eat today photo by alexa beattie

Ethiopian restaurant Eat Today now open in former home of Lulu’s Local Eatery on South Grand

There’s cardamom in the coffee. There’s berbere in the lamb. But these don’t taste like American spices. Maybe because they’re packaged by loved-ones and sent all the way from the Ethiopian farmlands to here — a little corner of Grand Boulevard and Wyoming Street in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis. 

Eat Today, a new Ethiopian restaurant, opened its doors this week in the space formerly occupied by Lulu’s Local Eatery at 3201 S. Grand Blvd., adding another option to the broad spectrum of international cuisine in this neighborhood.

After immigrating to the U.S. from Addis Ababa, owners Theo and Ruth Mengistie settled first in Dallas. They moved to St. Louis 10 years ago, so that Theo, a former judge, could further his education at Washington University. It was too expensive. He abandoned the plan and spent the next years managing operations at both Meskerem (directly across the street) and River City Casino.

“I like to be my own boss,” he said. He was looking around his brand-new business — the sunny yellow walls, the shelves of artifacts behind the bar, his young teenage son, Elnathan, sitting quietly on his phone. Ruth had just brought some of that Ethiopian coffee to the table and was squeezing a long stream of honey into a tiny cup.

The couple does all the cooking and their food feels nourishingly homespun. It’s a well-balanced menu of meat dishes (chicken, beef, pork and lamb, often roasted then sautéed), and vegetable entrees. The split yellow peas featured on a mixed platter of beets, peas, green beans and rice are deeply flavored with garlic, onions and turmeric. They are warming and wholesome.

The Mengisties, knowing the importance of pizza to the average American diner, offer an Ethiopian version: kite. “It’s creeping in,” Theo said. The Meat Lover is scattered with finely ground beef, lamb and chicken spiced with ginger and black pepper. Discs of pepperoni are in that mix, as well. To a greater or lesser degree, berbere, that characteristically Ethiopian mix of toasted spices like cumin, coriander, clove, nutmeg and fenugreek, perfumes much of this food.

Eat Today has yet to receive its liquor license, but once it does, it will finalize its wine and on-tap beer selections. There’s a bar with stools for four in the downstairs restaurant and also one on the second floor, which likely will be used as a more private event/meeting space. In the main restaurant, there are seats for 41.

Eat Today is open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.