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Queen of Sheba, Tampa
By Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic
Published January 24, 2008
Queen of Sheba 3636 Henderson Blvd., Tampa (813) 872-6000 Cuisine: Ethiopian Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; beer and wine Prices: $2.99 to $13.99
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Let's get this part out of the way: Service needs work. Drinks may not come for a while, an appetizer might get forgotten, maybe too many people will hover around your table asking if you're enjoying everything.
Owner Seble Gizaw and her crew of lovely young women will work that stuff out. They're learning. Focus instead on the great news that Ethiopian food has come back to Tampa.
The space is one of those Bermuda Triangle sites that has seen the demise of a number of restaurant ventures. Queen of Sheba will stick, though, on the basis of its huge family-style platters of spiced legume or meat stews called wats, chicken drumsticks and hard-boiled eggs.
The platters are lined with injera, a staple Ethiopian bread made of tef flour (gluten-free, a boon to wheat allergies or Celiac disease sufferers). Spongy and elastic, injera is used as utensil (lefties beware, it's only polite to use your right hand), tiny pieces used to scoop dabs of stew. The bottom bread, as the meal progresses, becomes saturated with all the savory-spicy juices. Eat that bread.
A spice called berbere amps up the heat level on a couple of the beef and chicken dishes, but for the most part stews are mild. Vegetarians have loads of choices, and vegan dishes are marked with a "V." Though there's no dessert, a postprandial coffee - viscous, rich and Ethiopian - is a must.