Walia Ethiopian Restaurant Joins Manchester's Main Street Of World Cuisines

Manchester diners visiting Main Street have their pick of world cuisines with Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French and Latin American restaurants within steps of each other. With the debut of Walia, visitors now have a chance to taste traditional Ethiopian fare.

Married couple Etsegenet and Esubalew Adal opened the restaurant at 836 Main St. in June, eager to share their Ethiopian culture and richly spiced dishes with the community. Walia takes its name from the walia ibex, a species of wild goat that’s exclusively found in Ethiopia.

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Etsegenet Adal, a former nurse, was first drawn to the food industry when her mother owned a restaurant. In Manchester, “we try to keep our food very healthy,” she says, with an emphasis on vegetables and lean meats, and the menu’s heavy concentration on vegetarian dishes has already drawn appreciative diners looking for meat-free options.

The small sit-down restaurant is painted in sky blue, with traditional Ethiopian artwork adorning the walls. Walia’s customers have been coming from “all over,” Adal says, some driving 45 minutes or more for the authentic food, which is relatively scarce in the state.

FEATURED/NOTEWORTHY DISHES: “We have great vegetarian options so [guests] love it,” Adal says of Walia’s menu items, which incluce chickpeas, beets, lentils and collard greens flavored with berbere spice, garlic, ginger and onions. A vegetarian combination ($14.99) is a best-seller, she says, featuring specialties like yemisir wot (split lentils in berbere sauce); gomen (slow-cooked collard greens in mild sauce with garlic and spices), kosta (spinach, onions and potatoes in a blend of mild spices) and beets and carrots.

A variety of lamb and beef dishes include best-sellers awaze tibs (lamb cooked with onion, tomato and paprika) and shekla tibs (tender marinated beef stir-fried with onion, garlic, tomato, jalapeño and fresh rosemary.) Another traditional dish, kitfo, features chopped beef served in a small pot with Ethiopian spices and purified butter. A meat combination ($20.99) offers portions of key siga wot (cubed prime beef cooked in onions, ginger, garlic, berbere and purified butter); tibs firfir (spiced beef); and doro wot (spiced chicken stew with boiled egg) with a side of cottage cheese, to help mitigate any fiery heat.

Adal says guests also love the Walia special ($29.99), a variety of 10 dishes. Dollops of brightly colored stews, meats and vegetables arrive on a tray lined with injera, an Ethiopian flatbread made from teff, a naturally gluten-free grain.

The bread’s flavor is slightly sour and the texture is spongy, and it traditionally serves as a utensil in Ethiopian cuisine — diners tear off small pieces and use it to scoop up portions of food.

If needed, Adal and her staff will educate diners on how to use injera.

“We try to do our best to explain our culture,” she says, but many are comfortable with the process, having tried the food in New York, Boston or other large cities. (Cutlery is also available.)

Appetizers, like sambusas stuffed with lentils or beef, are $6 and $7. Vegetarian meals are $12.99 to $15.99. Lamb, chicken, beef and fish dishes are $16.99 to $20.99. Desserts, including baklava and chocolate cake, are $5 to $6.99. Guests often end their meals with pots of traditional Ethiopian coffee ($3).

HOURS AND LOCATION: Walia Ethiopian Restaurant, 836 Main St. in Manchester, is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Mondays. 860-432-5246, waliaethiopianct.com.

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