A look at Den Den Restaurant / Eritrean food

Den_Den_Restaurant

 

Compared to similar, Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to such as Ras Dashen, Den Den is a little bit more open with some more space, and you won’t see as many traditional, family-style tables in the restaurant with the circular center tables.  What you will see, however, is a buffet area set up in the back.  I’m not sure if they serve lunch buffets, but I do know at the very least that they do private parties.  Overall the restaurant and decor are simple but nice.

Let’s hit up those numbers.

Where is it? 6635 N. Clark, in Rogers Park

Is there a website?  No, not that I can tell.  A quick search only gave me review-based sites such as Yelp and Chicago Reader.  (Y’know, those more fancy pants, non-blog, “official” sites.)

A new experience (have folks heard of it and eaten it before?): 5 out of 5

- Uh, yeah.  “Wait, you’re going to Eritrean?  What the hell is that?  Eritrea’s a COUNTRY?  Where???”  That gets you 5 uniqueness stars.

What “common” cuisine comes closest? Ethiopian

- Eritrean is rather similar to Ethiopian, to the point where if you generally like Ethiopian you’ll generally like Eritrean, and vice versa.  There are subtle differences which I’ll get into later, but I think if someone wasn’t paying attention and didn’t know a lot about the cuisines, they wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the two.

Spicy: 3.5 out of 5

- You can range from non-spicy to spicy, but I’d say on average there’s at least a little bit of spice involved in most of the food.

Vegetarian/vegan/gluten friendly: 4 out of 5

- Den Den is vegetarian and vegan friendly for sure.  Lots of vegetarian menu items from which to choose.  The gluten-free part, I’m not so sure.  Your utensils, so to speak, are injera bread, which is a dry, spongy sourdough bread.  I’m not well-versed in the gluten-free stuff, but from what the Internet tells me injera might not be gluten-free when made the standard way.  It sounds like you can make gluten-free injera, but I’m not sure if Den Den does so and I didn’t ask.  My bad.

Variety: 3.5 out of 5

- There’s good variety between the different meats (beef, lamb, chicken) and the vegetarian options, and you can also get spaghetti at Den Den due to the Italian influence.  However Eritrean has a general mix and flavor to it (some spices, a bit of a curry taste, meat and vegetables, injera bread) and if you’re not feeling that sort of meal, your options would be limited.  Not a bad thing, but just more of a heads up.  If you’re feeling something really sweet, for instance, maybe wait to go to Den Den another night.

How big is the restaurant?  Um, let’s call it a solid medium size.  Definitely bigger than a little hole-in-the-wall diner, but we’re not talking about a banquet hall here either.  I’d guess maybe 15-30 tables.  For what it's worth I think in general waits aren’t a big issue.

What could Ulysses S. Grant get me?  Probably two to three full people.  Main meals are $15ish and sides were like $5-7.  Eritrean is also very conducive to sharing, given how the food is set up and presented, so it’d be easy to divvy up your orders for either a value or variety play.

What’s up with booze?

- There’s a bar, where you can order some standard drinks as well as some east African mead or honey wine.  While it isn’t booze, but I’d give the coffee a shot.  They roast the beans right there, and you can get a look and a whiff of them before they give you the coffee.  The coffee is presented and poured from a traditional clay jar, and it’s very strong and flavorful.  I’m not a coffee guy but I could still tell that the smell and taste were much more vibrant than a typical cup of Joe.

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