Savor Fort Wayne season came around again, and it’s one of our favorite times to go out to eat. It can be a chance to eat at what is usually a big splurge restaurant, or to get a great deal at a tried & true favorite, or to try something new to you, which is what we did this time, heading to Queen of Sheba. The fixed price menu seemed like an opportunity to try several different options at the Ethiopian restaurant.
(Note…I really want to have a movie clip here, but I can’t find the right scene, probably because there are so many more famous scenes from “When Harry Met Sally,” so instead you’ll just get the quote.)
Harry Burns: We’re talking dream date compared to my horror. It started out fine, she’s a very nice person, and we’re sitting and we’re talking at this Ethiopian restaurant that she wanted to go to. And I was making jokes, you know like, “Hey I didn’t know that they had food in Ethiopia? This will be a quick meal. I’ll order two empty plates and we can leave.” Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile.
You kind of want to watch “When Harry Met Sally” now, don’t you? That’s cool, you can do that, this will still be here when you get back.
Oh hey, you’re still here. (Or you’re back. How was the movie?) Want to hear about our dinner? Dig it.
One of the first things we noticed at Queen of Sheba was that there was a bit of an adorable language barrier, in that the special menus they gave us proudly declared, “Save Fort Wayne” at the top. But if eating Ethiopian food is what it takes to save our city, we were willing to give it a shot. There weren’t any descriptions of the menu items, but the server covering the dining room patiently walked through all of it with us, making note of spicy things and directing the lightweight (Wendy) to non-spicy selections. For $30, we each had our choice of an appetizer, soup, entrée, and dessert.
Maybe we should explain why all of our food looks green. The dining room has fluorescent lights, and each fixture had a different colored filter or lens or cover or whatever they’re called. (Beth and Wendy like food, not lighting.) So overall the room had a bit of a festive rainbow vibe, but our table had a greenish hue. Perhaps not the best lighting for eating.
Wendy: I started with the Sambussa, a triangular pastry stuffed with beef, and boy did it start the meal off on a high note. The pastry was crispy but still flaky, and not at all greasy. The filling was savory and delicious and I knew I should pace myself because more food was coming, but I ate every last bit of it.
Beth: I opted for the Falafel, which came with a side of Hummus. It was good. Honestly, I always think I like Falafel more than I actually do, so I can’t accurately speak for whether this Falafel was better than other Falafel. And since we are quoting “When Harry Met Sally,” I’d think I would have liked to look over at Wendy and say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Beth: Second course was soup. And as we know, soup is good food. At the moment I have a bit of an obsession with tomato soup, and so I decided on the Fresh Tomato Soup. It was not what I expected. It came with mint on top and that was the overriding flavor. I like mint, but didn’t expect it and therefore it seemed kind of off-putting. I guess I should have chosen foods that I had no familiarity with so I wouldn’t have been disappointed.
Wendy: I opted for the Ezekiel Soup, with sixteen kinds of beans and grains. I’m not usually big on bean and/or lentil soups, which I think is a mental block stemming from the lentil soup of my childhood (sorry, Mom). But this was quite tasty, with lots of flavor and so many beans and a slight creaminess to it. The bowl was enormous and again I ate too much of it.
Beth: They call me Chicken Tibs. Okay, if you’re not old enough to have seen “In the Heat of the Night,” you’ll not get that joke. And even if you are, I admit, it’s pretty lame. However, when I ordered Chicken Tibs, I knew I’d be using that reference in this review and since we’ve been quoting movies, well there you go.
Because I am diabetic, I’m always looking for dishes that are protein heavy. This one was, and it was, wait for it… delicious! It was spicy, tasty and filled with Ethiopian goodness. In addition to the chicken, onions and peppers, the sauce was comprised of Berbere, a common spice mixture usually made from chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, radhuni, nigella and fenugreek, commonly found in Ethiopian food. I sound like I know what I’m talking about, right? Yes, thank you Wikipedia. Anyway, it made my nose run, which is always a sign that a spice has done its job. Excellent!
Wendy: For my main course, even though I was by now plenty full, I had the Siga Alicha Wot (I think…omg…I forgot to write it down), a thick beef stew with peppers and onions, served with traditional Ethiopian flatbread. I thought I had ordered the chicken version, but apparently I ordered beef, which was cool. The beef was really tender, and not fatty or chewy at all, which is why I would normally order the chicken version of something: beef pickiness. I really enjoyed the dish, and the leftovers made a mighty fine dinner again a few days later since I went to town on the first two courses. It finally happened, though: I found a bread I don’t care for (Beth here — totally agree with Wendy on this). I’m not a fan of the flatbread. I’ve had it once before at another Ethiopian restaurant, and the spongy texture does not do it for me at all. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor and I know it’s traditional to eat with one’s hands and use the bread to do so, but I’ll stick with my fork.
Wendy: By this time I was stuffed, but since dessert was included, we had the server bring them out for tasting purposes. The menu indicated banana fritters as an option, but I was told no, they didn’t actually have them, but they did have baklava, so I ordered that. It was related to the baklava we know, but instead of layers of pastry and chopped nuts, it was more like a little nut turnover, with yummy honey-cinnamony gooeyness. It was heavy on the nuts for my personal preference, but the sweet goop was quite tasty. There’s probably a better way to say that.
Beth: I know, I know. Dessert is included, but it’s hard enough to try to figure out how many carbohydrates are in a typical U.S. dish that I opted out of dessert and lived vicariously through Wendy as she oohed and awwed over her Baklava.
Service was a little on the slow side. It took a long time for the appetizers to come out, considering at that time there was only one other table of diners and they were already midway through their meal. There were some peculiarities as well, for example clearing our dishes and placing them on a nearby table in order to serve the next course. That wouldn’t really fly if they had been busier.
Beth: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. It’s my own fault for choosing dishes that are common. The tibs were really good, but not enough to move this to the top of restaurants that I love.
Wendy: You had me at I don’t give a damn. Sometimes I feel like we need to revamp our rating system because I can’t figure out where something fits. I liked the food; I definitely want to eat it again. But atmosphere and service were kind of meh. And the rating mash up I picked sounds negative, so maybe I should have said, “Frankly my dear, hello.” Either way, I’m somewhere in the middle. If you’re looking for an ethnic eating adventure, go for it.
Queen of Sheba
2805 E. State Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46805
Queen of Sheba Facebook page