Sunday, January 4, 2009


Nashville Restaurants and Food
415 Thompson Lane

The lunch buffet can be a mad rush of workers trying to cram in as much food as possible, with steam tables full of items that all taste the same. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are several places in Nashville where quality buffet food can be found in a peaceful environment. Gojo Ethiopian Cafe is one of those restaurants.
It’s hard to miss Gojo: the orange building sticks out on the Thompson Lane strip of mattress and furniture stores. You’re greeted with warm smiles by the owners, Shemsia and Ahmed Maregn. Pleasant African music rests comfortably in the background. A light incense wafts through the air. The walls are adorned with woven baskets, instruments and other artifacts of East African culture. Even the buffet serving line is simple and elegant. Six stylish, silver chafing dishes are poised on a table, with signs describing the item and ingredients. On this day those items include three vegetarian and three meat, and sides that include injera and injera salad.
Injera is spelled enjera at Gojo, which is another translation. The flat bread is a staple of Ethiopian cuisine and a big part of any meal. The look and feel of it may put off some people. It’s gray, cold and spongy. The taste is sour, because of the sour dough starter style fermentation. It’s made with Teff flour, which is a grain found in East Africa. Injera is often served underneath the other dishes in Ethiopia, with another piece used to grab the many stew like entrees. My personal preference is to try everything with and then without injera, because the sour flavor provides a great accompaniment to some dishes and not others.
At Gojo you take a piece or two of injera from a basket and you’ll find forks and spoons to give you the choice to scoop or not to scoop. Of course it would be a shame not to eat some of the entrees in true Ethiopian style. MiserWet benefits from the injera sour. Split lentils are cooked into a creamy consistency with onion, garlic and ginger. It has a lovely, subtle flavor with just a little mild kick in the background from garlic and hot pepper. The Beef Stew tastes like it was made for injera bread. It’s moist and with a mellow taste that is brought to life with a bit of sour flatbread to scoop up each piece. The cabbage with turmeric sauce is one dish perhaps better eaten alone. It’s plenty sour on its own. Yellow split pea has some ginger and garlic but remains rather tame. Laid back, savory flavors are the centerpiece for this lunch and that’s okay. The only entrĂ©e with some zip is Bozena Shiro, beef with chickpea. It’s bolder and with a bit of heat.
The injera may be best when paired with tomatoes, peppers and vinegar for the Injera Salad. You can finish up with a nice fruit salad in syrup. In all, it’s comforting food on a chilly December day.
The dinner menu includes a couple of pastry dishes for appetizers and a selection of salads. Entrees cover a range of meats such as Kifto beef, Yebeg lamb tips and DoroWet chicken. They always have several vegetarian items, including the Vegetarian Combo which allows you to get smaller portions of four different veggie entrees.
Gojo is the name for traditional Ethiopian homes and you’ll probably feel right at home in this Nashville restaurant whether it be for lunch or dinner. The lunch buffet is $7.99. I paid $10 with tax and tip.
Gojo Ethiopian Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Lannae said...

Happy New Year! Keep the good eats posts coming! We enjoyed Gojo and how they renovated the space. It is much brighter and cleaner from previous owners. We also enjoy another Ethiopian place (mostly take out) Abay in the Aldi shopping center on Nolensville. Abay is around the corner, unseen from the street, so it is hard to find. I like the take out because the last time we were there, the dishes had a soapy detergent scent.

Anonymous said...

We ate there as a group of 6 from work. While the owners were bend-over-backwards accommodating and friendly, the food was just okay. Not crazy about the homemade buffet with the chafing dishes and crockpots, and the ambience isn't the best either. Granted, it's cheap and filling, but I think I'd rather spend a little more and get something more memorable.

Eric and Katie said...

Lanne: Yes, there have been several Ethiopean places in that location...we'll have to try Abay.