From the culinary masters who brought us the flavorful kebobs and veggies from Stick 'Em Food Truck comes Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant, set to open this weekend on Madison Avenue.
The dining room, with mural by local artist Gino Spotso.
I had a chance to attend the soft opening last night with a friend, so here's a little preview. Follow Blue Nile on Facebook for the opening date and other updates.
Blue Nile is tucked into a small space on Madison next to the Bar-B-Que Shop. They'll focus on Ethiopian cuisine like wat (stew) with injera (the soft, spongey bread you use to pick up the food), lots of fresh vegetables, and will also carry the kebobs like you can get from Stick 'Em Food Truck.
There are about a dozen tables, including a couple of big booths, as well as a bar. It was a little stuffy in there yesterday, but I chalk that up to it being a soft-opening.
My friend ordered a traditional Ethiopian chickpea stew, shiro wat, with a tomato salad and a side of greens. I was curious, so I tried the lamb burger with a beet salad.
The shiro wat (the orange stew above) was the best thing we tried; it had the bold flavors and spices that you'd expect and made me want to try the other wat options. It wasn't a big deal to use the injera to eat the stew and the sides, but they're happy to give you silverware.
The lamb "burger" (below) was not really a burger as it was prepared for me. It wasn't a patty and it wasn't on a bun. It was more like a sandwich with ground lamb and feta. I thought the meat was well-seasoned and pretty tasty, but it needed a sauce or something extra to bring the sandwich together. Later in the meal, I actually spooned some of the sauce from the shiro wat onto the meat: a good call.
Normally this will come with fried jalapeños rather than just fresh.
The sides were simply fresh veggies with minimal seasoning rather than the salads described on the menu. I have exactly zero problems with a side of fresh sliced beets or chopped tomatoes – we could all use with a little more of that in our diets – but that wasn't what we expected. It may have been a soft opening thing. This won't deter me at all from going back, though.
The dinner menu was very affordable, with dishes between $9 and $13. They've applied for their alcohol license, but it's BYOB until then.
Blue Nile will be open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days. Once I find out their hours for sure, I'll update this post. Kids with adventurous palates should have no problem finding something to eat, but you might want to take a look at the menu first to be sure. There are plenty of vegetarian-friendly items.
I'm looking forward to adding Blue Nile into my midtown lunch and dinner rotation. And when I have a craving for Stick 'Em's kebobs, I don't have to pray the food truck is somewhere near me that day.
Go there (when they open):
Blue Nile Ethiopian Kitchen
1798 Madison Avenue, Memphis TN 38104