Venturing out for exciting dining experiences is so 2019. However, as more restaurants are beginning to gradually reopen for indoor dining, eaters seeking extraordinarily flavorful food need look no further than Massawa Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant in Hillman City.
“We cook and serve our traditional, delicious food from Ethiopia and Eritrea,” said owner Tsegay Hailemariam. “The two countries share the same people and culture. Thirty years ago, Eritrea was part of Ethiopia before gaining its independence as its own country.”
Born in Eritrea, Hailemariam immigrated to the United States in 2011, and opened Massawa in 2019 - where he brings his perspective on his culture and food to Seattle via delicious authentic dishes at his restaurant.
“We serve an eclectic menu of authentic Ethiopian food and Eritrean cuisine,” said Hailemariam. “Our dishes range from spicy and tangy to earthy and creamy. There’s something for everyone. I want our guests to visit so we can share our culture through food, and have them experience our unique cuisine.”
The first thing one needs to know about Ethiopian/Eritrean food is that it is enjoyed with family and friends. Served on a single, large platter called a gebeta, everyone eats together in communal fashion. Dining is a shared activity, not something done individually. In fact, it’s considered a loving gesture to feed a friend or loved one a scoop of food in a practice referred to as “gursha.”
Massawa has just what you need to enjoy the cultural practice of gursha with your friends - injera. Sometimes called taita, injera is the most recognized and popular foundation of Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine. It’s a spongy, sourdough bread that's beyond delicious, eaten several times a day and is incredibly flavorful.
Masssawa creates a perfectly textured injera made from teff, a grain which is made into a lightly fermented batter and fried like a huge pancake. The result is a dreamy texture of soft, spongy goodness with a slightly tangy taste. All the dishes are served with injera, so there is no need to order it separately, unless you fall in love with the flavor and need extra!
Injera also replaces cutlery in Ethiopian cuisine, so there is no need for utensils at Massawa, as you eat with your hand - your right hand, that is. It’s considered rude to eat with your left hand, as that is reserved for more private duties, such a cleaning your backside after a visit to the loo.
If you go to Massawa, the best way to enjoy a well-rounded and flavorful experience is to order the Meat Combo and Veggie Combo. You’ll get to taste a bit of everything, served with plenty of savory injera! There’s no need to fear the heat, as Ethiopian/Eritrean food is well flavored and well-seasoned, but not overly spicy.
“We are proud of our traditional heritage and ceremonial food practices,” said Hailmariam. "Everyone sitting down, slowing down, and enjoying a meal together is an important part of life. Our incredible food is waiting for you when you visit Massawa Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant."
Massawa is located at 4411 S Mead St. in Seattle, WA. Want to support more small businesses like Massawa? We're proud to collaborate with Intentionalist, an online guide that makes it easier for you to find/connect with diverse local businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.