By Dr. Ink
The consolation to this stressed economy is that scores of restaurants serving fine and exotic fare have tagged portions of their stocks to happy-hour pricing. Bayu’s Authentic Ethiopian Cuisine is no exception, as we found bargains occurring there seven days a week.
The good pickings include all six appetizers on Bayu’s menu, slashed by 50 percent in conjunction with Ethiopian beers and wines by the glass. If you’ve never swiped ingera (Ethiopian flatbread) through peppery azifa (lentil salad), and then washed it down with a bottle of crisp Harar lager, this is the place to start. During happy hour, the combination rings up to a mere $6.
Azifa snags the palate with a rich blend of lentils, green chilies, mustard seed, garlic and ginger. It’s served in a medium-sized kettle encircled by rolls of spongy ingera made from tiny grains called teff. Move further down the list and you’ll encounter half-price trios of plump sambosas filled with veggies or meat; a couple salads hiding bits of hot peppers; and a buttery, crisped sheet of ingera, which is brushed with spicy, deep-red awaze sauce.
“These dishes match enormously better to beer than peanuts and pretzels,” I exclaimed to my wine-loving drinking pal as he instead settled on a Sicilian syrah sporting the delicate fruitiness expected from an Italian wine. The bartender was kind in helping him choose by initially offering a couple of tasting samples from the Ethiopian varieties. But their flavor profiles were difficult to assess on the spot, particularly the red Gouder with its ethereal herbal-oak finish. No matter what you decide, a glass of vino during happy hour costs $3.25 at most.
Other Ethiopian beers in the offing include Hakim, celebrated for its malty, banana-like flavor, plus yeasty tasting Bedele that easily appeals to fans of hefeweizen. On discount, they sell for under $2.50 apiece. The list obliges to a smattering of domestics and locally brewed suds as well, although the thought of knocking back East African appetizers with a Miller seems sacrilege.
Bayu greets with a tidy, easygoing atmosphere replete with ample bar seating and table nooks. Take only a few steps off this busy block of University Avenue and the well-dressed staff will guide you into a faraway culinary journey for very little cash.
The beer and wine lists are succinct, but they contain choices of Ethiopian origin that offer unique flavor profiles.
All appetizers on the regular menu are up for grabs at half-price during happy hour, allowing you to sample for cheap some of the best Ethiopian food in San Diego. Fans of spicy foods should look no further than the kategna, a crispy sheet of ingera brushed with kicky awaze sauce. Zippy lentil dip (azifa) and traditional sambosas also make the cut.
After deducting 50 percent off appetizers and drinks, neither ends up costing you more than $3.25 per item.
Staffers are attentive and friendly, and particularly engaging if you sit at the bar.
Bayu serves as a sanctuary for Epicureans on a budget, offering exotic food and drink for three hours every day of the week.
Bayu’s Authentic Ethiopian Cuisine
530 University Ave. (Hillcrest)
Happy Hour: 4 to 7 p.m., daily