When word got out last month that the Tin Roof would be hosting an Ethiopian Pop-Up dinner in March, resident chef Kathleen Gilbert was slammed with inquiries. She’s fielded loads of calls and questions, and as of today, 1.4K people have clicked “interested” in the event’s Facebook page. And is it any wonder? Since the the closure of Ethiopian Taste last January, Charleston’s had few options for those looking to get their wat fix. But Gilbert and the pop-up’s chef, Ethiopian Veronica Cunningham, may have bitten off more than they can chew. “We’re just a small bar,” says Gilbert, clearly a bit overwhelmed by the response. 

But Gilbert is determined to make the dinner work and in order to do so she’s changed the date — it’s now Mon. March 7 — and divided the dinner into three seatings at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. “We’re only selling 40 tickets for each,” says Gilbert. Tickets are $15.

If that sounds like a deal, well it is, but there are a few things to keep in mind regarding what you’ll be getting if you’re new to Ethiopian cuisine.

1. You may or may not be dining on the floor. When I traveled to Ethiopia in 2005, all of the meals I enjoyed, both in homes in Yetebon and restaurants in Addis Ababa, were seated on the floor. Whether or not the Tin Roof goes this traditional route remains to be seen.

2. Dinner will be served family-style and sans utensils … or at least what we would qualify as a utensil. Instead, of silverware, in traditional Ethiopian dining diners sit at a large community plate and eat using a piece of injera, a type of flatbread made from teff flour. Teff is a grain that is milled, mixed with water, and allowed to ferment before being baked into a large pancake shape. But that’s where the comparison ends. Injera is a bit bitter like sourdough.

Using a torn off piece of injera, you pick up bites from a communal plate. You might dab at some kitfo — raw minced beef — or scoop up some wat, which can be a vegetable or meat stew, but keep in mind, it’s good etiquette to eat with just your right hand. The left is considered unclean.

3. All this is to say, it’s going to get messy. Everyone’s fingers are quite literally in the same pot, so if you’re a germophobe, take a hard pass on this pop-up. The folks who paid $15 to attend don’t want to see your “ew ick” face, thank you kindly. 

To buy tickets, click here.

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