. I highly recommend going to Lucy in a group, both to maximize the amount of food you get to try and to order the special entrees.

My group started our meal with sambusas and roasted red bell pepper hummus. Sambusas are reminiscent of Indian samosas but are filled with onions, green peppers, lentils and beef. The sweet chili sauce provided a nice tang to balance the starchy sambusa. The roasted red bell pepper hummus was a blend of chickpeas, tahini, roasted red peppers and garlic served with slices of toasted pita. This appetizer outshone the sambusa with its creamy texture and richer flavor.

The next course consisted of the special entrees, which are large sampler platters big enough to feed a few people. There are several special entrees to choose from, are all served with injera. Injera is similar to a crepe but with a spongier texture. We were told to unroll the injera and tear it into pieces that we could use to grab bites of food from the platter and eat with our hands.

The meat and veggies combo platter consisted of yellow lentils, spicy red lentils, green peas, cabbage and house salad. You will not find pork on Lucy’s menu, but you will find chicken, beef and lamb. The meats were all mixed with different ingredients including onions, jalapeños, tomatoes and garlic. One spice used for the beef called berbere— a blend of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil and other herbs — is a key ingredient of Ethiopian food. The lega tibs, or beef mixed with berbere sauce, was my favorite item in the special entrees, but it was a fun experience to sample the other meats.

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We ended the feast with ice cream and baklava, which I did not expect to find in an Ethiopian restaurant. There were not many dessert options, so I would recommend ordering the baklava or finding a dessert place in nearby Hillcroft.

Lucy is a unique, relaxed restaurant for large groups, which is actually possible since it takes reservations. If you order the special entrees for the group to share instead of individual entrees, you can sample a wide variety of Ethiopian dishes at a reasonable price. Overall, it’s a great way to expand beyond the restaurants that would normally be in your comfort zone.