Le Melon: Tana is authentic and unique

Credit: Apeksha Atal/ Credit: Apeksha Atal/ Credit: Apeksha Atal/ Credit: Apeksha Atal/

‘Twas Valentines’ Eve, and just off South Craig,
There was no food in the fridge, not even an egg,
Two ladies were pondering what they should have,
And with a quick search, they were off to Central Ave.

In the spirit of Parks and Rec’s beloved Leslie Knope, my roommate and I decided to have a great Galentine’s Day dinner together. The restaurant that caught my eye was an Ethiopian restaurant, entitled “Tana.” Immediately intrigued by the idea of trying of what the website promised to be “authentic cuisine” with “herbs and spices imported directly from Ethiopia,” I called and made a reservation for two.

Because it was well below freezing that night, we decided to take an Uber, and had little trouble finding the place. The restaurant is set up very simply. Tables with simple white tablecloths are positioned to line the plain white walls. There were some intriguing pieces of Ethiopian folk art put up, placed tastefully to cater to the minimalist feel of the establishment.

Ordering our meal was an interesting experience. Much to our surprise, we were told that we had the option of ordering two sides per dish, and the waiter suggested some vegetarian sides to go with our meaty mains. The distinct spices were very new to my South Asian palette.

They were rich, loud, and well-complemented by the cooling sides. Like Indian food, Ethiopian food is meant to be eaten by hand, by using the carby component of the dish to make small pockets and scoop up the meat and vegetable components. Here’s a rundown of what we tried:

Denich Selata (Potato Salad): This was more mashed down than your typical potato salad, and was bursting with lively acidity from the vinegar and lime added to it. It refreshed the palate in between bites of the flavor-heavy mains, and was a great asset to the meal.

Kay Sir Selata (Beet Salad): I was very excited about this salad and very pleased with what arrived. It was cool, cleansing, and very well flavored. Simple, and delicious. Interestingly, the beets were crunchier than I expected, which added a some much needed texture to the otherwise very soft collection of food items.

Shiro Wat: This dish was an entree that was served to us in a smaller portion as a side. It consisted of roasted chickpeas that were ground up and seasoned. It too was simple, and balanced out the complexity of the other dishes.

Fossolia: The menu describes this as “green beans and carrots in Tana’s special tomato-based garlic and herb sauce.” The beans and carrots were cooked to a lovely softness, and the overall taste was sweet and garlicky all at once. My roommate loved this side the most out of all those we tried that night.

Doro Wat (Chicken): This dish had two sauce options: the Kay Wot (hot) in Berbere Sauce and Alicia Wot (mild) in Turmeric Sauce. We went for the hot sauce which turned out to be milder than expected. Nevertheless, the flavors were rich.

There was quite a bit of salt in the dish, so if you’re not down with the sodium chloride scene, beware. The chicken arrives on the bone as a drumstick, and is covered in the dark sauce. It was a very unique taste experience.

Tana Tibs (Lamb): This dish was the hero of the night. The flavor of the lamb and the intensity of the Ethiopian spices came together harmoniously. The lamb, like the chicken, was cooked incredibly tenderly, and the flavor from the sauce had seeped into the meat, so no piece felt too dry or too bland. A must try.

Hot spiced tea: With my neverending quest to try all tea that I come across, seeing this on the menu made my heart sing. The tea seemed to be made from a mix of spices, of which clove was the most dominant. It complemented the food well, both because of its heat and its components. A sweeter tea would have broken the flow of flavor that all of the dishes contributed to. I would definitely order it again if given the chance.

Cha-ching: Tana takes both cash and card, and is good with splitting the check for groups.

Herbivores, Omnivores, and Carnivores, lend me your ears: Ethiopian food has great, healthy, protein-rich options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Are we there yet?: Tana is within walking distance from Target in East Liberty, and Market District on Centre Ave, so if you’re in the area, you won’t have to go too far. From campus, I would either take an Uber (given how cold it is outside), or if you’re willing to time your trip, the 71B from Fifth and Morewood, the 71C from Craig Street at Park Plaza, or the 75 from Ellsworth Ave at Morewood Ave. Here’s the address: 5929 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

Click, click: Tana has a great website, with its menu, an about page, it’s location, catering information, and much more. Check it out: https://tanaethiopiancuisine.com/site/restaurants/tana-ethiopian-cuisine/

For those stay-at-home days: Tana has a takeout option, and you can order what you’d like online from their website. You do have to login and make an account to do this though. There is no home delivery option, unless, of course, you go through a third party delivery service.
Sun–Thu: 5–10 p.m.
Fri – Sat: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. for dinner
Here’s a number if you have any questions in regard to reservations, hours, the menu, etc: (412) 665-2770

21+: Tana offers a variety of Ethiopian beer and wine (not seen on the website), although their authentic Ethiopian coffee is much more famous.

Ambience: Relaxed, homely, very friendly. The waiters were very kind and happy to explain how to order the food, and gave great recommendations.

College student friendly?: I was surprised to see many college students, some who even looked like grad students. Most of the people seated in Tana came as fairly large groups, which was understandable after I realized how much food it took to fill me up. The portions are pretty big, so feel free to take the pack out for a feast.

Overall rating: 3.5 Melons