Tasty, fast food at new Moya Grill Ethiopian restaurant
One of the things I love about Washington University is its proximity to an array of St. Louis dining options. We’re surrounded by the Central West End, Clayton and, of course, the Delmar Loop, each of which has its own unique vibe and set of restaurants. Since coming to college, I’ve had the opportunity to try so many new kinds of foods—Chinese, Indian, Korean, Mexican, Korean-Mexican fusion and, thanks to my venture to Moya Grill this past weekend, I can now add Ethiopian to the list.
A casual, fast-service restaurant, Moya Grill opened to the public in January. It’s situated at the end of the path leading from the overpass to the Loop, making it a convenient 10-minute walk from campus. Although it’s only been open for a few months, I’ve already noticed a buzz about it forming here on campus. My first impression walking in for dinner on Saturday night was that it was small but not cramped, well-lit and had a contemporary ambiance. It was quiet for a Saturday night, but, after having the great dining experience I did, I’m inclined to say that’s likely all due to the fact that it’s new and still establishing itself.
You order at the counter and then sit down and wait for your food, which comes out relatively quickly (10-15 minutes). Since this was my first time eating Ethiopian food, I was anticipating having to ask for translations. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the menu posted on the wall explained, in detail, what each dish name meant. Of course, being the moron that I am, I still had to make a fool of myself by asking if because an item on the menu was called “Fit-Fit,” it was a healthier option—no; no, that’s not what it means.
“Fit-Fit” is actually one of three plating options you can choose from when you order either “wot,” a type of stew, or “tibs,” your choice of cut-up meat (chicken, beef, fish, shrimp) sauteed with onion, bell pepper and spices. While “Ba-Rooz” is an Ethoipian low-land style that consists of just rice as a side dish, the “Classic” and “Fit-Fit” styles both incorporate Injera, a kind of bread, which, in my opinion, is really the star of the show. Their menu describes it perfectly: “A light, spongy flatbread, unique sourdough-like flavor.” I received two hearty pieces of injera with my appetizer, the avocado salad. I was expecting it to resemble naan, but its truly spongy consistency and rich taste set it apart. It was the part of the meal that I found myself craving the next day. The salad, too, was fresh and refreshing and left me hungry for more. The chicken tibs done in the “Fit-Fit” style (yes, I decided the best way to remedy my blunder was to fly with it) were well-seasoned, and the filling was not too heavy. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, tibs also come in the form of tofu, white beans or vegetables.
Being able to choose a plating style is just one of the ways customers can customize their meals. They can also choose between warm creamy chickpeas or a chickpea salad for their side. Even though I was a bit off the mark in thinking that “Fit-Fit” equated to additional health benefits, I found that the food wasn’t super rich like some ethnic foods can be, and I didn’t feel weighed down by the meal’s end like I would have if I had chosen Chinese or Indian for the evening.
I appreciate how the menu takes into account the subtleties in the customers’ preferences and offers plenty of variety. I don’t see it as a spot I will get tired of anytime soon, and the affordable prices only strengthen my resolve to return. Also, when else in my life will I live somewhere with an Ethiopian restaurant that’s a five minute drive away? It’s not everywhere that someone has access to so many different kinds of foods, so I’ll take advantage of it while I can.