I am really enjoying the guidebook in the run up to my trip to Ethiopia in October!
I was wondering if you were aware of the Addis Eats Food Tour (http://addiseats.com/)? Addis does not seem to have many (or maybe any) options for tours in english that are not incredibly touristy and this seems like a really cool option! The tours take you to restaurants that are away from the tourist traps and are led by a young U.S. citizen who has lived in Ethiopia for what seems like a while now. The website itself is also incredibly informative about Ethiopian food and traditions–really useful!
Most waiters and waitresses are entirely dependent on tips. My girlfriend works as a waitress so has a good idea of customs, and she says that only Oromo and older Somalis don’t tip, but all other ethnicities and young Somalis do. Some tend to give a low note, for example 5 or 10 Birr, some just give whatever their change is, particularly Arabs, who will pay a 120 Birr bill or a 195 Birr bill with two 100 Birr notes and leave the change.
The focus on whether to tip should be based on the fact that waiters and waitresses get around 250-450 Birr a month for six 9-hour shifts a week. This is less than 14 Birr, 50p or 70 cents for a 9-hour shift, a third of which goes on their transport if they work evenings. So clearly they are utterly dependent on tips. In one of the main Piassa hotels waitresses start on 250 Birr a month, which after a year goes up to 300. One prestigious restaurant charging 80 Birr for a pizza offers 700 Birr a month, for four double-shifts a week, ie, 64 hours a week.
I notice too many tourists not tipping and I think they’d be just as happy leaving a tip if they felt it was appropriate, and it would make an enormous difference to the staff, many of whom are single mothers.
I have just returned from Ethiopia, where I used your 2009 guide, and thought it was worth making a comment on vegetarian food. You do refer to this on page 101 (para 2) but we felt this implied we might have trouble getting vegetarian food on days other than Wednesday & Fridays. As it turned out, Ethiopians fast on nearly 200 days a year and their ‘fasting food’ is always vegetarian. We found that asking for ‘fasting food’ always produced a vegetarian meal regardless of the day of the week. The concept of vegetarianism was not always fully grasped but the concept of fasting food was always recognised. Great guide by the way, keep up the good work. Regards Hugh
Very often faranjis get presented with a faranji menu with the inflated prices. These menus are in English, of course, and they often lack any Ethiopian food. If you want to eat Ethiopian food, then you must know what you want. Or ask to have exactly the same as the Ethiopian person who’s sitting at the table next to yours. We were never overcharged when eating Ethiopian food… Or just change the restaurant if the waiters pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about.
Goran Jovetic, London, UK
I just received an email from Habtamu Baye, owner of Treasure Transport. In conjunction with a Scottish partner, Habtamu is building a new restaurant on the hill in Lalibela. It is called Ben Abeba and scheduled to open in December of 2009. You can read more about it at http://www.benabeba.com.
There are 2 restaurants in Addis around Bole Road that might deserve being mentioned in a next edition. “Fasika – national restaurant” is a tukul style traditional restaurant that offers live music every night. For me it was the only place where I could find tripes on the menu, and they have a great list of tedj and araki with different flavours. The service is execellent, and the place seems very popular with expats, judging by the car park. I was there on a Thursday evening and almost every table had been reserved. The place is in a small street parallel with Bole, just below the Addis museum. It is clearly signposted on Bole Road. Also interesting if you want a change from local food is the “Mendi Corner” serving Arabian cuisine. It is a very clean and cosy place, in a side street from Congo Road – a bit lower than the Wanza hotel, opposite the MJ pension. It is worth going there if only for some of the tacky decoration like the metal sportscars hanging from the roof or the flying saucers that serve as water tap in the toilet. Both restaurants serve mains for about 50 birr.