Exploring authentic Ethiopian cuisine at “Wonder Cafe and Sports Bar”

Veggie and meat combo.

Wonder Cafe and Sports Bar is the last thing one would expect an Ethiopian restaurant to be named, but the first part of the name is derived from its location in Seattle’s Central District near the Wonder Bread factory.

I’ve eaten my fair share of Ethiopian food, both in restaurants and homemade. I can speak to the quality and authenticity of the food at Wonder since they specialize in dishes I’ve been eating my whole life.

The menu is focused on traditional Ethiopian food, but they also have a few American staples and a few offerings that are a sort of American-Ethiopian fusion.

I haven’t been to a lot of restaurants where the cooks could make decent American food as well as make their own injera, a sort of flat bread that most Ethiopian food is eaten with.

Injera bread in front of the main dish.
Injera bread in front of the main dish.

The menu variety made the American food I tried novel, but not anything special. Stand out food like spiced rare beef, which is called tere siga are the reason why I return to Wonder, because they offer quality favorites as well as food that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed until I was able to try it there.

During Ethiopian Orthodox Lent people will fast, abstaining from eating all meat and dairy except fish. This year, Lent is from March 7 to May 1 and Ethiopian restaurants often expand or feature the vegan offerings on their menu. The last time I went to Wonder was with my father, who fasts. He ordered the veggie combo which consists of about a dozen different vegan dishes. For someone who usually sticks to Ethiopian food with meat, I was pleasantly surprised by the veggie dishes I tried.

Colorful food ranging from cold lentil stew to cooked kale, cabbage and carrots provided a sort of tour of vegan Ethiopian cuisine.

People walk in and seat themselves and are given menus which offer appetizers, a variety of main dishes and combos as well as the alcohol offerings and desserts.

People unfamiliar with Ethiopian food would probably like Wonder if they didn’t mind a different sort of dining experience.

Veggie and meat combo.
Veggie and meat combo.

Ethiopian food is mainly eaten without cutlery, instead, diners will tear off pieces of injera and use it to scoop up bites of food.  It’s always fun to see new people try to navigate eating with their hands at restaurants, but it’s not too difficult and they always learn how easily by watching other patrons.

The servers were attentive and courteous, and the meal prices were affordable. Most of the dishes that weren’t less than $20, were ones that were large enough to share amongst two or three people, and sharing meals from one large plate is a common Ethiopian eating tradition.

I’d recommend Wonder to anyone who likes Ethiopian food and anyone looking for a unique dining experience.

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