Bete-Lukas Ethiopian

Bete-Lukas Brief Review
Overall Service Food Quality Atmosphere Vegan Options
9 10 9 8 9
Location: Location: 2504 SE 50th Ave, Suite D – upstairs Portland, OR
Hours: Dinner: Tuesday-Sunday 5pm-close
Lunch – weekends only 11:30am-2:30pm
Times Visited: 3

Truth be told, this review has suffered from exhaustive delay. This can happen with our two visit minimum rule for local restaurants, and this is one place that deserves your hungry attention. The Stumptown Vegans first read about Bete-Lukas opening on Portland Food and Drink, which brought one of us there months ago for dinner, and then busy life and a delayed second visit for no good reason other then, well, busy life, kept us quiet. Recently this restaurant has been receiving buzz in the Portland Mercury and on the Food Fight! blog and that was the kick in the pants this reviewer need to eat even more Ethiopian food on a third visit and discuss.

Bete-Lukas has been open for a few months now on SE Division Street, located next to North Bar across from the possibly world-renowned Los Gorditos cart. If you can hold in your craving for a giant plate of nachos and pull out a couple more dollars, I urge you to walk across the street and to stuff yourself with Ethiopian goodness.

What makes Bete-Lukas stand out from the other Ethiopian restaurants we’ve visited? Atmosphere, for one. There’s an upscale air to the literally upstairs restaurant. There are stairs that lead to the main entrance on the right side of the building, and an elevator available in front. There are fancy white table cloths, glasses and candles on the tables and the wait staff is dressed professionally. The lighting is somewhat dimmed and there’s an honest sense of class about the establishment.  But being Portland, don’t be nervous about going in jeans.

The second stand out is it’s location. The majority of Ethiopian restaurants in the metro area are located in Northeast Portland, and while I’ve been to a few others, naturally as a South East resident I delight in things coming to me. Thirdly, the service is wonderful. Picture yourself practically at a comedy show if the owner comes to your table. His banter is fabulously dry and usually warm-hearted. As Maeve of the Portland-based Strawberryrock and the World of Vegan Food, points out – and I’ve experienced twice – don’t be terrified if he tells you your credit card is declined. I’d go on about his repertoire, but I don’t want to spoil the show.

As for food, the prices are on the lower-end of most sit down restaurant dinners, with my personal bill coming to $11, or so, plus tip on each of my three visits, and everyone leaving more than satisfied. Considering the setting, the menu prices, at $7-8 per vegetarian entree are a nice read.

I don’t know anyone who likes Ethiopian food and doesn’t find him or herself only eating a bit of everything, so go for it and order a Veggie Combo ($11 for one) for yourself, or two for two guests. WIth a party of three, I’d imagine a combo for two could suffice if you keep eating ample injera pieces and order an appetizer to share. After talking with the expert owner, it appears that all but one vegetarian option on the menu are naturally vegan. The Kategna, which is warm injera served with berbere and seasoned butter appetizer is the sole exception. On all of my visits, the Veggie Combo has included a complimentary dish not listed on the menu, the Fosolia green beans and carrots sauteed with a glossy, high quality olive oil. The rest of the platter included a spicy and thick Misser Wot lentil dish, a smoothly flavored and substantial Kik Alicha Wot, Gomen made with Portland’s favorite green, Kale, Tikel Gomen, made of cabbage, potato, and carrot in a light curry sauce and a standard side of house salad with a tangy dressing served on top of injera. Whether you’ve had Ethiopian food previously or not, a combo is the best way to more than sample what the restaurant has to offer. I love variety, but I could sit down to a plate of their Misser Wot and Gomen and be happy.

Their housemade injera is 80% teff, 10% barley and 10% wheat. On my first two visits, a separate bowl of injera was brought to my to table along with the food. While on another night,a busy Saturday evening, this did not happen. There was plenty of injera overlapping the platter and no food remained unscooped and the leftover savory soaked injera on the plate was delicious in itself. As the owner/waiter will advise, injera is filling and expands in your stomach. Take it somewhat easy with injera and water or I can picture you burping berbere for days.

On my third visit, my two dining companions and myself shared the Veggie Combo for two and an order of drum-roll, please, my new favorite dish in Portland: the Eggplant Tibs ($8). I must give the credit for the eggplant choice to Maeve. The girl loves that nightshade and it was fun to try something new, which is part of the point of a Stumptown Vegan’s repeat visits, after all. The dish featured small chunks of perfectly sauteed eggplant that were spicy, sensual and neither over nor undercooked. It made me want to return immediately and order it again. I haven’t felt so passionate about a dish out in ages.

Bete Lukas was lovely but far too quiet in terms of customers on my first two visits. This was not the case on the third, and I hope that’s the current situation. It is not a place that local residents should overlook, and if you’re an Ethiopian food lover, you deserve to travel across town for this eggplant dish.  

See our reviews of the obviously more casual Dalo’s and Small World Cafe here.

Veggie Platter for Two, shared with Chelsea of Flavorvegan


Exterior of the front of the building – walk around the corner and up the stairs for entrance!

Bete-Lukas on Urbanspoon


16 responses to “Bete-Lukas Ethiopian

  1. My wife and I were stoked when we saw they were moving in last year. “An Ethiopian restaurant in walking distance??? No way”. We visit often and it is by far our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in Portland (that honor used to belong to Blue Nile Cafe). The owner really is great and the service and food is outstanding.

    As for the number of customers, we worried about that for a while because it was hardly ever close to busy the first few times we went. It turns out that’s just ’cause we tend to eat early (we usually go right about when they open). The few times we’ve gone later in the evening (not much later…6:30 or 7) since it’s been packed. We actually stopped by this Saturday at 7 and there was an hour wait to get a table.

  2. The majority of Ethiopian restaurants are not in “North Portland” but in “Northeast Portland”!!! Aaaah.

    This is a lovely review.

    You are right. An Ethiopian food-lover like myself can no longer excuse myself from the travel “across town” to try this: it looks gorgeous.

    Name the day, and I’ll meet you there. And before or after that, I show you Burqitu! Yum!

  3. Oh my goodness, eggplant in Ethiopian food? That sounds like a dream come true. Bit of a trek to get out there for me, but I’m sold!

  4. is the eggplant dish there better than the eggplant dish at Ya Hala’s?? i don’t even care for the vegetable, but i love that Ya Hala dish…
    i’m ready for an Ethernopian meal…

  5. Hey Michelle! Silly SE-centric me updated the North vs. Northeast bit. I goofed!

    I am so stoked for Burqitu! I’ve been hearing about it for months : )

    K.E.N. – I haven’t tried the eggplant entree(s) at Ya Hala but I would swear by their smokey Baba Ganouj. Have you had it?

    Let’s plan a couple Ethiopian dinner dates, folks.

  6. I love Bete-Lukas! Have been there a few times now and am never disappointed, other than last time when they were out of two different appetizers because they had been so busy! Good for them! I also love that it’s an easy walk from my house. That makes me very, very happy. Walked there during the crazy December snow. Completely worth it.
    What’s Burqitu?

  7. Burqitu is awesome! Really friendly people! It’s not an “atmosphere” place, but what it is is delicious.

    Yes, ethiopian outings. Yes yes.

    And I have never been to Ya Hala! Still!

  8. I LOVE this place! The atmosphere is so lovely- very romantic, I think. I love how dimly lit the lights are, the linen tablecloths, the service, and of course, the food was fantastic. So reasonably priced too! I’ll be back fo sho.

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