Washington's Little Ethiopia
A New Cluster of Restaurants Brings Exotic (Yet Inexpensive) Appeal to Ninth and U St
By Walter Nicholls
"... A few doors up, the casual Queen Makeda restaurant has its own following.
"Remember when your mother cooked for you at home? That's the taste you'll find here," says customer Mesafint Beyene, who works in the food and beverage department at the Washington Hilton. Beyene, who was dining at the bar on a recent afternoon, is partial to Makeda's doro wat -- the spicy chicken stew that is Ethiopia's national dish. "I've tried them all, every restaurant, in the six years I've been here," he says. "But here the food is never mass produced or too hot and spicy."
The Washington region, with its 200,000 people of Ethiopian descent, has the largest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself, according to an unofficial estimate by the embassy. With the addition of Etete, which specializes in vegetarian meals, 10 Ethiopian restaurants now are clustered at U Street east of 13th and in the 1900 block of Ninth Street. Each has its distinct ambiance and fans.
The new enclave has twice as many Ethiopian restaurants as Adams Morgan, where Ethiopian entrepreneurs began opening food businesses in the late 1970s. The exotic and inexpensive cuisine attracts not only fellow countrymen but especially students and tourists. Meals are a communal, social activity, and there is no need for a knife and fork. Ethiopian is all about finger food.... >>more