It’s difficult to get someone to go eat Ethiopian food with you. The excuse (usually from people who have never eaten Ethiopian food) most people use is, “It’s just brown mush!” The only real reply to that is, “Yes, but it’s delicious brown mush.” That doesn’t go over so well. So when a friend mentioned that she liked Ethiopian food, we decided to try out Meskerem, in the West Village. I should point out that I’ve only eaten Ethiopian food once before, and it was at a restaurant in… well, Arizona. But it was really delicious, so I was very much looking forward to Meskerem.
The food was actually pretty good. I got the vegetarian combo plate, which had dollops of each of Meskerem’s vegetarian options. Some of it was, indeed, brown mush (shro wat, chickpeas). There was also green mush (stewed collard greens), red mush (miser alech and miser wat, two variations on lentils), and yellow mush (cabbage and carrots). All of it served on top of and sopped up with the Ethiopian utensil of choice — injera. Injera is the spongy, slightly sour Ethiopian bread, and is the star of just about every Ethiopian meal. Meskerem’s version is a good one, and they gave us a big mound of the bread (though they forgot to bring napkins until we asked). The only problem with getting such a big pile of the bread is that some of it gets cold by the time you get towards the bottom of the pile.
Meskerem’s biggest problem is a simple one: there are just a few too many tables crammed into it’s tiny space. This resulted in a major annoyance during dinner. Whenever the waiter needed to get to the table next to us, or one of them needed to get up, I was forced to pull my chair forward uncomfortably so that they could get past. This happened about a half-dozen times during our short dinner, and it got more annoying each time. We had a hard time flagging down a server to get more water, though I have to say the food came out very quickly. The noise level was also a little too high to have a normal conversation, due to so many people being packed into such a small space.
If you can get to Meskerem on a slow night or an off time, you might be able to enjoy your meal. The food itself shouldn’t disappoint. But if you stop by and find the restaurant crowded, I would just keep walking.
Meskerem — 124 MacDougal St.