BEST ETHIOPIAN RESTAURANT Minneapolis 2000 - Blue Nile
The African-restaurant scene is finally, belatedly picking up steam: Over the past couple of years, small mom-and-pop operations have been springing up all over the Twin Cities, and some, like Cedar-Riverside's Addis Ababa, show real promise. Still, the Blue Nile, the granddaddy of them all, remains ruler of the roost. First among its many virtues is the injera: Here, the spongy flatbread made from a fermenting batter is always perfectly tender, chewy, and fresh, not cold and stale the way it is at so many lesser restaurants. Second are the oh-so-friendly combo plates, which allow us to sample widely from the carefully, imaginatively spiced dishes on the menu without spending very much at all. (In fact, if you shell out more than $12 on food here, you're showing off--most people get out the door at around $8 a head.) The clincher? The oddball Mexican/African décor (echoes of the late Montanita's) and the immeasurable benefits of a beer-and-wine license, namely the chile-slaking power of frosty beer.