Saturday, January 10, 2009

Club Waziema

As I wrote in my last post, Mark's aunt is visiting us from Fairbanks, where there is apparently a dearth of good Ethiopian food. Nancy's one culinary request while in town: To track down some injera. I know nothing about Ethiopian restaurants in San Francisco, but after a few minutes of online research discovered a fondly reviewed spot called Club Waziema

I stole that picture at left and I would like to steal another of the interior but can't find the right shot to capture the red velvet flocked wallpaper, the sparkly pebble dash ceiling, the slightly grimy, louche atmosphere of this bizarre and rather wonderful place. 

When we walked in, the jukebox was playing the Pogues (or something fast, Irish and Pogues-like) and the Ethiopian hostess seated us across from the bar, underneath a television set. There was a pool table in the back and Mark is always happy to be in an establishment with a pool table, even if he doesn't get to play. Nancy ordered white wine and I ordered a manhattan, which made me instantly festive and I began eavesdropping on the conversation of a nearby table where three chunky young women in small, rectangular glasses were earnestly discussing "sexuality." That's all I kept hearing: "sexuality." It's a kind of terrible word, no**? I realized that no one my age ever uses the term except in the rare nightmare scenario when a husband (or wife) discovers his (or her) true "sexuality." And even then the conversation is less about "sexuality" than the marital horror show.

We ordered two combination meals -- one vegetable, one meat -- that arrived on a single enormous round platter. We each got our own smaller plate upon which was neatly folded some sour, spongy injera for scooping. There were maybe ten little piles of mushy stew on the platter -- potatoes, lentils, collard greens, chicken. Mushy in a good way! Until. . . 

I happily popped what I thought was a chunk of potato into my mouth. It cracked between my teeth. I had bitten into the knobby end of a chicken drumstick.

Everyone is squeamish about something. I will cheerfully eat steak tartare, tuna heart, cheese-peanut butter crackers from a vending machine, liver. But chicken bones, particularly drumsticks, make my skin crawl. 

I spat the knob of drumstick out, and had to remove every last bit of bone from my mouth. I'm sure it was fun and appetizing for my companions to watch, but there are times when you just can't be ladylike. As it was too dark to know that I wasn't going to inadvertently pick up another bone, I stopped eating. But I don't hold it against Club Waziema! Most people are not freakishly repulsed by chicken bones. I want to go back, and next time will only order vegetables.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Terrified that I might be branded a prude, I feel compelled to explain that it is not the topic of "sexuality" that I resist, it is the icky word, which seems academic and euphemistic. Sometimes one or the other, often both. It seems to me that one is always talking about something more interesting and specific than "sexuality" when one talks about "sexuality" so why not be more interesting and specific?


  1. was the food good? i love ethiopian food so much, i want to try it if it is. there's one on geary near the bridge theater i've been thinking of trying too.

  2. some of us consider cheese and peanut butter crackers from vending machines one of the three basic comfort foods.
    and i don't think that says a thing about our sexuality, by the way.
    where did you learn that the name of those ceilings is a "pebble dash" ceiling. with stuff like that at your disposal, it's not hard to see why you became a writer.

  3. The food was pretty good. The lamb dice were a bit bland. Not really lamb-y enough. The chicken was pretty good. It was touted as spicy, but it wasn't spicy enough. The lentils were the best.
    It was all fine, and it'd be worth a return trip to try some other dishes. Personally, however, sharing a plate of mushy food with others and without utensils isn't my thing.
    Incidentally, the place had a great assortment of draft and bottled beers.