Should hunger strike as you’re rolling along the I-15 approaching Victorville, it might seem as though the only options are fast food or chain restaurants. Fortunately, there are alternatives, as hidden gems can turn up, provided you know where to look. As is often the case, this means looking to a strip mall. The particular strip mall in this case houses Ribka Ethiopian Cuisine, a small restaurant that brought food from the African nation to this part of the High Desert.

As it's located in an office-dominated strip mall that faces away from the freeway and is tucked behind a large Kaiser medical building, finding Ribka can be somewhat difficult, but it's worth seeking out.

The menu is small, with about 14 dishes evenly distributed between meat and vegetarian items. The meat selections include tibs, either beef or lamb meat stewed in onions, garlic and spices; doro wat, a spicy chicken stew; and kitfo, an Ethiopian version of steak tartare. Lentils (miser), green beans (fosoliya), beets and collard greens (gomen) are among the veggie selections. Should you wish to try out more, meat or veggie sampler platters are available; they're the most popular order. All come with house-made injera, the spongy, slighty tart bread made from teff flour that is used in place of a utensil. Just tear off a chunk and use it like a pincer (forks are available should you want to be a party pooper, but there is a sink around the corner provided for pre- and post-meal cleanup). And don't miss the Ethiopian coffee.

Proprietor Gifty Kebede opened the restaurant a year ago. When asked how she came to be in Victorville, she said she moved to the Mojave Desert city with her husband, who had followed his brother there, adding, “Now the whole family is here.” She tells us folks have responded well to what is an entirely new cuisine to many of them. Which is kind of important, as she notes: “There are only about 13 or 14 Ethiopian families here [in Victorville].” She rates the doro wat as their best dish.

While it might not make you forget places like Meals by Genet or some of the other standouts in Little Ethiopia, Ribka Ethiopian Cuisine provides a welcome, viable and good alternative for Victor Valley residents and I-15 travelers weary of the same old, same old.

15441 Anacapa Road, Victorville; (760) 596-3888.

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