Adding Sunshine to 97 Street
10874- 97 Street
While best known for Asian food in Chinatown and Italian food in Little Italy, McCauley also hosts several other ethnic restaurants, including those featuring African food. The latest addition to these is Sunshine Habesha in the Pacific Cafe building on 97 Street, featuring Ethiopian food.
Walking by one evening, I checked it out to see what the new place looked like and met a friendly few people who seemed like family and proprietors. Promising to return sometime to eat, they looked genuinely hopeful and told me they were open from 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. daily. I did come back on a Tuesday evening about 7 p.m., entered an empty restaurant and, being recognized from the night before, was invited to take a seat anywhere. The simple, tasteful decor matched the red cloths on the table, which was also adorned with condiments, serviettes and a laminated one-page menu. Simple and concise, it listed four breakfast dishes ($8-10) and eight lunch/dinner dishes ($12-15) with short description, plus a few drinks ($2-$5).
I chose to skip anything from the full bar or the list of juices and soft drinks, keeping with the more healthy water (one bottle, $2). The menu sported all exotic dishes, from Kitfo (like steak tartar) to Dilot (a lamb organ stew), to a vegetarian platter with misser alecha, timtmo, shiru wat, and hamli. (No, I don’t know what they are either.) Selecting the lamb over the beef option, I chose Tibsi, a combination of small pieces of meat, onions and peppers sauteed in berebe and in-house-made “special hot sauce.”
The Tibsi came with a garden salad and served on the traditional injera, a moist flat bread. It didn’t look like a lot – nothing on a 12” platter does – yet it was just the right amount. In fact, there were lots of “Goldilocks moments” beside the portion size. The taste, temperature, and texture were all “just right.” I did indulge my yen for spice and added a bit of the “special hot sauce” to kick it up a notch, which not only added heat, but also enhanced the taste, the sign of a good hot sauce. The not-too-sour injera was a perfect complement to the rest of the food, taming the meat and vegetables and replacing utensils with the edible African flatbread. Just rip off a piece, grab some food, and stuff in your mouth – delicious!
With the famous Edmonton neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy among us, it’d be wonderful to have an “Africatown” or “Little Africa” to highlight the diverse food and culture of these peoples. In the meantime, I have to seek out the individual places, but I now know where Sunshine Habesha is!
John lives in Boyle Street.