>> Industry Cafรฉ & Jazz | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 30 September 2019

Industry Cafรฉ & Jazz


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (20 December 2023) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
If this happened to be a walkable city, there could be a romantic start to this article about how the smells of injera bread and savory Eritrean stews combined with notes of live jazz to pull in customers from the street. After finishing a delicious meal here, with the band already well into their first set, it was only during a trip to the curb to make a call that this was the actual magic of Industry Cafรฉ & Jazz, even if it was only a pipe dream to imagine.

Jazz does indeed waft out onto Washington Boulevard nightly starting at 20:00, but passing cars certainly do not hear it or enjoy those aromas. Inside, a mashup of tables and booths and banquette seating sit underneath a mashup of sometimes music related art and sometimes not. Tchotchkes populate the bar area with undefined purpose, but an Eritrean flag is hung from the back wall very purposefully.

As the evening cools down and a breeze flows through the cafรฉ, it becomes pretty damn comfortable. The usual habit of asking for the check when finished does not seem so urgent anymore. The band is just hitting their stride.

Eritrea and Ethiopia are of course bound throughout history and share so much, despite everything that led to their separation in the early 1990's. One thing Eritrea does have different though is a coastline on the Red Sea (the Greek name for which actually gives the country its name). For about half of this time since independence, Industry Cafรฉ & Jazz has been offering the tastes of the region.

On a recent Tuesday evening, it was not hard to find a seat before the band had arrived. Despite being the only customers in the beginning, it was a surprise that such a gorgeous and fresh plate of foods would arrive. Centered around a salad and on top of a layer of freshly baked injera, everything ordered was placed together to be eaten communally.

A basket of smaller pieces of rolled up injera arrived at the same time, the intended "utensils" of any meal. Break off small hunks of this and scoop up everything with your hands. There is something to be said about this way of eating, these colors, these textures, and the communal plate. There is a connection to the food, and to the friends or family around you. The feeling cannot quite be pinned down while eating, but an appreciation for everything can be overwhelming.

Even if the dishes are delicious, it is that injera that is the star here, it might not be possible to make it better anywhere. Four of the six dishes surrounding the central salad are part of the vegetarian platter ($11), a must order even for carnivores. Of highest praise in this combo are both the red and yellow lentils, near the top of the photos.

Also of note is the wonderful and classic doro wat ($13, below right), a leg of chicken stewed with tomatoes and onions and seemingly hundreds of spices. The meat is tender and still moist, easily removed with some injera and a pinch.

If anything was not humming on this evening it was only the salmon tibsi ($16), which did not give the character of having been freshly caught in the Red Sea unfortunately. Since Eritrea does have the coastline and previous experiences in restaurants have revolved around fresh catch, it will be interesting to see if this can be more a part of future meals here at Industry.

The menu also advertises "southern style soul food" but only a complementary slice of cornbread was tested on this evening. It may not have been enough to sway the group from sticking to Eritrean options next time, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

Industry has a full line of drinks to enjoy your evening with, including plenty of Ethiopian honey wines. Unfortunately there was no Asmara, an Eritrean beer sharing its name with the country's capital, but St. John Beer (below) from San Jose, California was a pale ale option offered as "Ethiopian style craft."

Feel free to add to the comments below if you know what that means.

Enjoy the music!


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