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Stop three on my comprehensive survey of San Diego’s Ethiopian dining scene was Harar Ethiopian Restaurant (2432 El Cajon Boulevard, 619-295-3735). It wasn’t too hard to find, since it’s just down the street from Awash Market. On the outside, Harar looks no great shakes. The ugly, green facade makes it appear more like a plumbing supply store than a restaurant.

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Yet the modest interior opens onto a pretty rad patio, complete with rattan chairs and chilled-out lighting. I’d never have guessed by looking at the squat building from the front.

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Harar resembles Awash in the urgency of service (or lack thereof). Though I was the only table for a while, my food didn’t rocket from the kitchen. But, as with Awash, waiting didn’t hurt anything and the meal was worth it.

Entrees were cheap ($7-10) and large, with enough injera to go around. The bread wasn’t quite as good as the super-fresh, tangy stuff at Awash, but it was still very good. The vegetarian sample platter filed an entire tray with vegetable wot and other stewed dishes. Of particular note was a sweet, lightly spiced concoction of beets and onions that served as a kind of vegetarian gored gored (which is usually made with chunks of tender beef).

Taking the risk, I ordered kitfo. The Ethiopian version of steak tartare is often served cooked and spiced with berbere or mitmita powder, but cool places serve it raw if you want.

I wanted.

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And I guess that makes Harar pretty cool! They did a good job with the kitfo, getting it just spicy enough that the cool, salty cheese served on the side was a welcome addition, but the rich flavor of the niter kibbeh (a seasoned, clarified butter) wasn’t obscured.

I’m fully aware (and so should you all be) that consuming raw beef can have...unpleasant consequences. This is true whether you get it at an Ethiopian family restaurant or a white-linens and fine wines French fine dining spot. Chances are they both got their meat from more or less the same place, since something like four companies control 80+% of the commercial meat trade in the US. Be that as it may, I strongly suggest everybody tough it up a little and dig into a bowl of kitfo sometime. It’s very much worth it!

Thus far, Harar has a strong lead in the competition for best overall Ethiopian restaurant. Awash would be choice number two. Red Sea is the lanterne rouge.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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