Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant in Seward, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Editor’s Note: Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant is now closed.

You certainly can’t fault Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant for being overly fussy. This straight-down-the-middle first-generation Ethiopian eatery located in the former Raja’s Mahal spot on Franklin Ave. serves classic dishes in an unpretentious manner, with no frills, fusion twists, or updates whatsoever. It therefore lives and dies on its ingredients and technique — and happily, it lives quite vibrantly.

On a recent visit, everything ordered was somewhere between satisfactory and delicious — the quality of meat was good, spicing was profound (with pure, assertive notes of rosemary and cardamom appearing in multiple dishes without shouting down other flavors in the mix), and the injera refills were prompt. They were necessary, too, as the spongy bread-used-as-utensil was in short supply as it was gobbled down along with the contents of an abundant communal plate of food.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Lentil sambusas in a phyllo-style crust ($6 for 6) were delightfully flaky and crunchy, with brightly spiced filling. The interior texture popped — far from a monotonous lentil paste, the interior of each pastry was like a vegetable garden in miniature, with tiny bits of still-recognizable produce each lending their own piece of flavor to the dish.

Lucy’s Tibs ($12, available as chicken, lamb, or beef) were irresistible as a featured menu item. The term “tibs” refers to a method of sauteing chunks of meat, and it can sometimes go awry when the spicing is too heavy or too light, or when poor-quality meat yields more gristle and bone than edible bites. The tibs (we ordered lamb, pictured below right) were quite tender and tasty, with a gentle kick of heat and a good overall balance of flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The restaurant’s Special Kitfo (spiced, cooked ground beef served with a cheese close to a dry cottage cheese, and cooked greens, $12.50) fell a bit short of the tibs — it certainly packed more flavor than mere ground beef, but not much more. The meat, the cheese, and the greens were all relatively retiring in flavor, and the whole package felt as though it needed some kick — and the sight of a large bowl of ground beef flying solo in the middle of the table is a little visually distracting (above, left).

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Better was the vegetarian sampler for two ($16), an assortment good enough that even the meat eaters said they’d come back for it. The shiro (berbere-spiced chickpeas and fried onions) was excellent and quickly decimated, as was a rich, soulful lentil-based dish.

While Lucy’s could use a bit of polish (a Web presence, a bit of menu editing, and the removal of the loud television on the wall would all help quite a bit), the spot’s a gem in the rough for those who seek bold, satisfying Ethiopian flavors.

BEST BET: The vegetarian samplers are entertaining and delicious.

 

Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant
Ethiopian food in Seward, Minneapolis
3025 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612.344.5829
HOURS:
Open Daily (call for details)
BAR: None
ENTREE COST: $9-12

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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6 Comments

  1. ParkerMSP 03/07/2011 Reply

    Traditionally, kitfo shouldn’t be ground. It should be hand-chopped, like tartare, and served either raw or medium-rare. That there looks like taco meat, but a review worthy of a visit nonetheless.

  2. moroco 03/07/2011 Reply

    taco meat should be hand chopped as well.

  3. Good Sambusas. Vegetarian dishes lacked any spice whatsoever. Service was extraordinarily slow and rude. Out of many menu items.

  4. Really Great Hidden Gem of a Place 08/05/2012 Reply

    Went to Lucy’s for the first time last night. Although the place was empty, the service was friendly and the food very tasty. If you want more hot spice, just ask! The servers are very welcoming and the ambiance laid back without any tourist-y drama. I plan to make this a regular casual night out dining spot! Great find!

Trackbacks for this post

  1. […] a couple nights ago at Lucy’s, a new Ethiopian restaurant on Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis. Read my review of Lucy’s here; check out the sambusa below. Becca Dilley / Heavy Table Posted in Sandwich Spotting | Leave a […]

  2. […] Shack Ranch opened very quietly late last year in the former Raja Mahal / Lucy’s space. They didn’t even put up a sign until very recently. That was probably for the best, […]

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