Restaurant Review: Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

In the few weeks prior to my recent trip to Orlando, I was craving Ethiopian food. If you’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy Ethiopian before, you should try it! Many, many traditional dishes are already gluten free and vegan. Even the injera bread, which is used as a utensil, is gluten free since it’s made out of teff flour. I’ve been to several Ethiopian restaurants in Michigan where I’ve been very impressed with the food, so I was very excited to learn Nile Ethiopian Restaurant was rated in the 10 best gluten-free dining locations in Orlando.

I managed to convince my mom to give Nile a try. Like most Ethiopian restaurants, it appears to be family-run, located in a strip mall off International Drive. The décor on the inside is very cute and provides for a more authentic dining experience. There are small booths in back where larger groups can sit in a circle around a small table with their food. This is important because traditional meals are served on a common platter lined with injera bread. The different lentil, split pea, vegetable and meat dishes are portioned on top of the bread.

Since there was only two of us, we were seated at a small table. We arrived around 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, and there was only one other party dining there. Our waitress came quickly and asked if we were familiar with Ethiopian cuisine and if we knew what we wanted. I spied the Vegetarian Taste of the Nile and knew that was what I wanted. It came with the common plant-based items: kik alicha (yellow split peas), misir wat (red lentils), gomen (collard greens), tikel gomen (cabbage with carrots and garlic), along with a house salad. I confirmed with the waitress that it was all gluten-free and vegan, and she said it was.

Like many Ethiopian restaurants, the injera Nile serves is mixed with wheat flour, as it’s much less expensive than teff is. Our waitress said they had a pure teff injera that was gluten-free, but I’d have to pay for it. There also was some uncertainty whether it was prepared on the same cook surface as the wheat one or not. Either way, I decided to forgo the bread… I knew I was going to have plenty to eat anyways. I ordered an Ethiopian tea, too. The tea is another highlight of an Ethiopian meal. It’s a mix of cinnamon and other spices with subtle hints of fruit.

The food arrived quickly, steaming hot. Everything was delicious! My “pro tip” is to put the red lentils, which are a little spicy, on top of the collards that aren’t super flavorful by themselves. The combo is fantastic. As always, the yellow split peas were my favorite, but the cabbage was very tasty as well. The salad isn’t something I’m used to being served, but I appreciated the fresh vegetable element with the heavier meal.

Overall, everything was very tasty and lived up to my high expectations from the other Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to. I also found the quiet atmosphere was a nice break from the craziness of Disney World where I was spending most of my time. I’ll definitely be back. There are not many places where you can order multiple things, let alone an option that allows you to taste everything.

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