1465 South State Street, Ste. 7   
Salt Lake City, UT
Mon.-Thur. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. Noon-8 p.m.

When I first moved to Salt Lake City from rural Louisiana, one thing I loved about “big city life” was the vast variety of cuisines to sample, but I was disappointed that one of my favorites—Ethiopian—was missing. I made it a point to eat at Ethiopian restaurants any time I traveled because it is a wonderful and unique style of food, so I’m pleased to announce that we finally have our very own full-service Ethiopian eatery right here.

Sharing space with an African market in a State Street strip mall, Mahider won’t win any contests for décor or ambience. The dining area is decked out in the red, green and gold of the Ethiopian flag and decorated with photos of traditional dress, portraits and a depiction of the Ethiopian alphabet. On both my visits, the sound system played a variety of traditional and updated African songs with fast beats and ululating vocals. Plain red plastic table cloths on the tables tell you this is a homey place, but shakers labeled “Chewe” (salt) and “Mitmita” (powdered red cayenne pepper, rather than your usual ground black pepper) remind you that you’re here for something different. The staff seems to be recent immigrants, and most are shy with a little bit of a language barrier. This is not a fancy date-night restaurant, but don’t let that stop you. If your date balks at eating here, dump them and find someone more adventurous.

Ethiopian food is served in a style most Americans haven’t encountered before and is probably best saved for dining with someone you are comfortable with. There are no utensils and food is delivered family style atop a flat sourdough bread called injera. This bread, made from the indigenous grain teff, also serves as your utensil: Break off a piece and use it to scoop your entrees up. Rice can be substituted for the bread on request and Mahider will serve your meal in separate bowls if you ask, but where’s the fun in that? The menu offers a good variety of beef, poultry and vegetarian entrees, including several combos that allow you to experience a little of almost everything. There’s even a kid’s menu, several Ethiopian beers to select from, plus a spiced honey wine called Tej ($15) and American soft drinks.

Dishes range from the relatively unadventurous but delicious Yedoro Wot ($11), a delicately spiced chicken thigh grilled in a ginger-lemon sauce and served with homemade cottage cheese, to the very exciting Gored Gored ($10), beef spiced with honey and wine, served nearly raw. Quanta Firfir ($8), dried but tender beef cooked in the ubiquitous berbere (African chili) based wot sauce, is a delicious choice if you’re new to the cuisine. We also tried a light but spicy berbere beef stew, Yesega Wot ($8), and Yesega Alicha ($7), a tangy, dark brown stew spiced with turmeric. A beef and chicken combo ($12) includes Yedoro Wot, Yesega Wot and Yesega Alicha.