Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Abandon your hipster brunch diner and try this amazing Ethiopian breakfast

Unbeknownst to the hungover hipsters who line up at College Street diners for their weekend brunch, one of the best breakfast joints in the city is an Ethiopian restaurant just off Ossington. Lalibela, a popular restaurant at 869 Bloor Street West, serves a killer breakfast with coffee guaranteed to get you moving. 

Breakfast is served from 10am at Lalibela, and most of the items are different than those served later in the day. One excellent dish is the firfir special (below left; $8), which is made from the spongy Ethiopian injera bread cooked with butter, hot peppers and yogurt. The dish gets its punch from berbere, a curry-like spice mixture.

The scrambled egg ($6) looks like any regular diner fare, but is made with lip-smacking spices and jalepeno. The kenche (below) was another hit—it's a airy cracked wheat dish similar to couscous that's flavoured with butter, ginger, coriander and garlic.

Other breakfast dishes on the menu include foul, a mashed bean dish common across North Africa and the Middle East, and qunta firfir, a cube of dry meat that resembles jerky.

There are also some interesting drinks to sample. Our waitress, Rahel, chops up some fresh ginger for tea and serves it in a glass with a regular tea bag. After the meal is eaten, it's time for the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Rahel brings out a metal ladle, where she roasts fresh coffee beans (shown below).  The coffee is served in a clay pot and comes with smoking incense and an enormous basket of popcorn. Syrupy and potent, the coffee is guaranteed to jump start your day.

Lalibela is located at 869 Bloor Street West, with a second location at 1405 Danforth Ave. It's open 7 days a week, 10 am to 2 am. 

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      Fantastic post. I loved Firfir when I was living in Ethiopia for a month or two. In some of the less, umm, reputable restaurants you came across, it was generally a safe bet compared to some of the meat dishes. I haven't had it since leaving. On that same stretch of Bloor is the Nazareth (well discovered and very cheap, but be prepared to wait for a table and your food) and African Palace (almost next door to Nazareth - FANTASTIC food, feels fresher and slightly higher quality than Nazareth. Never as busy either.)

      When I was traveling through Egypt, I constantly ate Foul. They would serve it at street vendors out of these huge vats into little pita style pouches. Once bought about 10 for an overnight train ride from Aswan to Cairo. Yum, so good.

      My SO and I go for Ethiopian quite regularly, but never for breakfast. I think that might have to change this weekend! Thanks again.


    2. This breakfast looks amazing! Need to try this out one day :)