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Photo by Mabel Suen

Ye Ethiopian Restaurant, which debuted in November east of the Delmar Loop, features a traditional East African menu with beef, lamb, chicken and vegetarian options served with fresh injera – a sourdough-risen flatbread meant to be torn into pieces and used to scoop food.

The venture comes from chef-owner Teddy Argaw. In 2009, the Ethiopian native was operating a similar venture in the metro area called Selam Ethiopian Restaurant, which he sold after three years. Subsequently, Argaw opened this new restaurant, named after a moniker of his brother, Naty, who now lends a hand in the business behind the scenes.

“This is a family-oriented restaurant,” Argaw says. “We welcome anybody that wants to try Ethiopian food. I love cooking and making sure the customers love it.”

Ye Ethiopian Restaurant fills the 4,000-square-foot space previously occupied by It’s A Wrap Health Food & Fitness Bar, with more than a dozen tables and booths beside a bar. The logo and interior feature the primary colors of the Ethiopian flag, green, yellow and red.

In the kitchen, Argaw cooks with kibe, spiced, clarified butter with such flavorings as Ethiopian-grown chilies, ginger, garlic, onions, basil, bishop’s weed (which resembles thyme) and powder of ensete plants (which resemble banana trees). It almost goes without saying that enjoying any of his dishes would make a fine culinary prelude to attending a performance of Fences from The St. Louis Black Repertory.

Specialties include national dishes like Argaw’s family recipe for kitfo, an entrée made of lean ground beef mixed with coriander, mitmita (a hot spice blend) and kibe. Another highlight, zilzil tibs, known as the Teddy Special, comprises beef strips in red chili pepper sauce, served on a hot skillet. Appetizers include sambusas with chicken, ground beef or a vegetarian blend of lentils, onions and jalapeño.

Guests can order beef, lamb and vegetarian plates à la carte or in various combinations. The largest meat and vegetable combination platter, for instance, comprises spiced beef stew, mild lamb tibs, chicken tibs, fried beef, spicy split lentils, string beans and carrots, collard greens and yetimatim selata (tomato salad).

Additional options include whole fried tilapia with rice and salad, as well as spaghetti with tomato or meat sauce. In the future, Argaw hopes to acquire a liquor license to serve beverages like Ethiopian beer and honey wine. Avocado and mango juice also will be available.

“I want to bring good food and our culture to the community,” Argaw says. “People want to try new things. And here, the customer is always king.”

Ye Ethiopian Restaurant, 5916 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314-361-9202, yeethiopianrestaurant.com

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