• Rahel Vegan Ethiopian Cuisine Lunch Special

    March 24th, 2009mr meanerLA restaurants, rahel vegan cuisine

    For those people in Ethiopia who are fortunate enough to get a square meal on a regular basis, the usual menu consists of a slab of meat with several vegetable side dishes and some flat, unleavened bread to scoop everything up into your face. It’s a coincidence that the vegetable side dishes fit into that unusual intersection of “naturally vegan, yet tasty”. Yeah, naturally tasty vegan food isn’t that common in ethnic mainstream (if you can call Ethiopian “mainstream”!) dining. After all, just about the only thing vegan at a Chinese restaurant is plain, white rice – the antitheses of tasty.

    I’m really glad that LA has a thriving Ethiopian community. Even though there are pockets of Ethiopian ex-pats all over the city, the Ethiopian dining center (called, strangely “Little Ethiopia”) is one short block of Fairfax Avenue between Olympic and Pico Blvds., and we vegans can take advantage of the excellent food and warm hospitality at any of over 20 restaurants, pretty much any time we like. One common menu item is the “vegetarian combination” which is, in fact, entirely vegan as it consists of hearty portions of each side dish with some bread on the side.

    I’ve eaten at many of the restaurants in Little Ethiopia over the years, and the vegetarian combination tastes exactly the same everywhere. I’m convinced they have one large kitchen in an alleyway somewhere that prepares all the side dishes and runners dash from there to each restaurant every time somebody places an order. OK, probably not, but the consistency is within a very fine tolerance of identical at each establishment.

    So, when choosing where to dine, I used to decide between Nyala and Rosalind’s – two of the larger and more established restaurants on the “strip”, largely as a preference over the kind of ambiance and atmosphere I was seeking. However, after discovering Rahel Vegan Cuisine I’m somewhat torn with my loyalties. You see, Rahel’s is entirely VEGAN – the staff are right up my street because they are nice, polite and wear tee-shirts with things like “Vegan POWER!” written on them. It also offers consistently tasty food, and is on the opposite side of the street to the aforementioned establishments – which is a good, because I come from the west and crossing Fairfax here is like being Frogger in the video game.

    I was fortunate, recently, to go back to Rahel’s with a friend and colleague who is much more of a regular than I. The lunch special during weekdays is an “all you can eat style” lunch, although a full a la carte menu is (surprisingly) available. I’m used to all-you-can-eat affairs being buffet-style where half the fun is pigging out on the dishes you really like, while ignoring the ones you don’t. Sadly, Rahel’s brings you one plate of food with no choice about what you get – probably due to the fact they don’t have room for a buffet setup as the restaurant is so small inside. This complicates things somewhat, and takes the fun out of scooping the food out of catering trays, as one would normally do at an all-you-can-eat session.

    Lunch Special at Rahel Vegan Cuisine

    Lunch Special at Rahel Vegan Cuisine

    Injera bread for scooping up vegetables

    Injera bread for scooping up vegetables

    Once you’ve eaten the food, there are two choices: another plate of what you just had, or a delicate negotiation with a server who knows WAY more than you’ll ever know about what you just ate and how to pronounce it, so that you can get more of the dishes you want. Having to ask a server for more free stuff feels sort-of guilty to me, and the gluttonous nature of all-you-can-eat is mitigated to a degree by the proxy of a human whom has to acknowledge and process every order. Compounding this is the fact that, like most ignorant white people, I’ve never managed to memorize the real Ethiopian names of the food I enjoy so much – so I’m reduced to explaining things in terms of color and texture: “the black, creamy lentils, but the ones without potatoes” and “the green salad-type thing with the large tomatoes on it” when I want more of something.

    Second plate of food after heavy negotiations with the waitress!

    Second plate of food after heavy negotiations with the waitress!

    Bottom line, Rahel’s has a lot going for it because it’s entirely vegan, but falls down in other areas. It’s small and cramped inside, with strange décor (upside down umbrellas on the ceiling?!), extra-small, glass-covered two-top tables and a lunchtime vegan buffet that’s a full buck more than Nyala’s vegan buffet across the street. Nyala’s is a much nicer place to be (high ceilings, expansive floor space, booths) and has a self-serve buffet, to guarantee that fatty vegans like me will always be satisfied.

    Remembering that Rahel’s is entirely vegan (although related to the anything-but-vegan Messob next door), it certainly warrants a visit – as do the other fine establishments in Little Ethiopia – but it falls short somewhat on atmosphere and convenience. Supporting a vegan business is always my preference, but I’ve added Rahel’s to my rotation of restaurants on this block, rather than going there exclusively.


    rahel vegan cuisine
    1047 south fairfax avenue
    los angeles ca 90019
    open daily
    11am to 11pm
    all you can eat lunch special
    11am – 3pm

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9 responses to “Rahel Vegan Ethiopian Cuisine Lunch Special” RSS icon

  • Excellent! Just not convenient to my work… nertz.

  • I’ve been loyal to Nyala for over ten years and haven’t yet tried Rahel, but I promise I will sometime in the near future. It’s just so hard to stray from consistent greatness! Thanks for this informative post, Mr. Meaner. 🙂

  • Next time you go try the sombusa, it is a pastry w/ lentils inside & so yummy

  • This is one of my top 3 favorite vegan restaurants in LA! I still haven’t tried Nyala… they need to rock their buffet on the weekends! 🙂

  • Oh man, I always wanted to try Rahel, just because they proclaim VEGAN on everything!

  • Rahel isn’t open for lunch during the week anymore, but on weekends they still have an all-you-can-eat buffet. Their buffet is now a traditional sort of buffet, in which you can go up and help yourself. They’ve also expanded their restaurant by buying out the store that was next door and taking down the wall in between. It looks really nice and spacious with a big glass window and cloth tablecloths.

  • Hello all. I am just here to make a correction. Rahel Vegan Cuisine is open everyday for lunch and dinner.
    Our hours are Sunday through Thurdsay 11 am – 10 pm. Friday and Saturday 11am to 11 pm. We even have a wonderful and plentiful vegan buffet (all you can eat) everyday from 11 am to 3pm.

    Come join us for our for our Vegan New Year’s Eve party at Rahel’s. There will be an all you can eat buffet, goodie bags for the first 100 people, party hats, and noise makers. Also, special prizes for the bessed dressed. Kids welcome too. There will be activities and special treats for the little ones.

  • Backing up Mahlet, here. Rahel is now Much bigger, and the food is always 100% consistent, mindblowingly delicious. Best Ethiopian on the strip.

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