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Things We Like: Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant's lamb tibs

I tore pieces of injera off at the edges and used it to pinch bits of tender, succulent lamb swimming in a to-die-for, intensely spiced sauce before dropping it in my mouth. It's makeshift bib-worthy.

The lamb tibs at Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant in St. Paul is a to-die-for dish, served with injera, a spongy, pancake-like bread made from teff flour. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

Dining at Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant, there were elements that transported me from St. Paul to my childhood home.

The restaurant’s tablecloths boast colorful and intricately sewn designs. Wood-carved paintings feature pastoral scenes (though in my home, they were carved into our dining table); and several pieces of art featured Black bodies at work or in celebration.

Also, people eating with their hands, like my native-to-the-Philippines mama.

When asked about the kitfo dulet — very lean beef warmed with spiced butter — the waitress answered with a question: “Is this your first time?”

To my nod “yes,” she strongly recommended something else. (Like steak tartare, kitfo dulet is traditionally served on the raw side.)


Fasika has a wide range of vegan and vegetarian options, and the veg sampler was ordered three times while I scanned the menu, but I went with the lamb tibs.

An Amharic version of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” played overhead when my server laid down my plate.

I tore pieces of injera off at the edges and used it to pinch bits of tender, succulent lamb swimming in a to-die-for, intensely spiced sauce before dropping it in my mouth. Humbled, I fastened a napkin-bib to my collar to keep my dress stain-free.

Eating became a much more tactile and full-sensory experience, and I felt much more connected to the moment and the process. (Maybe I should eat with my hands more often?)

The injera’s cool sponginess was the perfect complement to the stewy sauce of peppers, onion, garlic, tomato, rosemary and what I can imagine is berbere, an Ethiopian spice mix with chili, ginger, fenugreek and other goodies.

My lips awakened with these flavors that I’d never before tasted. Halfway through my first bites, I knew I was in trouble, and this would be fare I’d crave very soon from hundreds of miles away.

The dish came with a crisp side of lettuce, red onion and tomato, another wonderful complement to the deep, rich heat of the sauce.

Fasika’s pricing and plating reinforces the community aspect of dining, and at $19.50, there was enough left for a hefty dose of leftovers.


Ethiopia is widely considered the birthplace of coffee and coffee culture, and a traditional coffee set, complete with clay pots, a small charcoal brazier and stools, is displayed in the center of the restaurant.

I regret not ordering this staple, but there’s always a “next time,” and hopefully for this restaurant, it’s sooner than later.

Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant

510 Snelling Ave. N., Saint Paul


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Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and columnist.
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