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Feb 19, 2010 02:43 PM

Poor Experience at Etete

My girlfriend and I recently had a terrible experience at Etete. We're very laid back about Valentines Day, so we just flipped through the Zagat Guide and looked online for a few places in the U street area to just go out and try.

We'd never had Ethiopian food before, and Etete had gotten great reviews from almost everyone online/at Zagat, so we went to check it out. When we walked in, there wasn't a hostess to give you any sort of direction where to sit, and one of the servers told us to walk upstairs. Luckily we caught a man who worked there at the top of the steps, who pointed us to a table. We watched several other tables stand awkwardly at the top of the stairs and look around for a few minutes before someone finally came to tell them where to sit.

Once we were seated, it took our server an incredibly long time to come greet us. After a very long time and another server pointing to us, she finally appeared and was very brisk with us. After waiting forever after ordering, we finally started keeping track of how long it took to get our food, and from that point it took twenty five minutes (plus who knows how long before we started keeping track), and the same server had to point us out to our server again. When she brought our food, she didn't ask if we needed anything and almost ran away, didn't come back to check on us at any point, and didn't even make eye contact when she was walking around the restaurant talking to other tables. As this was a place where service was supposed to be friendly and helpful to first-timers, we were pretty surprised and annoyed.

Now, we're usually pretty forgiving about service, having both worked in the restaurant industry for years, but the food did not make up for the service in any way. We ordered one lamb dish and one vegetarian dish, and the portions were so small we thought for the majority of the meal that they had forgotten one of our orders. The injura bread they served with it was cold and soggy, so we started eating everything with just our fingers. Since we didn't have any napkins besides the small bev naps, that was kind of a problem. The only good part of the entire dish was the potatoes, which were really tasty.

We had to flag our waitress down to clear our plates and bring us the check, even though we had a credit card out for a large part of the time we were eating in order to expedite that process. On a final note, no one ever refilled our two small glasses of water, even though several servers walked by or near our table refilling other tables' glasses and they were both empty for a long time.

Overall, our meal was a huge disappointment and we both left in really terrible moods (until we found the Saloon and got a beer). There was no redeeming quality to our meal. We know it was Valentine's Day and that can be a hectic day, but the upstairs area wasn't even full. The service was borderline rude and very hurried from the moment we walked in until we left, and the food didn't seem well prepared either.

With all the great reviews the many other Ethiopian restaurants in the area have gotten, we'll probably never go back to Etete but we wanted to know if anyone else has had a similar evening. Has anyone else eaten there? What was your experience?

1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

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  1. I've had excellent food at Etete, but the service you describe is mirrored at just about every Ethiopian restaurant I've ever been to.

    1. I've had nothing but good food as well. Judging from my experience at other Ethiopian restaurants, I'll have to chalk up the service to cultural differences.

      1. Injera is always sort of cold and soggy. It's not served hot. I think it might be somewhat of an acquired taste - it's a little sour and has a texture similar to neoprene.

        I find Ethiopian portion sizes to be like Indian; it never LOOKS like a lot of food, but it ends up stuffing me every time.

        I totally agree with DanielK and Steve on service - I just went to a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant in Chicago and the service was just about the same.

        1 Reply
        1. I'm sorry to read your post. I've never had bad food or service at Etete. In terms of portion size, eating each bite with the injera makes me fill up very fast. Once I was so full that I asked if it was possible to get a fork so I could finish it without eating more injera and was told quite simply, "no", which made me chuckle. You eat by their rules, which tickled me in a cross-cultural-difference kind of way.

          1 Reply
          1. re: woodleyparkhound

            I've eaten there about 4 times - the food is good, the service WAS mediocre - but the last time we went it was HORRID (about a year ago). We were going to a show at the 9:30 club and almost missed the start because of the service - which was pretty much just as described by the original post - basically they got orders wrong, took forever to get the "first" order then another LONG wait to get the food they did not order for us the first time (you would think they would put a rush on the makeup order). No water service etc - then it was impossible to get the check!! We usually leave 20% for just adequate service. Since we told them in the middle of the debacle that we had a show to catch and things did not improve we left NO tip (something we have never done). Not sure we will be back - there are too many other great choices in the U street corridor.

          2. Sorry to hear of your experience, but the service issues sound like pretty much every Ethiopian restaurant I've ever been to.