Dinner

I know you rarely travel to Fairmount for dinner, but trust me on Era

I know you rarely travel to Fairmount for dinner, but trust me on Era

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Era is a dive sports bar on Poplar Street that serves great Ethiopian food. Here’s why you should visit ASAP.


Era in Fairmount / Photographs by Hannah Albertine

Growing up in Philadelphia, I split my time between Fairmount and West Philly, moving from home to home like any child of divorce. We had our beloved neighborhood spots in Fairmount that my family frequented. (Shout out to the now-closed Zorba’s and Rembrandt’s, which happened to be the scene of my ultra-chic after-party bat mitzvah.) But it was clear even to me—a precocious, boring kid—that most people who were eating at these restaurants Fairmount lived within a 10 block radius as did I.

So when I came back from New York to Philadelphia a few months ago to take up a job as editor of this magazine here, I was determined to find out what was going on in Fairmount right now (besides the push buggies , Whole Foods, and fine museums). The more I asked around me, the more I heard the same thing: this is not a district of trendy restaurants. “I love Fairmount with every fiber of my being but sadly from a restaurant perspective not much is going on,” a friend wrote.

That’s why we all have to start loving Era, the long time place on poplar which has the look and I do not know what a dive bar, but serves a whole host of Ethiopian dishes that you would have to drive across town to eat. To know Era is to love Era. Here’s why you should leave your house this week and give it a try:

The combined tray at Era

Enter Era on a sunny day with blue skies, and the light from the outside world all but disappears. This is not about enjoying the beauty of nature. The goal is to briefly join a world in which Era is the only destination that matters – a world in which two ceiling fans spin without too much haste, beer logos are affixed to wooden walls, and a portrait of Benjamin Franklin is hanging in the center of the room. for no reason clearer to me than “this is Philadelphia, duh.”

There are really one obvious place to sit as soon as you arrive: the long U-shaped bar that occupies the center of the space. (Although Era technically has a back room.) From your bar seat, you can watch everyone in the joint without feeling rude, since there’s nowhere else to look except for a few TVs playing any game.

Every time you go to Era, you’ll see a handful of other customers ordering beer from a list of around 40 options. Some chat with the bartender or wait for a date while sipping a lager on tap or a light beer from the bottle list. Era would be a great place to film an NBC sitcom – challenging enough but simple, an equally great backdrop for a deeply unusual Saturday night or Monday in June. They serve a full liquor bar and glasses of wine, but from what I can tell most people still order beer.

fairmount era

But the difference between this neighborhood dive and one where you might already be a regular is that Fairmount’s Era also serves up delicious Ethiopian food straight from the bar. The menu is divided into protein, with plenty of vegetarian options as well as things like tender wot doro which is marinated in lemon and onions, and falls off its bone without growing too much at all. Each entree comes with two sides (one of which should be the gomen – made from green cabbage that is simmered long enough to be soft and requires few teeth to eat – and the other should be the creamy and spicy split lentils in a red pepper sauce), but you can always add another side dish for $2.

You could easily show up to Era on your own and eat like the monarch of a small country for around $15. Or you can bring a friend and order one of the combo platters, which includes three starters of your choice and three sides, plus extra rolls of sour and squishy injera. The Era staff recommends dividing combo platters between four people, but, in practice, it’s a manageable task for two motivated eaters.

Era is the kind of neighborhood gem that’s so special, I probably shouldn’t tell you about it. But I’m not here to stand between you and a good thing. So if you rarely dine at Fairmount, let Era change that fact about you.

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