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There are many small strip malls along State Street, and you may have driven by the Mahider Ethiopian Restaurant a number of times without realizing that a restaurant is there. The restaurant is a classic hole in the wall establishment that has a bit of clutter here and there – something that you certainly could expect from a family owned business. My guest describes the place as being casual and feeling over dressed. Jeans or something equal to that is recommended when dining here.

The ambiance was what you would expect from the location, but the owners have clearly put a lot of effort into the space with murals, decorated fluorescent light coverings, and the beaded curtain that connects the restaurant and the market. There were other diners in the space, and it was encouraging to see that local Africans who reside in Salt Lake City frequently come to dine at this establishment.

There is nothing fancy about the bathroom. It is serves its purpose as being just a basic bathroom – one that you might find at a gas station when you are on a road trip. Outside the bathroom you will find stashed away products that are for both the restaurant and the kitchen.

Sleshi, owner and server, gave my guest and I plenty of time to visit with one another. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I would be willing to go back just for that. Yet, at times it would have been nice if he had picked up that we were out of our element and made some suggestions or given us more guidance. Sleshi didn’t try to up sell us on any products. Nor did he try to explain what was on the menu. Therefore, if you are not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine or not comfortable being on your own in the decision making process of what to order, I would suggest that this shouldn’t be your first rodeo in trying Ethiopian fare. Finally, he also seemed a little “too at home” at times making it a bit awkward when we were waiting to pay the bill, as it prompted other guests, who seemingly enough patronize this establishment, to communicate with the staff in order for us to square away our bill.

After we ordered the tomato salad appetizer, Sleshi advised us to order another option because the tomato salad would come with our combination platter. Nevertheless we still ordered what we originally requested because the other appetizers just weren’t what our taste buds wanted. Yet, when the tomato salad was delivered we quickly realized that it was just that – tomatoes with a few slices of raw onion. I guess we should have taken Sleshi’s suggestion afterall and ordered something else, because my guest and I assumed that it would offer additional ingredients – our mistake.

Sleshi did inquire if we wanted any beverages. We ordered a beer and tea. It was fascinating to know that one of the beers on the menu couldn’t be ordered, but could be purchased “next door” at the market. The Ethiopian beer we ordered was served with a wine glass, which was unique. The waiter opened the beer for my guest like a bottle of wine…making us wonder if this is common for Ethiopian restaurants or if this is just unique to Mahider? The beer was flat with little to no carbonation. To someone who is a beer connoisseur the taste might be a bit odd at first. Perhaps the beer is naturally flat or was simply expired?

Our main course arrived: the combination platter, which was presented in a typical Ethiopian fashion – an assortment of vegetarian (lentils, collared greens), chicken, and beef samplings, along with a cheese that is made everyday at Mahider, comparable to feta. All of it was arranged in small piles on top of a sponge like bread that you tear off to eat as you dine. To eat the offerings on top of the injera (pancake like bread that was semi sweet and fluffy) you must scoop the food and sauces into bite size portions without any utensils. This was all explained to us after we had to request Sleshi to return to our table and explain what was on the platter. I was surprised that the dish didn’t contain any spice to it. Yet, everything that my guest and I ate seemed fresh.

There are other Ethiopian restaurants in Salt Lake City and in another posting I have described how another restaurant can offer such a dish. This dish is not so unique and therefore in order for me to consider the rating it is necessary that I give the overall impression to my dining experience. Could something have been better? Unfortunately the water that was given to us had a strong taste of bleach and had that water tasted better I feel that our dining experience would have been that much better.

Rating – I would be willing to return.
Mahider Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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