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For a long time a certain restaurant named after a certain river in Egypt dominated the Ethiopian food scene in Houston. Said restaurant, which is still around, serves terrific doro watt, lamb tibbs, and other classic Ethiopian fare, but its monopoly on this national cuisine couldn’t possibly last as Houston increasingly diversified. (I mean, could you imagine only one hamburger chain in America?). Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge emerged as a testament to the burgeoning population of H-town diners interested in regionally specific African cuisine as well as served as a welcome addition to the class of restaurants that double as vibrant nightlife spots.

Located just off of 610 and with ample parking, Lucy is very popular destination for office lunches, family dinners, and after 9 p.m., revelers eager to follow up food with dancing. To attend to these different crowds, Lucy’s simplistic red and green facade gives way to an exponentially more exuberant interior that manages to gracefully combine three different types of spaces: homey dining room, chic bar, and swanky lounge.

Combinations are also the name of the game when it comes to ordering at Lucy, which true to traditional Ethiopian-style dining, specializes in different mixed platters of plants and proteins served atop the nation’s signature carbohydrate, injera. A moist, soft fibrous bread often unfortunately described as “spongy” (as if chowing down on Scotch Brite is appealing), injera is made from a grain called teff, whose extremely high iron content is said to contribute the Ethiopia’s historic excellence in long-distance running. The texture of injera is especially suited to scooping and sopping up the stew-like consistency of Ethiopian dishes like the trademark yedoro wat, chicken parts marinating in a sweet-savory barbeque sauce and garnished with a whole hard-boiled egg. Other standouts, which as previously mentioned can and should be combined in quintot plates for group consumption, include kifto, seasoned minced beef laced with butter and cottage cheese, or the atkilt alitcha, stir-fried carrots, onions, cabbage, and potatoes seasoned with garlic and ginger.

There is a limited selection of appetizers and desserts, but that’s fine because entree portions are large and filling. If, however, you’re intent on a multi-course meal, order sambusa, triangular fried pastries stuffed with your choice of beef of green peppers, lentils, and onions, to start as well as a small bottle of honey wine. Ostensibly, that bottle will be to share, but a few sips of these sweet amber extracts and you may need to order another just for yourself.

Regardless, between the booze and the injera, you’re fueled to dance all night and run a marathon the next morning.

Joanna O'Leary

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