Ras Dashen

Chicago, Illinois


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My husband and I are both vegan and we had dinner at Ras Dashen on a recent trip to Chicago. The restaurant had lots of options they said we could eat and we ordered a big platter with small servings of the following stews around the sides:

Tikil Gomen Alicha (cabbage and potato --pretty good)
Qosta (garlicky greens -- really quite good)
Diblik Atkilt (a tomato-y vegetable stew-- yum)
Misser Wat (spicy lentils--pretty good)
Kik Alicha (yellow split peas-- also good),
Yequay Tikil Gomen (sweet and sour red cabbage-- this was delicious and almost Asian-tasting).

In the center of the plate we got a bigger serving of the Special Mushroom Wat, which was good but not as great as some of the side dishes.

Everything tasted good and nothing was disappointing. It was a great meal, better than any we've had at an Ethiopian restaurant in LA, where we live.I told the server that, and he asked me to post it, so I said I would. The food was so tasty that we even took the leftovers to our hotel room.

But then came the next morning when the meal seemed to disagree with me and I had to make a trip to the pharmacy. I'm still not sure if that was really the fault of the food, since my husband didn't have the same problem despite eating all the same things. But I'm not sure I'd risk going there again, either.

Image for veg*ngirl

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The way a restaurant's menu is laid out always makes a big first impression. It tells me whether, as a vegan, I'm going to be treated with respect and my dietary choices held in proper regard. Are the vegetarian and vegan items specially marked? Where are they placed on the menu? Are the veg items on top of the menu or tucked below as an afterthought?

Ras Dashen had the vegan items specially marked on the menu...fantastic. It had the veggie items listed before the meat items...top notch. The problem is all the veg items are listed as "sides". The beef and lamb dishes are listed as full-out "entrees". So if you order a Meat Combo you choose your entrees and 3 sides (the veggie dishes). For the Vegetarian Combo you choose 5 sides. I am sick of being downgraded to a side dish! To anyone with an ounce of compassion and notion of proper healthy eating, vegetables are a main dish. Instead of "sides", call them "Veggie Dishes" and your whole menu will make sense.

I liked the "come as you are" casual atmosphere. Beautiful flowers made the outdoor tables tempting. Wait staff was friendly and we were well attended to though service was a bit on the slow side. This restaurant has the best injera bread of any Ethiopian restaurant I've been to. I highly recommend the Tikil Gomen Alicha (choice #5) which is cabbage, potato and carrot stew and the Misser Wat (#10) which is pureed red lentils in a spicy berbere sauce.

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When I want Ethiopian food, which happens often, I always go to Ras Dashen. The food is delicious—the best Ethiopian I've had—and the staff is always friendly and helpful. Sometimes, when they are trying out new vegan dishes, they'll bring us free samples and ask our opinion.

My favorite dishes are the shirro and the mushroom wat. The latter is not on the menu, but they have had it every time I've asked.

They also offer Temptation vegan ice cream for dessert, though I have yet to have room for it when I'm done eating.

Image for Lola

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This place has the best Ethiopian food in Chicago, by far. The staff is very friendly and they're even careful to separate vegan and non-vegan food if you ask them (normally Ethiopian food is all served on one large piece of injera bread, so there is an unfortunate tendency for meat and vegetable dishes to run together).

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This place has really good food, and you don't have to think about what is and isn't vegan.

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