Part of a series of restaurant recommendations offered in The Stranger’s 2017 Guide to Food and Drink (International Edition).
The bad news is the Link's Columbia City Station needs more restaurants. The good news is that the two located next to it don't suck. One of these, Bananas Grill, is a family-owned halal restaurant. What you must understand is that the food here is made to reward an extreme hunger. Sure, the lentil soup and sambosas have moments of greatness, but if you have a pressing desire to eat, and you do not want it to be disappointed (there is nothing worse than a wasted hunger), then go to Bananas Grill. Here, the United States, Middle East, and Eastern Africa peacefully coexist on the menu. CHARLES MUDEDE
Jebena already leads the highly competitive race for best Ethiopian restaurant in town based solely on the merits of using the freshest ingredients, the best combination of spices in its shiro wot, the cheerful green walls, and the attention to details (like house-made yogurt and cheese). But what makes Jebena's beef tips and everything else so much better is the service. Martha Ayele dotes on customers, warmly introducing her cuisine to newcomers while cooking the food her regulars and fellow countrymen already know so well, making everyone feel utterly at home in front of her injera. NAOMI TOMKY
This is of one of those places that has very good food and an excellent atmosphere. Whenever I enter the Central District's Lake Chad Cafe, I always feel like I have completely left Seattle, left the Pacific Northwest, left the US all together. The place really does feel African. And it's not a matter of decoration, but of mood and mode. The volume of the music, the arrangement of the tables, the modern furniture, the little stage in the corner, the purple covers on the bar stools, the cramped-looking kitchen—this is exactly how Africa feels and thinks. I recommend the rice with tilapia—the fish of the global south. CHARLES MUDEDE
Meskel stands out among the sea of Ethiopian restaurants with an atmosphere unlike any other—or rather, three atmospheres. In the main restaurant, on the upper floor of a remodeled Central District craftsman, diners dig into the stellar qanta firfir (dried beef and injera). On sunny days, the outdoor patio becomes a place to linger over combo platters of lentil stew, and when the barbecue's running, the air is filled with spices and the tantalizing smoke of mouthwatering meat. And downstairs in the bar, everyone sips Johnny Walker while watching soccer games projected onto the wall. NAOMI TOMKY
I recall walking into Saba one night and finding a Zimbabwean dentist who practices in Tacoma eating a heap of beef. I joined him. As we ate the meat, which was spicy and tender, we discussed the political situation in Zimbabwe, also my country of origin. Saba has been around for a long time—it is an old-school Ethiopian restaurant in the Central District. Do not come here to be impressed; the menu has no experiments or superstars. Saba is beyond that kind of thing. It just gets the job done right. CHARLES MUDEDE