I got really excited when the popular food cart Buraka went indoors last year. Y'all know the lines Buraka attracts during the summer: at least 10 people anytime near lunch. This red cart has become a welcome fixture for those of us hungry for hearty eastern African dishes of meat, vegetables and rice.
So when the sign \Buraka: coming soon"" appeared in the window of the former Cellar Subs over the summer, I was psyched. Now, I'm just really disappointed.
It's not that the food at Buraka is bad, because it's not. It's good, just like on Library Mall. The food cart has gone inside, and perhaps I expected too much.
The space itself is a basement. That's not bad in and of itself, but without windows, Buraka lacks sufficient decoration, and the place is way too sterile. A few pieces of Ethiopian art hang lamely on the walls, only drawing further attention to the dull cream-colored room. The huge bar dominates the space, adding to an already claustrophobic atmosphere. The tables are too close for private conversation, and the upholstry creepily matches the rug. Even though food quality is the most important aspect of a meal, I like to see a place that features Eastern African food showcase the culture a bit more.
If you've been to the cart on the Mall, you know what to expect from Buraka's food. A few dishes have been added, but in most, beef overpowers the subtle flavors of the tomato and curry based sauces that are Buraka's strong point. Otherwise, the menu consists of various stews served with rice or an enjoyable soft flatbread called injera. The dinner menu adds some lamb dishes, as well as some additional stew variations. It's all good, but the dishes lack variety. I'd like to see dishes that highlight a particular ingredient instead of mingling flavors to the point of a muddy confusion.
If you like the tasty fare at the food cart, you'll like Buraka, but don't expect anything new. Don't expect a great dining experience; you're better off taking your food to go and enjoying it at home or outside, when the weather finally permits. Buraka has much potential, but will remain mediocre until it becomes more ambitious with its menu and more committed to creating a real dining experience.