- 2804 Taylorsville Road, Louisville, KY, 40205
- Overall User Rating:
- (2 ratings)
- Monday - Sunday: 11:30 a.m.– 2:30 p.m. Monday: Closed for dinner; Tuesday – Thursday 5 to 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday 5 – 10:30 p.m.; Sunday 5 – 9 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
Ever since she dropped in on King Solomon’s court with a caravan full of exotic spices, the Queen of Sheba has been a symbol of abundance and generosity. It’s unknown what sort of spices Her Highness carried in her saddlebags, but one thing is certain: If they were anything like those that Selamawit Deneke wields at her local Ethiopian eatery, Solomon hit the jackpot.
Deneke began serving Ethiopian food here six years ago, at the old Abyssinia on Frankfort Avenue. In 2004, she opened the first iteration of Queen of Sheba in the former Airport Inn cocktail lounge on Bardstown Road.
Those spaces were serviceable enough, but it wasn’t until last spring, when she renovated the old Mazzoni’s on Taylorsville Road, that Deneke found a truly suitable showcase for her cookery. Out went the Mazzoni’s trademark fishing nets; up went paintings of African landscapes. Deneke furnished a side room with colorful mesobs, the traditional straw tables of Ethiopia, and topped them with crisp white linens.
Fortunately, Deneke’s menu hasn’t changed a bit. It still features spicy stews, savory sautéed meats and some of the best vegetarian dishes in the city. And best of all, the prices on the menu nearly match their 2004 levels — and even then Queen of Sheba was already one of the city’s grand dining bargains. The most expensive dish on the menu rings the tab at $11.50 — and for that you get not only Ye-beg tips (cubes of sautéed lamb cooked with onions and green peppers), but a full complement of side dishes.
Deneke’s Queen of Sheba is a place where multitudes can dine royally for a mere pittance. And in this celebratory season — when we honor the spirit of generosity and gratitude — there are few things merrier than sharing a traditional, communal Ethiopian meal with friends and family.
Unless you specify otherwise, all entrees arrive on a single platter in colorful, artfully arranged scoops that rest on a bed of injera, the soft, spongy, slightly sour flatbread that’s unique to Ethiopia. And unless you request flatware, the meal will be served sans silver — but with an endless supply of injera for scooping up the savory bites. The setup might sound a bit odd at first, but it’s a much easier technique to execute than using chopsticks.
One night six of us started with a selection of appetizers, shared a massive combination platter that included seven different dishes, and after spending around $11 a person were barely able to stagger out of the place. Deneke stuffed pastry shells with savory ground meats (or lentils), then fried them up in crunchy dumplings called sambussas ($4). She sautéed spinach, onion and garlic, added a generous dollop of fine-curded cottage cheese (aybe), and wrapped it neatly in injera to make a kosta wrap ($4).
Those of us with more courage than good sense ate seneg karia, fresh green jalapenos that were allegedly stuffed with a spicy blend of diced tomatoes and onions. We found it impossible to judge the stuffing after that first, tear-jerking bite of jalapeno ($3), but a bite of mellow fossolia (green beans, carrots and onions stewed in a light tomato sauce, $4) had a the desired healing effect. For parties that can’t settle on a single appetizer, a generous sampler platter ($7) offers a suitable introduction to the list.
Entrees fall into two broad categories: stews (wots) and sautés (tips, or t’ibs). Within those categories, Deneke offers a mix of mild and carefully judged spicy dishes — a considerate strategy, given the communal service. Those who crave fierce heat should request sides of awaze, a brick-red chili paste; mit-mita, a jalapeno-based spice mix; or berbere, an explosive red chilies powder.
Our meat dishes included doro and sega tips (chunks of garlicky chicken breast and tender cubes of beef sautéed with onions and green peppers; individual entrees, $10.50); alicha sega wot (a mellow, beef and potato stew flavored with ginger, $9.50); and a stunning dish called shifinfin ($11) that looked like an Ethiopian burrito. Cubes of lamb were simmered in a spicy tomato sauce, sprinkled with that creamy house-made aybe cheese, then neatly wrapped in injera. When it was pierced with a fork, the meat and juice spilled forth, releasing a mouth-watering burst of spice-laden steam.
As good as those meat dishes were, the bright clarity of the vegetarian dishes was better still. I could happily subsist on a diet of kik wot — a spicy lentil stew deeply flavored with onions, garlic, and berbere ($7). But the dish that disappeared faster than any other was a garlicky concoction of collard greens and potatoes called gomen wot. It’s a dish that despite its exotic name was as simple, soulful and comforting as anything you could ever hope to find on a table anywhere in the South. It’s just the sort of dish that will leave you feeling as wise, lucky and certainly as well-fed as Solomon himself.