Dining Out: Queen Sheeba

Queen Sheba is one of few foreign food stops that remain exotic among a string of swanky Thai bistros.

You’ll find this humble, family-owned and operated gem behind a neon “Open” sign and a hand-painted window front. Amidst wooden beams and window trim painted in gold, Rastafarian cloth banners and African wall art, curry; softens you when you walk in. But don’t think Indian curry, think Ethiopian curry, a thinner, sharper flavor that is just as savory minus the weight of added creams and heavy cheeses. If you can’t tell the difference, the staff will be happy to tell you. They have their own pride in their indigenous flavors.

I’ve come with two other people so we order a combination dinner for three – to include lamb, potatoes and carrots, lentils, yellow split peas, spinach, cabbage, beef mot, and a small salad. Everything is communal, so when the food comes we wash our hands and dive into a wide, round silver plate topped with injera bread and large, nestled scoops of our selected entrees.

Injera, sometimes translated to enjera, is a staple Ethiopian bread used in place of forks or spoons to grab globs of food. Here, they make their own out of barley and teff flour (which is gluten free) and it is especially stretchy and porous. Additional injera is rolled and served in baskets, to be unrolled like canned croissant dough to pinch chunks of bright yellow sautéed cabbage. The injera dough is fermented and baked so it comes out like a sourdough crepe of sorts. By itself, it is surprisingly sour but the flavor goes well with the savory courses.  

The waitress assured us the lamb is the house specialty and she was right. It is cooked in an awaze sauce, which is dark and spicy and laden with oils that are absorbed by the bottom layer of injera. This bottom layer becomes the dreamy bits that we salvage when we’re waiting for the check and nodding off into our prospective food comas. The flavor of the beef mot overtakes the bread at the bottom – the mot sauce a comforting sweet flavor like pot roast that sneaks up on you with a slow, progressive heat.

We were curious about the Ethiopian honey wine and imported beers. The honey wine tastes surprisingly like…honey! It directly mimics the taste of a pot of honey being poured into your mouth. Beware: crazed sweet toothes only! The only thing lacking in flavor here is the beer. The stout is true and chocolaty but notably thin and weak. The light ale was strange without the food but washed down the Ethiopian curried chicken nicely. But what beer doesn’t?

Coming with a group is recommended, although there is a vegetarian lunch buffet that seems appropriate for couples or single parties. But this doesn’t seem like the place for a quick lunch run – set aside time to chat and wait for the food to arrive. A good date place, it’s relatively quiet around 6-6:30 on a Friday night and then fills up around 8:00 with couples and friends. Located by the corner of 17th and Broadway, it’s a short walk from the Tower Theatre where you can take your party or date to a Woody Allen flick to let the honey wine subside. Prices are reasonable, combination plates are $11.99 per person and serve up to six people, other entrees range from $7.50-10.99. Everything includes injera and a small house salad (with a very light lemon dressing) or rice.

Major debit/credit cards are accepted without additional charge.  

Queen Sheba
1704 Broadway
(916) 446-1223
M-Th: Hours: 11:30AM – 9PM
Saturday: 11:30AM – 10PM
Sunday: Noon – 9PM
M-F Lunch buffet: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

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