Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, love is meant to be celebrated every day, and what better way to do that than by sharing a meal with someone you hold close to your heart? 

Located nine minutes away from Emory University in a quiet shopping center along Briarcliff Road, Desta Ethiopian Kitchen is the perfect place to relish a hearty, affordable Ethiopian meal with a loved one.

Co-founders Ash Nega and Titi Demissie were born and raised in Ethiopia and met in Atlanta later in life. They opened Desta in July 2006 with the vision of bringing authentic Ethiopian cuisine to the Atlanta area.

Eager to try new cuisine, I went to Desta with my aunt on Feb. 17. The indoor dining was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, so we were seated at the adjacent patio surrounded by clear vinyl tarp. The ambience was rustic with wooden walls and floorboards and a tree that protruded through the ceiling. For a Thursday afternoon, the restaurant was lively with customers laughing and talking over plates of fresh “injera,” or Ethiopian fermented flatbread. 

We learned that Ethiopian dining is a communal experience. Our server suggested that we order platters with breads such as injera and different stews to share between the two of us. My aunt and I chose to order one appetizer and entree for the both of us.

“Fowl” consists of crushed fava beans and spices that is served with pita bread and injera to share. Photo courtesy of author.

For our appetizer, we ordered a breakfast dish called “Fowl,” which consisted of a bowl of crushed fava beans sauteed with spices and chopped onions, tomatoes and green pepper with the options of adding feta cheese or scrambled eggs. Pita bread and injera were served on the side to scoop up the fava bean dip. 

The Fowl’s rich and creamy fava bean dip melted in my mouth and was complemented well by the light, refreshing chopped vegetables. It reminded me of the Indian food that I grew up with, although much less spicy for those who don’t enjoy spice.

The appetizer left us in anticipation for the entree we ordered, the vegan platter, and we were not disappointed. The platter came with two rolls of light, fluffy injera with various colorful stews, salads and condiments to indulge in. 

Each side dish had its own unique flavor. The “gomen” — or Ethiopian collard greens — was well-seasoned and smoky, the chickpea stew called “shiro” was rich and nutty, and the potato salad was zesty and refreshing. Our favorite dish was the tomato “fitfit,” a fresh and tangy tomato salad mixed with bits of soaked injera. 

For entreés, Desta offers shareable platters featuring their specialty injera to scoop salads, condiments and stews. Photo courtesy of author.

Desta not only offers a fantastic culinary experience but also polite and helpful service. Our server took the time to break down the menu to us, clarify our confusions and suggest dishes based on the preferences that we expressed. When I accidentally knocked over a glass of water, he was very understanding and even laughed it off, so I didn’t feel embarrassed. 

With locations in Briarcliff, Westside Village and Emory Point (temporarily closed, unfortunately), Desta brings authentic Ethiopian cuisine to the Atlanta area with delectable food and a unique dining experience. If you’re looking for a great date spot or just want to go out to lunch with friends or family, Desta Ethiopian Kitchen is the place to go.

Overall rating: 5/5