Most Bostonians looking for an extra pep in the morning will likely visit one of the dozens of Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts that line the city streets. For something new, one might check out a hipster coffee shop like Pavement or Render. But if you’re looking for a unique experience, then look no further than Lucy Ethiopian Cafe, a restaurant beloved by customers for its strong coffee, spicy Ethiopian food and authentic African decor.
Lucy Ethiopian Cafe, located at 334 Massachusetts Ave., has become a popular spot among college students for its coffee—and for good reason. Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee, and the country today is the fifth largest producer of coffee in the world.
Mahi Goshime, a 19-year-old waitress at Lucy, said coffee holds special significance in Ethiopian communities. Whereas people in the United States will meet up at bars to grab beers, old and new friends gather in Ethiopia over cups of coffee.
“Coffee is you get together and then you talk about anything,” said Goshime, who immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia about a year ago. “It’s a way of communicating with their friends.”
Traditionally, coffee in Ethiopia takes around two hours to make, and people will sit around sipping for another hour or two. “It’s a very long ceremony,” Goshime said. But don’t worry, the staff at Lucy have sped up the process for you.
The Ethiopian Buna Be-Jebena is a special hot drink on the menu that, for $7.50, includes Ethiopian coffee in a traditional pot and small cups called “cini” served on a tray, along with a container of sugar and burning incense.
The drink is not for those who are ambivalent about coffee. It is much stronger and more bitter than you’ll be used to getting from Starbucks—but Ethiopian coffee is clearly superior to any American cup of Joe. And the experience of sitting down to enjoy the coffee with a friend is leagues beyond hurriedly grabbing a styrofoam cup from Dunkin’.
If you’re not interested in drinking an entire pot, you can also purchase single cups of coffee—espressos, macchiatos and cappuccinos—for $2.99 each. For the coffee haters out there, there are several incredible non-coffee special hot drinks, including the Peanut Tea. Described on the menu as “a special house recipe” of milk, honey and peanuts, the hot Peanut Tea tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup melting in your mouth.
I would be remiss to review Lucy without once mentioning its amazing food—and wow, is it amazing. You won’t find any paninis or pizza slices here. The menu is exclusively comprised of authentic Ethiopian food, including a number of options for vegetarian diners.
One of the best dishes is the lega tibs—beef chunks sautéed in oil and seasoned in onions, green peppers, jalepenos, tomatoes, garlic and rosemary cooked with awaze hot sauce. The lega tibs are $11.95 and can be prepared mild or hot.
Served with rolls of injera (Ethiopian flatbread), lega tibs (like all Ethiopian food) are eaten with your hands.
Whether you’re looking for a cup of coffee, lunch or dinner, Lucy Ethiopian Cafe will not disappoint. As an added bonus, the restaurant is incredibly convenient—located right above the Symphony Green Line T station and easily handicapped-accessible via an outdoor ramp.
Lucy is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, give Lucy a call at (617) 536-0415 or check the restaurant out on its Facebook page.
And for some more great coffee shops in Boston, check out this map: