Washington's Little Ethiopia
A New Cluster of Restaurants Brings Exotic (Yet Inexpensive) Appeal to Ninth and U St
By Walter Nicholls
We bought abandoned buildings, rebuilt them and cleaned this area up to make it what it is," says Belay Sahlemariam, co-owner of U Turn, an attractive corner bar that opened in October. One wall is covered with vintage newspapers from back home. Up a flight of steep stairs is a good-size restaurant with a stage for entertainment. U Turn is one block from the U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Metro station.
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