Restaurant Review: Horn of Africa

We were alerted about Horn of Africa by reader Gaile at Fidgety Budgie, who reviewed Horn of Africa on her website, here. It sounded like an interesting place to check out. I don’t have that much experience with African food, and so it’s always an adventure to try. Regular readers will know that I’m on a diet to lose weight because of some minor health problems, so our ability to go out to eat has been curtailed quite a bit, and we always pick places we want to review when we do go out.

The Horn of Africa has a little something for everyone on their menu. Besides the variety of African chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, they also serve the standard Mediterranean favorites like kebabs, gyros, and falafel. Their falafel plate is the vegan choice. Gaile mentioned in her review that, on her visit, there were worryingly few customers at prime dinner time, but we didn’t find that to be the case on our visit. The place is just a block or two north of NE Alberta on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, and is easy to find. The decor is a little dull and the ambiance is strictly no-frills family dining. Our one biggest complaint of the night was the speed (or rather, slowness) with which everything happened. On the plus side, almost everything on the menu is gluten-free, and our waitress was very friendly and helpful.

Bajiya - gluten-free chickpea fritter

For an appetizer, we got Bajiya. These are described as “Seasoned patties of ground garbanzos and split peas, lightly fried.” Of course, our first choice would have been the Sambusas (which are basically Samosas by another name), but we were pleased to find that the Bajiya was a lot like a Samosa. This item was tasty, hot, and had obviously been prepared right then, so our expectations were raised. If you order these, however, keep in mind that you only get one patty per appetizer. They are only $1.00 but still, if you are expecting a more appetizer sized appetizer, you might order extra.

Gluten Free African Flatbread

The next thing I got excited about is that they have gluten-free flat bread. It comes out in rolls like this. The bread is spongy like something made with rice flour, but is very flavorful and reminded me of the teff bread we made a long time ago. It has a yeasty flavor that is very reminiscent of light rye bread. It’s the perfect thing for sopping up some sauce to go with your next bite. Our waitress mentioned that we got lucky that they had it when we visited, and that it’s the sort of item where they can make sure to have some available if you call them the day before.

Horn of Africa Gluten Free African Food

For our entrees, we ordered the Keluna with Wild Salmon and the Marakha Lukku. The Marakha Lukku is described as “Chicken breast stewed in house-made Beri-Beri Sauce with garlic and onions.” Beri Beri is a sauce made with a lot of spices like cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek, ginger, and the like, combined with wine, oil, and hot chillies. I ordered mine “medium spicy” and felt like it was pretty mild. The chicken was well done, but I felt like the dish ended up being a little one-dimensional. Like it needed some veggies, or maybe some yogurt on the side.

Horn of Africa Keluna with Salmon

The Keluna is their fish dish and comes with whatever happens to be in season. It is described as “Seafood in season marinated in Zanzibar-style herbs and spices, pan-seared and stewed with fresh vegetables.” This dish was a little bit like a curry but had its own character. We both really liked it and felt that it was the superior dish of the two. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the veggies were excellent.

All in all the food was good, and it seemed to me like it had been prepared when we ordered it. I have to mention as well that their rice was really awesome. As I said, the waitress was friendly and informative, but it seemed like it took a long time for our food to come out. Checking other reviews on the Internet, it seems like we’re not the only ones who have had this problem. We thought that the food was good, but not spectacular. I would summarize our feeling about the restaurant as “satisfied and curious to try more, but not blown away.”

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Horn of Africa
5237 NE MLK Blvd / 503.331.9844

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly African restaurant in town? Got a teff bread recipe for making flat bread? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Aleta says

    Good to know that there’s an African restaurant in Portland that can accommodate gluten-free diets.

    I just wanted to add a warning about injera in general (Ethiopian teff bread) – while most traditional recipes for it are gluten-free, it’s very important to ask the cook every time!

    When I was visiting a friend in Oakland shortly after I went gluten-free we had a hankering for Ethiopian, and I called around to find a place that had gluten-free injera. Several places used wheat flour, and one even used barley! I ended up eating at a place where their normal recipe uses wheat but they made special injera without it just for me (I had to request it several hours ahead of time though). I haven’t had a chance to ask Ethiopian places around here about their injera recipes, but will report back if I learn of any others that don’t use gluten or can remove it by special request.

  2. Kiara says

    If you guys are into Ethiopian–must check out Dalo’s Kitchen! The injera is GF–and you can get their buffet for $10. Amazing people that work there. Don’t be afraid of its location. An awesome place for GF and GF/Vegan!

  3. Kay says

    I had gone to Horn of Africa recently, and I feel I really need to clarify the facts about the flat bread there. The flat bread IS NOT GLUTEN FREE!!!!

    I had gone there because I had read in the review that their flat bread was indeed gluten free, but when I had arrived, psyched about what I would be eating, I asked the Very nice lady about the bread. I was told that it was NOT Gluten free, and had not been in the past either. In her words she said “It contains a little bit of gluten.” I asked if it had ever been gluten free and I was told that it had always contained a little bit of gluten.

    I am a Celiac, so I can not have even just a little bit of gluten. If the bread has a little bit of gluten, then it can NOT be GLUTEN FREE.

    I do want to give props and kudos to this place, though (Even though I drove all the way from SE to NE just to taste the bread that I didn’t get to) as their service was wonderful, it was timely and not slow service, the people there where very friendly and answered the questions honestly, the atmosphere was warm and comforting, and the food- OH THE FOOD! It was really delicious. I had gone for the boneless leg of lamb with onions and garlic, and a side of rice. The rice was fluffy and wonderful and Though I ordered the lamb at a medium spiciness (It was a little spicier than I am used to at a medium), it was very tasteful none the less.

    I would eat here again, Though it would be awesome if I could eventually have a flat bread that I can eat at a restaurant someday in the future.

  4. Sara says

    Kay, thanks for replying. I was curious if they actually made injera that was celiac-safe, and I was dubious.

  5. says

    I was there last night and it was GREAT including the chicken mentioned in the review. We said we were gluten free and they recommended the saffron rice so they do understand now. Regarding the dish being flat, you’re supposed to order a veggie side dish! We got the fava beans :) I recommend ordering 2 dishes and splitting them as they will serve them with the veggies family style

    Service and speed were great! I didn’t like the red or honey wine however so a better selection there would be great, and would love it being lit better for the evening but it was yummy and I want to return for their lunch buffet!

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