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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Tue–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–9:00pm

Features Date-friendly, live music, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted


2504 SE 50th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 477-8778
Bete-Lukas Ethiopian Restaurant
Nutritious, totally satisfying, and refreshingly escapist food from the birthplace of humanity

Is there anything in the world so satisfying, so hearty and complex, as spicy, slow-simmered meats, legumes, and vegetables? Ethiopian food is every bit as enjoyable as Indian—and, we’d argue, less frequently homogenized for American palates—yet we never seem to find as many Ethiopian restaurants in a given city (except, perhaps, DC) as Indian.

Bete-Lukas doesn’t just satisfy your need for Ethiopian; it takes things to a more elegant level. There are white tablecloths, linen napkins, and lovely water glasses. The service is impeccable, but it’s still difficult to shake the fact that the place looks very much like an apartment living room in which the furnishings have been removed and replaced by dining room tables. Track lighting highlights a few Ethiopian artifacts, and sometimes, an African band plays in the background.

If you’re a food nerd, the owners of Bete-Lukas are more than happy to help explain the flavors and textures that are happening on your plate (or more accurately, on your fat bed of sourdough injera). It’s heartening to see the headdress-clad women in the kitchen cooking with such concentration and zeal. This cuisine is extremely vegetarian-friendly, and variable in heat. Great flavor is teased out of kale, yellow lentils, and eggplant tibs. Doro wot, the national dish of Ethiopia, is a sauce of dried-chile berbere spices and tender chicken drumsticks, with garlic and a hard-boiled egg. It’s like sunshine and earth.

Scoop it all up with that spongy injera, whose citrusy-sour freshness complements the bitter greens and hot spices beautifully. Just watch your intake; it expands like a supernova in your stomach. Portions are a little smaller than those we tend to find in shabbier joints, but this is all part of being classy. Besides, it’s still plenty filling.

There’s a full bar, but don’t come expecting genius cocktails; there’s some good beer on draft, like Mirror Pond, but the mead-like Ethiopian-style honey wine ends up tasting like little more than oxidation. There are some good wine pairings out there for this type of food, but they’re not here. Beer is best, as is the company of the charismatic couple who owns the place. Enjoy their hospitality and nutritious, satisfying food, and you’ll have all the high you need.

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