This lunch pick is more a plea. Support, if you will, tasty restaurants whenever and wherever you find them and particularly, especially when they’re tricky to find, tucked in behind the steel barricades of city construction zones. If you are able, make a point to seek them out for they are suffering.
In the weeks that follow, I’ll be highlighting some of these worthy, lonely places and I begin with this one.
The Red Sea Café is fairly new, and now faced with the roadblock of months of planned work on Holland Avenue. Open early for breakfast and through lunch service on weekdays (open later for an early supper on weekends), Red Sea is an Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant that incorporates in its more classical repertoire, some ‘Canadian’ conveniences. Things like submarine sandwiches, wraps, and breakfast dishes. Not all standard Ethiopian fare, but a welcome addition to the more classical slow-cooked cuisine on the other side of the menu, and clearly designed for those in a fast-food mood. So you need not commit here to a full-on Ethiopian sit-down feast (bring friends) with its mounds of colourful ‘wots’ – spicy and mild – spread out on the spongy white pancake canvas of injera.
Red Sea Cafe’s ‘fuul medames’
In the sandwich department, I’d recommend the ‘Tibsie S’ga’ sub featuring tender strips of beef cooked with tomato, garlic, onion, and with berbere (the uniquely Ethiopian spice mix) playing a starring role. This warm filling gets tucked into a soft whole wheat bun and served with a green salad. Another option is a plate of ‘fuul medames’, of roughly mashed, still warm fava beans topped with a cold salad of chopped tomato, onion and jalapeno, dotted with feta cheese, drizzled with lemon and olive oil, and served with a hard cooked egg. The dish comes with a basket of bread for dunking, dipping and ferrying food to mouth. (Utensils are provided, but are not traditionally used.) For $5.50 it made a lovely late breakfast, especially when combined with a first class espresso and served with clucking kindness by the two women who run Red Sea.
Cost: Lunch sandwiches (with salad), $6 to $7.50; main dishes, $3 to $13
Open: Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 3pm; Saturdays, 8:30am to 7pm; Sundays, noon to 6pm