My recent post about the pop-up burger joint was a big hit. Since I seem to be on a quirky restaurant roll, I thought I’d tip you off to another hidden joint I recently discovered: Mr. James’ Ethiopian restaurant on the edge of Maboneng.
Mr. James’ Ethiopian restaurant. I’m calling it that because the owner’s name is James.
I discovered Mr. James’ place a couple of weeks ago while attending the opening of Whippet Cycles, a new bike shop on “Maverick Corner” (corner of Commissioner Street and Maritzburg Street in the Maboneng Precinct). By the way, my friends Emile and Kim own Whippet Cycles and it’s a super-cool shop. If you’re interested in cycling you should check it out.
While sitting outside the cycle shop, I noticed a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony going on just a few feet away. I thought maybe Kim and Emile had arranged the coffee for their opening. But then the smell of spicy, delicious food wafted out from an unmarked doorway across the sidewalk. Inside that unmarked doorway was Mr. James.
Mr. James and his staff, trying to look serious for the camera. Normally they are all smiles.
But Mr. James’ place is different. It’s off the beaten track and seems to be known mostly to local Ethiopians, if the crowd coming and going from the restaurant is any indication. The building, which is currently occupied only by Mr. James but will soon have more tenants, is part of Maboneng but hasn’t gone mainstream yet. The restaurant has been there for two years (longer than Little Addis) but I didn’t notice it until two weeks ago.
Mr. James’ place reminds me of an Ethiopian restaurant in Yeoville called Blue Nile, where I ate a couple of years ago. Unlike the fancier Ethiopian restaurants, where you order preset combinations of dishes laid out neatly on a bed of injera (Ethiopian bread), Mr. James’ menu is more free-form. Basically, you order and eat whatever the staff is cooking when you walk in.
Beef was on the menu when my friend Erin and I walked into Mr. James’ on a recent Saturday afternoon.
Beef, chilies, onions, tomato, random tasty spice, amd maybe some other stuff. I never ask what I’m eating when I go to an Ethiopian restaurant. I’ve never been disappointed. The white stuff underneath the plates is injera. The injera works as a utensil — you break off pieces of it, use it to scoop up the food, then stuff the whole mess in your mouth. Mmmm.
The beef was delicious.
After the beef we had a dish made with potatoes, which looked very similar to the beef but tasted totally different (in a good way).
Okay, my Ethiopian food reviewing skills leave a lot to be desired. Just trust me though, the food at Mr. James’ place is good. And of course, so is the coffee.
Strong Ethiopian coffee, poured from an iron kettle.
Ethiopian coffee is best consumed without milk, with lots of sugar.
Erin and I asked James what the restaurant is called. He showed us his new logo, which I assume will eventually become a sign for outside.
Mr. James is the 16th James in his family. His food is certainly prepared (and consumed) with love.
Our entire meal, including food and coffee for two, was R50 ($5).
James is great and so is his food. Go meet him and have some food and/or coffee before the hipsters discover him. (Or if you yourself are a hipster, go discover him!)
Mr. James’ Ethiopian restaurant is at the corner of Commissioner and Maritzburg Streets, across from the petrol station. There’s no sign so you might need to poke around to find it. Read more 2Summers Ethiopian posts here and here.