We talk a lot about perfect date nights at The Infatuation. Whether it’s a blind first date or the rare evening when you’ve hired a babysitter, these things tend to have a lot in common - you’re going to want a romantic atmosphere (but not the kind where you get stuck in some claustrophobic corner table all night), a space where you can hear each other talk, and some solid drinking options should the conversation lull. You are probably not going to want to eat with your hands.
Meals By Genet, the classic Ethiopian restaurant on Fairfax, might prove otherwise. It’s an excellent date night spot, and the fact that you’re eating with your hands only adds to the fun.
If you’ve ever driven down Fairfax, you’ve no doubt passed the two-block stretch known as Little Ethiopia. With colorful storefronts and nearly a dozen different Ethiopian restaurants, it’s a tough area to miss. But even amongst the crowded real estate, Meals By Genet stands out. Most places here are casual and cater to big groups of friends or families. Meals By Genet, on the other hand, feels like you’ve walked into a French restaurant in Brentwood. It’s small, dimly-lit, and there’s napkins inside the wine glasses. The atmosphere is subdued, but it’s also the furthest thing from being dull. When the food coming out of the kitchen is this delicious and interesting, you’ll never be bored.
The menu at Meals By Genet is small, but if it’s your first visit, the correct course of action might not be immediately obvious. Here’s what you do: order the vegetarian combination. It’s a giant platter covered with spongy injera, and topped with every excellent side dish on the menu. It’s a great way to try as much food as possible, while still allowing for some additional entrees for you and your date.
At least one of those additional entrees should be the doro wot, a spicy chicken stew that’s been marinating for 50 hours in a red pepper sauce. It’s a fragrant, intensely-flavored dish - and one that you and your date will definitely be texting about tomorrow. From there, add in a few more glasses of wine, one of our favorite vegetarian dishes in LA, the tofu tibs, and you’re set. All that’s left now is to put your phone away (your hands won’t be clean for an hour), roll up your sleeves, and start in on a meal that’s just as messy as dating. At least at Meals By Genet, you get to have some fun along the way.
Combining every side dish on the menu (about 12 different items), this injera-covered platter is the literal foundation for every dinner at Meals By Genet. You’ll eat things like collard greens, yellow split peas, green lentils, and pureed sunflower seas with jalapeno. As you begin to tear away at the injera, you’ll definitely lose track of which dish is which, but just embrace it. It all tastes better mixed together anyway.
Because the vegetarian combination and the entrees all come out at the same time, there’s a decent gap between when you order and the food arrives. Fill that space with this fantastic bowl of pureed fava bean dip. Even though it’s listed as an entree, it’s served as an appetizer and is perfect for sharing when you’re too hungry to wait for the main course.
This is the most popular dish at Meals By Genet, and if you’re only going to add one entree to your vegetarian combination, makes sure it’s this spicy chicken stew. Marinated in a red pepper sauce for 50 hours, there’s nothing subtle about it - or your midnight cravings for it tomorrow.
As is the case with most Ethiopian restaurants, Meals By Genet is an incredible place to eat if you’re a vegetarian. That said, no matter what kind of diet you adhere to, the tofu dibs need to be ordered. Sauteed in onions, green chilies, and Ethiopian butter, this is a rich and slightly spicy dish that’s quickly become one of our favorite vegetarian plates in the city.