At new location, Queen of Sheba still reigns over Tampa Bay’s Ethiopian food scene

She moved from South Tampa to Temple Terrace.

Queen of Sheba owner Seble Gizaw launched her restaurant in 2007 serving up traditional Ethiopian cuisine. - ALEXANDRIA JONES
Queen of Sheba owner Seble Gizaw launched her restaurant in 2007 serving up traditional Ethiopian cuisine.

Upon beginning my journey to Queen of Sheba, my GPS was insisting on directing me to the concept’s original South Tampa location. Thankfully, I was aware of the new location, stationed at 11001 N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace, or I would’ve missed out on the magic.

Let's rewind to the very beginning. In 2007, Queen of Sheba owner Seble Gizaw, decided to move herself and her children from Orlando to Tampa. The economy was shaky at the time, so Gizaw decided to bet on herself and open a restaurant. Figuring out the type of cuisine was a breeze, considering there was a hole in the Tampa Bay food scene when it came to traditional Ethiopian dishes.

“Somebody asked me about Ethiopian food because the owner of the building was interested in adapting it. I saw the location and said I’d open it,” Gizaw told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

From head to toe, the restaurant pays homage to rugged, landlocked country on the Horn of Africa. Queen of Sheba reigned in the kingdom of Sheba, located in southwestern Arabia, during Biblical times. Gizaw’s menu consists of solely traditional Ethiopian eats like the Queen’s Eight Platter, loaded with four beef and chicken platters, alongside four veggie choices. Once the doors opened in 2007, Gizaw—who also caters to all dietary preferences by offering several gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options—said the word spread like wildfire.

“We were blessed. The wait in line was four hours and we had no advertisements,” she said. The people in Tampa Bay missed having Ethiopian food.”

Gizaw said that as love from the neighborhood grew, inquiries from publications began to pour in. Although the restaurant’s popularity skyrocketed, Gizaw has stayed true to the business plan, which means being family-owned and operated, and serving dishes filled with flavor. She does that by importing organic and FDA-approved spices directly from family in Keffa—a province on the southwestern side of Ethiopia. But just because the kitchen is stocked with fresh spices, doesn't mean you’ll leave hurting after your meal.

“Ethiopian food is super healthy, with no fried foods. We use garlic, ginger, turmeric in our dishes. People think our food [will be] spicy, but it’s not. We just use a bunch of spices and oils to bring the flavor,” Gizaw explained.

Gizaw recently brought on new chef, Tewodros “Teddy” Tariku, who’ll revamp the menu with new menu items including Asa Gulash, consisting of fried fish and veggies seasoned with Ethiopian spices, plus a few Ethiopian twists on classic breakfast options.

“It’s going to be the same food, but in a different way,” Tariku said. 

Tariku and Gizaw met in 2018 when he went for a bite at the old Queen of Sheba after his truck broke down. He told her about his restaurant experience and the rest is history. 

The offerings range between $3.50 for appetizers to $30 for the Queen’s Kitfo Special. Need a little bubbly to wash down your strategically seasoned meal? Can grab brews (local and Ethiopian) from a cooler on the floor. Wine is also available for customers who don't feel like cracking their own cans.

The Temple Terrace site was initially billed as the concept's second location co-owned with Gizaw's sister Elizabeth, but now serves as the sole Queen of Sheba.

The newish location has 40 seats inside and 16 outside. Gizaw is working on fixing the technical issue on Google maps, so until then, you’ll have to manually type in the new address. First world problems. Queen of Sheba is open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday. The concept now offers weekend brunch.

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