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Addis Red Sea

Addis Red Sea is an Ethiopian restaurant in the Back Bay on Tremont St, directly across from the Cyclorama and right next to We Think the World of You (a gay bookstore). It’s one of Heidi’s and my favourite restaurants in the Boston area. (Others in competition include Buddha’s Delight, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant, and Dalí, a tapas bar.)

Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands with the assistance of a soft flat bread called injera - you tear off little pieces of the bread and use it to pick up the food. The food is somewhat similar in consistency to Indian food - ground or chopped food in sauces. As with Indian food, the sauces are often spicy, although the spices are a lot different. (Not all the dishes are spicy - some are extremely mild, so you shouldn’t have any problem there if you don’t like spicy food. Just avoid things the menu tells you are spicy.)

Hmmm... On the subject of comparisons between Indian and Ethiopian cuisine, there’s an Indian appetizer called a samosa, which consists of ground spiced vegetables or meat in a triangle of dough, deep-fried. And there’s an Ethiopian appetizer called a sambusa, which consists of ground spiced vegetables or meat in a triangle of dough, deep-fried. Not identical, but quite similar. I’d be interested to know the connections there.

Another connection is with Italian food, drink, and culture, since Ethiopia was an Italian colony. You will find a variety of espresso drinks on the menu, for instance, and the dishes are enamelled and painted in a way that very much reminds me of Italian dishes.

Speaking of dishes, your whole party will probably end up eating off of a single huge dish set on a small round woven table with a shallow bowl- or basket-like top. You can see a picture of this table (with a triangular cover) on the front of Addis’ menu. As you can imagine, this makes Addis a good place to share dishes.

(If you like Ethiopian food, but decide you don’t want quite as authentic a dining experience, you might want to try Asmara in Central Square, Cambridge, which European-style tables and chairs, and where the waiter will bring you a fork unbidden if you look confused.)

Among our favourite dishes on the menu are yebeg alcha in the lamb section, and atakilt, gomen wot, and kinche, all in the vegetarian section. (Kinche is yummy, but it’s pretty bland, so you’d want it along with other dishes.) As an appetizer, I tend to get a beef sambusa, but be warned that the sambusas are very oily. Ye-awaze dabo (a thick bread with a sauce for dipping) is also yummy.

Their address is

    544 Tremont Street
    Boston, MA 02116
and their phone number is
    617 426 8727

Their home page

Addis Red Sea now have a web page of their own up. It’s at http://www.addisredsea.com/, although you might want to go directly to http://www.addisredsea.com/Home/.

Getting to Addis Red Sea

To get to Addis Red Sea by public transit, take the Orange Line to Back Bay Station. Then walk south several blocks along Dartmouth or Clarendon Streets to Tremont Street. (You’ll cross Rte 28, Chandler St, and Lawrence St near the station; if you cross Stuart St or St James Ave or see an entrance for I-90, you’re going the wrong way.) Addis Red Sea is on the other side of Tremont St, a few steps down from street level, right next to We Think the World of You and across the street from the Cyclorama. They have a little lighted fabric replica of an Ethiopian table on the front of the restaurant, which is predominantly green.

If you’re driving, you should leave a lot of time for parking, because it’s not at all easy to find in that neighbourhood.

Here’s a map (new URL), courtesy of Mapquest. You can see where Back Bay Station is by looking at the train tracks between Dartmouth and Clarendon Streets; Back Bay Station extends between them, with exits on Clarendon and on Dartmouth Streets. If you take the Clarendon St exit, you’ll end up on the corner of Clarendon and Rte 28, but you should pay attention to the street signs to see which way you’re facing.


The images below are from an old Addis Red Sea menu, scanned in at around 85dpi. I’m sorry the print is so small; let me know if you have trouble reading them. Alternatively, you can check out the menu in HTML format on the restaurant’s own site at http://www.addisredsea.com/Home/foodmenu.htm.
(In case you want to print it, you can also get a copy of the whole menu at once.)
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Jay Sekora <js@aq.org>
last modified 2004.08.16