At Doro Bet in West Philly, Ethiopian Fried Chicken Shines
No amount of Doro Bet’s crunchy, teff-battered chicken could ever be enough.
Doro Bet knows how to do fried chicken — incredibly crispy Ethiopian-inspired fried chicken, served by sisters Mebruka Kane and Hayat Ali. And as anyone knows, hot, fresh fried chicken is one of the food world’s great gifts.
But if there’s one thing better than hot fried chicken, it’s cold fried chicken. Leftover fried chicken, eaten in the middle of the night, on the couch, after everyone else has gone to bed.
So my plan was to go to Doro Bet and order an unreasonable amount of fried chicken — enough that I’d be guaranteed leftovers for midnight snacking. Things didn’t work out quite how I’d planned.
The chicken house on Baltimore Avenue near Clark Park is small, bright and comfortable. Most of the business is takeout, but sitting can be a brief, quiet retreat from the day, too — particularly if you’ve got a taste for big plates of chicken tibs, rich with cardamom and garlic and soft sauteéd onions, pinched up with folds of injera the color of microfiber couch cushions.
Unquestionably, though, the two varieties of fried chicken are the draws here. Specifically, Kane’s Alicha fried chicken, which happens to be gluten-free. It’s long- marinated with lemon and turmeric, then doused with a house-made (and addictive) honeyed hot sauce you have to ask for on the side. Then there’s Doro Bet’s hot-hot Awaze version, rubbed with a berbere spice blend heavy on the dry chili, cumin, coriander and ginger, then cooled out with a garlic aioli or a thin Ethiopian mustard sauce called senafitch. I ordered a whole bird, half-hot; a backup chicken sandwich; a side of mac-and-cheese; sauces and accoutrements; a plate of doro tibs.
At first, the plan to preserve leftovers was working. I dug through the tibs, didn’t find much exciting about the mac-and-cheese, tore into a drumstick with batter as crisp as any twice-dunked version (though these chickens only get a single trip through the fryer). The magic is in the dark teff flour Doro Bet uses and the way the batter mixture is cut with tapioca, to thicken it and make it stick to the bird. It’s in the buttermilk dip, giving the fried skin a little weight and a slight sweetness, and the two days of marinating that come before. Everything else on the menu pales in comparison.
And I just couldn’t stop eating. Even after I got home, knowing Doro Bet’s chicken was sitting there in my fridge, I kept running in to pull pieces off the bone, dragging them through the honey hot sauce that burned like a bright flare on my tongue.
Doro Bet’s chicken didn’t make it to midnight. It was excellent hot, even better cold.
The lesson here? Next time I’m in the neighborhood, I just have to order more.
2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America
Published as “For the Birds” in the June 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.