Location: 1721 Babcock Road, 210-263-7002, no web presence
Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 2-10 p.m. Sunday.
On the menu: Breakfast: Ful, a dish with with fava beans, onions, tomatoes and olive oil, $4.95 with one egg, $6.95 with two; panini with baked eggs and onions, $4.95; spiced and shredded bread called kitcha fit-fit, $6.95/$8.95 with beef; fit-fit with injera bread, $8.95/$10.95 with beef; frittata, $4.95. Lunch and dinner: Appetizers (veggie or beef samosas), $2.50; vegetarian dishes (collards, spinach, lentils, chickpeas, cabbage), $8.95-$12.95; beef and lamb dishes (tibs, key wat), $11.95-$12.95; chicken dishes (derho tsebhi, derho tibsi), $11.95-$13.95; vegetable sides, $2.50. The cafe has applied for a beer and wine permit.
Fast facts: Girmay Bahta and his wife, Azmera Asgedom — both from Eritrea — opened Rehoboth Eritrean-Ethiopian Cuisine two weeks ago, fulfilling a dream that started in 2015 with their first business, Zara Grocery across the road on Babcock.
Eritrea and Ethiopia remain close in many ways, despite their split in 1993: in their culture, in their geography — Eritrea sits right atop its much larger neighbor to the south on the Horn of Africa —and in the foods they eat.
Rehoboth, the name of which comes from the community well dug by Isaac in the Old Testament, brings the two countries together under the common banner of berbere spice, turmeric, curry, garlic, ginger and most important, the soft, rollable, air-pocketed sourdough flatbread called injera that acts as silverware, starch and sponge for the rich, spicy, butter-loving food of the region.
Impressions: The best point of entry to this small shop is a vegetarian sampler served on a wide circle of injera folded neatly at the corners to fit a square platter. There’s the bright yellow split-pea mash of turmeric-spiced alicha, served next to sweet cabbage with the same spice. Completing the circle are dabs of potatoes, chickpeas and lentils, each with the same thickly mashed consistency. In the center is a salted tangle of shredded spinach and collard greens. Tear off a corner of the injera and start scooping.
For a more robust Ethiopian experience, try the thick beef and lamb stew called awaze tibs, with a web of soft, sweet onions and the mixed aromatics of berbere spice: cardamom, coriander, paprika, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and chile powder, enough of it to make your mouth sting at its smile points.
A dish called derho tsebhi brings a similar spectrum of red spices to roasted chicken and a boiled egg. Usually made with juicy dark-meat chicken legs, Rehoboth’s version uses breast meat instead, and it’s a step down. More attractive, maybe, but the meat’s gone dry and hard from its time in the braise.
Finish with a clay pot of hot, dark-roasted, grainy African coffee poured into tiny cups with ... something extra on the side. “We never have coffee without popcorn,” Bahta said.