130 S. Highland Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
This is the restaurant that spawned my interest in cultural restaurants. Our friends Adam and Jenna are obscure restaurant all-stars. So they pointed Stacy and me to Abay. Being that I am new to the culinary world, I was a bit nervous. But hey, I’ve given sky-diving a shot so I can give Ethiopian food a shot too.
The restaurant is within walking distance to my place so the surroundings are familiar. Located on the outskirts of the Shadyside restaurant corridor, this place stands out as one of the most creative and authentic. This is remarkable being that the owner, Jamie Wallace, did not have any prior ownership experience.
The impressive aesthetics make you feel as though you are actually in an Ethiopian kitchen. The simple wood chairs and tables are sufficiently spread out amongst the light wood floor. Ethiopian art modestly decorates the burnt orange walls.
We were seated immediately by the kind staff. Once again, we notified the waitress of our culinary naivety. So she took the time to describe the who, what, when, where, why and how of the cuisine. After hearing her knowledgeable spiel, we went with the combination sampler with Zilzil Tibs, Gomen Besiga and Doro Wat. You want to hear something humorous, listen to a Yinzer attempt to pronounce Ethiopian food. I guarantee it was painful for the poor waitress.
The food was served within fifteen minutes on the traditional Ethiopian flatbread platter. The coolest part – you eat with your hands. This brought me back to my days in the Winkler household when our saint of a mother had to constantly remind her devil children of proper table etiquette. Yet somehow, every meal, us devil children insisted on eating with our hands. Eons later, my wish came true.
The flatbread, which in time I found out is called injera, is broken into pieces and used to scoop up the meats and vegetables. This combination was pretty delicious if I must say so myself. To make matters much better, Stacy filled herself up earlier in the game by going with a soup appetizer, thus leaving a large helping to fat ass over here. Stuffed and content, the meal was over in a flash.
Abay isn’t so much a restaurant as it is an experience. It’s an opportunity to try something new. It's an opportunity drift away, take three weeks off of work and travel to Africa to experience Ethiopian culture. I had a great time and would certainly recommend Abay to both the adventurous eater as well as those just looking to experience something cool.
ABAY SCORE = 91