Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • February-March 2022 • Circulation 5000

A Taste of Ethiopia on Norwood Blvd.

Zembaba on 111 Avenue. John Hooper

9570 111 Avenue
(780) 756-2626

I enjoy finding hole-in-the-wall places and Zembaba is certainly one of them. Unassuming in a business row along Norwood Blvd (111 Ave.), it occupies a small section fitting nine tables. Refurbished wooden remnants from a long-ago store were combined with laminate flooring, a reasonable paint job and (mostly) matching curtains in the windows.

As I entered, there was no one there to greet me, but another patron invited me to just sit anywhere. Shortly, a waitress came by and gave me a quaintly misspelled menu, which listed several dishes under the headings Tibbs, Lamb Stew, Beef, and Veggie Combo, all between $12.99 and $14.99. I started to ask questions and she said, “let me get Mom.” “Mom” told me what she would cook and how she would cook it. I opted for the “Award-Winning” Kitfo, which was spicy marinated beef with collards and cottage cheese. Even though they had full bar service and coffee bar, I simply opted for a water which they brought in a bottle (and charged me $2 for).

Since Ethiopian food is eaten without utensils, hand sanitizer was thoughtfully placed on each table along with a few serviettes. The meal was delivered rather shortly: three piles of ground beef, with some dry spices, and a lettuce salad with a few cucumbers and a light oil dressing, with the obligatory injera (an Ethiopian spongy flatbread which is used to scoop up the food). The six or seven rolls weren’t quite enough, but they gladly brought over some more.

The meat was quite similar to dry taco meat that one would make at home. The cottage cheese and collards provided some moisture, taste, and texture, but there wasn’t enough to counteract the spicy beef crumbles. The lettuce provided some contrast to the beef, but I can honestly say I missed some vegetables. Nevertheless, the portions were enough to fill me up and feel reasonably satisfied.

Zembaba seems to be a family-run place. Generally it was quiet – about five people when I arrived at 6 p.m. and only two when I left. Sometimes I’m not too sure how places like this make it at all, but it’s nice to have the diversity of eating establishments in (and near) our neighbourhood and hope residents will give them a chance.

John is a resident of Boyle Street.

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