A Biblical Lunch at Queen of Sheba

I was curious about an Ethiopian restaurant that would name itself after a minor character in the old Testament.

Turns out, Queen of Sheba Restaurant is an oasis of delicious vegetarian food. It is located on Taylorsville Road, past Strathmoor Village.

The neighborhood, decor, and service at Queen of Sheba are unremarkable. The food, however, is exquisite and such a good value, I actually took a photo of our bill.

This would buy a bottle of Malbec and an order of fries at most restaurants.

We started by splitting a kosta wrap. This turned out to be spinach sauteed with onions and mixed with aybe, an acid-based cheese.

Americans will never really understand acid-based cheese, which is a staple of Indian, Pakistani, Ethiopian, and other cuisines. And when you call something “acid-based,” it sounds awful.

So Eastern restaurateurs have conspired to explain it to us as “cottage cheese.” In fact, it has qualities of cream cheese and yogurt, but it’s quite a bit drier and it holds up under heat.

The contents of the kosta wrap come swathed in injera. According to Wikipedia, this particular flatbread was invented in the horn of Africa. It tastes like pita got together with a sponge cake and a loaf of sourdough and somehow made a baby.

Injera might be an acquired taste for some people. The crime partner and I took to it immediately. Our appetizer was delicious, so I had high hopes for my entree, a dish called “Fossolia.” I was not disappointed.

Fossolia is a vegan dish of green beans, carrots, onions, and a proprietary mixture of seasonings. If you are a vegan and looking for something really rich to eat for a change, this is it.

Dead lamb to the right, vegetables to the left.

I have eaten Ethiopian food before and, to be honest, and it left me feeling kind of “meh.” That was not the case at Queen of Sheba.

I was going to get a glass of Queen of Sheba’s rather legendary honey wine, Sheba Tej. By all accounts, this is something really special, and I love honey wine, also known as mead.

Mead is, indeed, an ancient brew, mentioned in the Bible. This particular brew happens to be making a fierce comeback in our region, thanks mostly to the efforts of New Day Craft, an Indianapolis brewery.

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing Queen of Sheba is the only restaurant in Louisville that serves Sheba Tej.

Authenticity will have to wait for my next visit, though. By the time I got back from washing my hands, the crime partner had ordered a bottle of Cigar Box Malbec which he knows I love. 

A single glass of Cigar Box Malbec can turn any lunch into an event. A bottle and some really awesomely good food becomes an adventure.

(“This will help you with spending money,” the crime partner said, as I returned to the table. It’s true, I’m a little tightfisted, and we were on our way to Target to buy a badly needed replacement vacuum.)

Note that the wait staff at Queen of Sheba will offer to serve your food on one plate if you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. But it’s culturally incorrect to eat Ethiopian food on anything but one big plate. Traditionally, your meal is served on a big injera pancake. You then tear pieces of this pancake and pick up your food with it.

Looking around the busy dining room, we were impressed with the number if Louisvillians who brought their children here instead of McDonalds. Good for them, introducing their kids to healthy food options, instead of caving to peer pressure.

The crime partner is reminding me to praise Queen of Sheba for using cloth napkins. You would go through a forest otherwise, because eating with your hands necessarily involves a lot of napkin use.

The crime partner eating a green salad with his fingers.
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