Friday, April 24, 2009

Karibu Welcomes the Adventerous

Posting two days in a row! I should advertise on Facebook more often...

I lived in Tanzania for a few months back in 2006 and learned a tiny bit of Swahili. So when I heard there was an Ethiopian restaurant on the East Side called Karibu, I thought the name was cute.

[Karibu means "Welcome" in Swahili. And Swahili, while a commonly-spoken language in most of East Africa, is not considered an Ethiopian language...]

Anyway, I'm trivializing this place by calling it "cute." I'm not an expert in Ethiopian food at all, but I was really impressed with the overall atmosphere and dining experience at Karibu. Sadly, there were only a handful of people there last night, and I hope it does a better business in general.

It's a simple place with a pretty simple menu. I had the vegetarian combo plate, with the yellow lentils, green beans and sauteed cabbage, along with a salad. All these dishes have Ethiopian names that I can't pronounce and are served with the traditional fermented flatbread. You eat it all with your hands. It's not as hard as you think.

Apparently, the lamb is also really good, so when I'm in a meat-eating mood, I'll have to return.

The Basics:
Location: 1209 E. 7th St., near the intersection of 7th and Attayac St.
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 to 2 a.m.; Lunch buffet 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Sundays
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Bottom line: Eating with your hands has never been this good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brand Spankin' New

I'm not really sure if anyone reads this at all. I've been to several new places in the last two months, but I haven't been motivated to write about them because there seems to be no interest in this blog, from myself or anyone else.

But I felt inclined to share about two new spots, both of which I'm covering for The Onion/Decider.

First there's Holy Cacao, a dessert trailer on South First. As soon as my story is posted on Decider, I'll share the link here. Holy Cacao is Austin's only retail outlet to serve cake balls. While I still giggle a bit when I say "cake ball" they're so good, I have to take them seriously. Little round bits of cake and homemade frosting covered in a chocolate coating, they rival any cupcake place in town. (I'll be getting to cupcakes sooner or later, seeing as Austin is able to support several bakeries specializing in cupcakes.)

But if you try anything at Holy Cacao, get the frozen hot chocolate. That's not a typo. It's a mix of real drinking chocolate (this ain't Swiss Miss), chocolate ice cream, and ice. It's a rich, refreshing drink--much more than a milk shake. You really have to experience it.

Also recently opened is Bennu Coffee on E. MLK. It's a standard independent coffee shop, but it's got a few notable characteristics. One, it's open 24 hours--they only coffee shop east of I-35 to do so. It also has plenty of seating and outlets, and a menu of decadent mocha drinks all named after classic works of literature. The Pride and Prejudice is topped with chocolate shavings. The Great Gatsby is a mix of dark and white chocolate. The Don Quixote is topped with cinamon and chile powder. Any place that honors my favorite books by developing them into chocolate-coffee drinks is worth my patronage, so I expect it will replace Clementine as my East Side hangout.

The Basics:
Holy Cacao
Location: 1207 S. 1st St., just north of the Trailer Park Eatery
Hours: Closed Mondays, Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday 12-8, Friday and Saturday 12-10
Accepts: All major credit cards (a rarity of food carts)
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: There's no better place to satisfy a chocolate craving.

Bennu Coffee
Location: 2001 E. MLK Blvd, between Chestnut Ave. and Poquito St.
Hours: Open 24 hours, all week
Accepts: All major credit cards
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Bottom line: Grab a comfy chair and the East Side's best mocha.