Hillsboro restaurants are adopting an international flair.
Now diners with a love of Ethiopian dishes can fulfill their cravings without making the long drive into Portland.
Lalibela Ethiopian Cafe opened about six months ago in suite F-800 at 5289 NE Elam Young Parkway, the site formerly occupied by the Hi-Tech Cafe.
The restaurant is owned by Doug and Mestowete “Misty” Swenson, who have preserved the menu of American standards lunchtime diners count on – burgers, deli sandwiches, BLTs – and added seven dishes unique to Misty’s Ethiopian roots.
Selections include Yebeg Siga Alich, a mild lamb dish in tomato sauce with garlic and other spices; Atakilt Besiga, strips of beef, carrots and green beans with ginger, garlic and spices; Yebere Siga Wet, a spicy beef dish; and Misty’s personal favorite, Gored-Gored, braised chicken in red pepper sauce with assorted spices.
Lalibela also offers several vegetarian dishes, prepared without butter or other animal products. These feature Ethiopian lentils, split peas and collard greens.
All come with injera, the unique sponge bread made with teff flour that substitutes for fork and spoon when eating these foods the traditional way.
For drinks, Lalibela features Ethiopian sweet honey wine, a homemade specialty, and for caffeine-lovers, one of the most intense coffee experiences available:
Misty’s mother Ethinsh Woldekdan can be seen in a corner of the Lalibela, hand-roasting beans in a small pan. The drink, served hot in a tiny, handleless cup, is a suspension of extremely finely ground coffee, black and almost creamy. Misty has plans to add the traditional coffee ceremony to Lalibela’s itinerary in the near future.
Misty’s family has strong ties to coffee. When she was growing up, her grandfather ran a 50-acre coffee farm outside of Addis Ababa. That farm, now owned by an uncle, is the source for the beans used in Lalibela’s coffee.
Her grandfather also had a restaurant in the city, and Misty learned to cook by observing. Now she’s passing her knowledge to the next generation, teaching her young son, Daniel, to cook traditionally.
The restaurant is named for the historic site in central Ethiopia where 11 churches were cut into solid rock during the 12th century. Misty says it was one of her favorite places to visit before she left for the United States in 1991.
Lalibela Ethiopian Cafe is open for lunch 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 5-8 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, for dinner. It is also open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays. For more information, call 503-640-5678.