Portland >Jarra's Ethiopian Restaurant
Best Ethiopian in Town.
Hands down the best Ethiopian food in town! My husband and I have been eating at Jarra's for years. As soon as you get out of your car your mouth starts watering from the smell of spices coming from the restaurant.
Here's some do's and don't to have a pleasant dining experience:
DO: Arrive early, they open at 5:00 the sooner you get there the better. We always get there right at opening to ensure a shorter wait for our food.
DO: Order the #10-vegaterian dish with lentals, salad, and stewed veggies.
DO: If you like spicey order the #12-Zizel Wat, spicey stewed beef with spicey lentals and veggies.
DON'T: Be in a hurry...the owner is the only waiter and he cannot multitask. Very warm and friendly but you will be waiting a while for your food but the wait is well worth it.
DON'T: Come starving...again the wait for your food is between 30-45min. but worth every second.
DON'T: Be offended by the comments from the owner..he likes to talk about everything from politics to religion.
DON'T: Be afraid to ask for what you need. Fork, napkins, drinks, etc. If you don't you won't get it.
Overall, the building and decor is tired and needs TLC, the service needs improvement, but if you want amazing food for a good price you have to experience Jarra's at least once...you will be back!
Excellent food and wonderful people. I have been going to this restaurant for over 20 years. They are consistent with good service and good food. It is a different experience, probably like being in Ethopia. It is not a fast food place and I love being there with friends to eat over a nice long meal. It is hot and authentic.
The pros, and cons.
Jarra's food has been consistently good for the 10 years I've gone. The lamb is just incredible, a full shank and favorite. Never had watery food or thin inerja. Tried everything there, used to go weekly, been to dozens of other ethopian places throughout the US, it's the best hands down. Texture, flavor, portions... yum.
The owner is a chatty fellow. Petro's works round the clock there, is server, cashier. His wife is most often the cook. And the children can often be found, unobtrusively, well behaved, in the lobby entrance between the dining room and kitchen. It's a family place.
Yes, the bathroom *is* OLD. It won't impress anyone.
The owner does sometimes say some very blunt things. If you are thin skinned, blow it off, spare yourself an undue reaction. He's said things that ruffled my feathers a few times, but they were honest and true. He is expressing an opinion. I do not hold waitstaff to not being allowed to have an opinion though, and find his bluntness, even when not in my favor, refreshing. His chattines is a desire to get to know people and his community. If you want to leave with hickeys all over your toosh, wrong business. If you want a better insight to a culture, community, family, food, and person, make conversation - it's great. His big grin always seems authentically joyful to be exchanging with folks. He does very much enjoy people.
Suggestions: Order water, and a drink. You can ask for a pitcher of water, recommended if he is busy. Ask for utensils and extra napkins. Plan at a minimum an hour, if the place is slow. When you are ready for the check, walk up to the counter to pay, and you'll be attended to promptly. If you need something, ask for it. He is very accommodating.
The food is *great*. It's a terrific place, family, and place to sit back, chat with friends, chat with Petros, and get your hands dirty. (it's tradition to eat with the inerja, not utensils, have fun and dig in).
The cons are the perceptions and expectations people go in with. Instant gratification and pretense are not served. Old school home-style cooking, friendliness, and relaxed pace there will make you happy, if you enjoy such things.
Get your play, finger food, and food/spice (mild and hot offered) enjoyment on.
Good food, but.... I've been to Jarra's several times. I always get the vegetarian combination and it's always good which is what keeps me coming back. I've heard the meat dishes are very good but very rich. You definitely need to be prepared to spend a long time there though. The owner is the only waiter and is in no rush to serve anyone. He can be very talkative which is sometimes interesting and sometimes offensive or excessive. Because there is often not enough injera and there's only so much bread I want to eat in one sitting, I often ask for a fork (i know, i know...) and extra napkins and they're reluctant to get me either.
Highly recommend with a caviat. Ethiopian is not for everyone. It is spicey, exotic and often gruel-like and meant to be eaten without utensils. With that said, this is one of my family's favorite restaurants. Our 9 year old loves the mild lentils and chicken, while the rest of us like it as hot as possible. We have enjoyed Jarra's since before their present location on Hawthorne. Over the years the food has been consistant and delicious. It has been a small, family run business since the beginning. If you are looking for fancy surroundings, efficient, speedy service, this is not the place for you. If you can slow down enough to appreciate the food as it should be appreciated, you will not be disappointed. Many of the things said in other postings do not fit our experience there (shortage of napkins, injera, rudeness from the owner or charging exhorbitantly). Ethiopian food requires much preparation and the prices they charge seem very fair for the dinners they serve. In our opinion, Jarra's is the best Ethiopian in Portland and we often leave the restaurant feeling like we ate the food of the gods.
insulting!. Really insulting and worst service ever! The owner/server came up to our table to take our order and basically said my friend and I had big noses, which was really a dig on our ethnicity. He then tried to guess where our families were from -- all with a smile. I thought it was rude, and I don't believe he was asking purely out of curiosity. I should have left, but stayed and really regret that because the food was luke warm and watery. I've had ethiopian food tons of times and I thought the bread was thin and tasteless.
love!. OMG!! I love this place and the owner are so sweet. This was the first place I ever had ethiopian food and I was instantly intrigued. I recommend going for lunch and keep in mind they are closed btw lunch and dinner which something like 3-5 i think. check it out.
This restaurant made me fall in love with Ethiopian food. To this day, it is the best Ethiopian food I have had. My job requires that I move every few months, and I have yet to find another place I love as much as this one in any other city. The portions are generous, the food flavorful and spicy.
The service was always great, and the restaurant quiet, but it is all about the food.
Note: I am vegetarian, so I can't say anything about the meaty menu items, though I know that everyone else I dragged to Jarra's loved it as well.
Enjoy like your in Ethiopia!. Wow, we had never had Ethiopian food before and had a great experience. Though it was a quiet place, the waiter and proprietor, Petros, and his wife and children were great hosts. We felt like guests in their home. Fully enjoyed the meal (prepare to get a bit messy, -get over it clean freaks) and the stories about Ethiopian culture, traditions, government, and history from Petros. Ask him a few questions, and you will feel like you were transported to his native country.
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