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Best Ethiopian in DC?

We will be visiting DC this weekend and are looking to try an Ethiopian restaurant. We will be staying in the area between Dupont Circle and the White House. Close by would be great, but not necessary.

Also, any other restaurant suggestions would be great!

Thanks!

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  1. Etete is pretty good and it's not too far from your location; a little north of downtown on U Street. However, Ethiopic has become my hands down favorite ethiopian restaurant in the city. You'll need to travel a little bit further to get there (H Street, NE), but the atmosphere, service, and food is definitely worth it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bkatzo

      I personally like Etete as well. Delicious food, comfortable environment and it's in a cool part of town (not an area you usually see along the tourist route).

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      Etete
      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

      1. re: bkatzo

        The "usual suspects" are Etete, Dukem, Queen Makeda, and Zenebech (all near the U St Metro station). Ethiopic, as others have mentioned, is a newer place on H St that is getting good reviews; I also like Lalibela on 14th.

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        Etete
        1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

        Queen Makeda
        1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

        Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant
        1114 U St NW, Washington, DC 20001

        Lalibela Restaurant
        1415 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

        Zenebech Injera
        608 T St NW, Washington D.C., DC 20001

      2. and the flood gates open!

        generally speaking the places clustered around 13th and U are considered the best, there are exceptions, but you really can't go wrong with any of those. DC Ethiopian blows the best of any other US city out of the water, even the mediocre places. (I can say that as I've tried) gotta say I have not tried Ethiopic, but have heard only good.

        1. I'd put Etete and Queen Makeda well above most others, though I haven't tried Zenebech Injera or the new Ethiopic.

          At Etete I recommend the fasting food platter - you can add the fish for a couple of bucks - and the derek tibs. At Queen Makeda, I rcommend the gored gored lightly cooked, the shiro, carrots, greens, and the red lentils.

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          Etete
          1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          Queen Makeda
          1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          Zenebech Injera
          608 T St NW, Washington D.C., DC 20001

          2 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I ordered the shiro at Etete this weekend, it was very good. They only have the bozena shiro on the menu, but they will leave the meat out if you ask--which I find distracts from the dish. I love just straight shiro. Also, on a personal note, never order kitfo cooked as one in my party did. It is terrible a mound of dried out hamburger meat at that point. Eat it raw or not at all.

            Anyway, I really was planning on finally trying Queen Makeda but they were closed on Sunday evening. Next time.

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            Etete
            1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            Queen Makeda
            1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            1. re: sekelmaan

              As an aside, there is an interesting mention of the founding of Etete in an 8/16 Washington Post article on the success of Ethiopian immigrants in the DC area. The article discusses Henok Tesfaye and how he started working as a parking valet in DC, to starting his own parking lot on U street, to now managing the parking contracts at Reagan and Dulles airports. As Henok got successful, he bought his mother a restaurant on U street and named it Etete, his mother's Amharic name.

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              Etete
              1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          2. As the crow flies, the closest Ethiopian to where you say you are going to be is Queen of Sheba, 1503 9th St, about 2 blocks north of the Convention Center on 9th. The U Street scene offers you the ability to pick among several well known places like Etete and Dukem. These are good places (foodwise, probably slightly superior to Queen of Sheba) and not that much farther, right off the metro which could be fun to ride for a tourist. I just had lunch at Queen of Sheba and can tell you it is a very popular place for Ethiopian locals (mostly cabbies) at lunchtime. Much more so than the U St places I've been to. Perhaps the reason is the ease of parking; there's always something available right up front (except street cleaning wednesdays) and the quick service. The vegetable platter with the fried fish option is a good choice. The Doro Wat with the breast instead of chicken leg is great-- I'm not a big fan of the traditional chicken leg and not all places have a breast option. I've probably not taken as much advantage of this place as I should, given I'm just a few blocks away, but can recommend it as a worthwhile stop. It's not the "best" Ethiopian, but quite honestly, I've never been disappointed with a meal at an Ethiopian restaurant in the area. I would propose you can go to just about any place in DC and have a very good meal.

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            Etete
            1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            Queen of Sheba
            1503 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            12 Replies
            1. re: justaddwater

              I definitely do not agree with the 'go anywhere' approach. Quite a few places are lazy about their food or have many selections which are similar in flavor or texture. The menu at Etete is more thorough, and a dish like the derek tibs - a kind of beef jerky- will not show up on many other menus.

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              Etete
              1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              1. re: Steve

                but if it's the OP's first time, will they know the difference? they shouldn't be sent to somewhere crappy (and as far as I'm aware no one has suggested that) just saying if they go somewhere so-so and like it then if they try it again they'll easily be able to say "wow this is good" or "holy cow that sucked" if they start off with the best the US has to offer, they'll only be disappointed when they go somewhere else and try it there.

                It's a conundrum, I know the whole point of CH is to point out the best, but in this case the best is probably going to set them up for sadness down the road. (or a haunting memory and an excuse to come back to DC) so I guess yeah! go for (no particular order) Dukem, Etete, Ethiopic or Makeda. wherever you end up, the injeera here is the best I've found in any major city (even the 2nd or 3rd tier restaurants)

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                Etete
                1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                1. re: hill food

                  If they go to a lousy Ethiopian place for a first time, there may be no second time. I fail to understand your logic.

                  Some people will be turned off by Ethiopian food no matter what. For others, if their first experience is at a mediocre place, (I'm thinking Lalibela on 14th St, for example), then they could get the wrong idea of Ethiopian food altogether.

                  1. re: Steve

                    I agree- we got a groupon to Meskerem and it was my friend's first time, and now she will probably never try it again, although I'll keep working on her to try Etete or Dukem. It could be quite a while.
                    I'm not that experienced in ethiopian myself, and I enjoyed it, but we both felt the effects later on in the evening...

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                    Etete
                    1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    1. re: MoCoMe

                      Interesting. When I walk out of a restaurant that could be a poor representation
                      of a cuisine I have not tried before, my first reaction is to seek a better version to confirm or deny my initial impression. It wouldn't occur to me for an instant that someone would conclude the cuisine unworthy and write it off on a single data point. I learn something new every day I'm in this country.

                      Meskerem has no monopoly on stomachary revolts. That can happen at the best of Ethiopian places...

                      1. re: justaddwater

                        jaw: that's sort of my approach, don't make me try to recreate that aha moment, I'll always give something a few tries, let me find better rather than always face disappointment. frankly if someone walks away from an entire category after one less than superlative meal, well they should just throw in the towel and stay home gnawing on moldy bread.

                        1. re: hill food

                          When you know you enjoy thai, indian, persian, etc, why waste a meal on something you don't like. even if a certain place may not be the 'best' of the group, you know you like that style or you don't. life's too short to try to find the best of something you don't like.

                          1. re: MoCoMe

                            For a "white bread" diner, even the best Ethiopian is probably not going to be to their liking. This cuisine has not been Americanized much yet. The breast meat with a Doro Wat is the only example I can think of and maybe that cheeseburger (!) on Sheba's menu. In addition, the spices can be a bit harsh on the digestive tract. I have a coworker from the midwest who has never tried Indian and refuses to even attempt it-- can't stand the smell. Taking him to Rasika would be a waste of effort. Some people enjoy the shadows cast onto the wall of the cave, no sense upsetting their comfortable existence...

                2. re: Steve

                  I knew that statement was going to be fodder for the argumentative! I should have gone for the double whammy and also said it was guaranteed good because of all the Ethiopian clientele!

                  I've yet to have a lousy Ethiopian meal within DC (not quite the case for Virginia, but that's another story)-- maybe I'm just lucky. I've had enough Ethiopian to know Queen of Sheba is far from lousy and their menu is as or more extensive than Etete's. The fried fish was actually better than I've gotten at Etete, though the vegetarian sides might be a bit more refined at Etete. I will be back for more. The OP specifically asked for a place close by and many times on travel one will opt for convenience. The last thing I want to do after eight hours of sightseeing or work is hop on a crowded metro during rush hour to get a meal. It's good to know there is something nearby that will suffice and Q of S will.

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                  Etete
                  1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  Queen of Sheba
                  1503 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  1. re: justaddwater

                    I have no opinion of Queen of Sheba since I have not eaten there. Unlike you I have had some lousy Ethiopian meals in DC that would be a turn off for the first time visitor.

                    "Close by would be great, but not necessary" according to the OP. Neither Queen of Sheba or Etete are close to the OP.

                    -----
                    Etete
                    1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    Queen of Sheba
                    1503 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                      1. re: justaddwater

                        Sounds good, thanks for putting it on my radar....

                3. Has anyone been to Lalibella's at the corner of P and 14th? Good, bad, ugly or something in between?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ClevelandDave

                    After eating at some of the better places, Lalibela is just plain depressing.

                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                      I went once, it was nothing special and have not returned despite the fact that I pass by that corner almost daily.

                      1. re: ClevelandDave

                        I go there about once a year and am usually pretty happy with it; not a place to go out of your way to visit, but I think it's a solid choice if you're in that area. Very few others here seem to agree with me, though, so YMMV.

                      2. A cabbie last night told me that Dama was his favorite. It is on Columbia Pike somewhere. Anyone ever try it?

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                        Dama Restaurant
                        1503 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: sekelmaan

                          I think it's only ok. I thought the flavors were muddy and one dish indistinct from the next. Cabdrivers all have their favorites with a premium put on how easy it is to park.

                          In S. Arlington, I like Eyo better. It is a fairly swank sports bar with a mixture of Ethiopian and Italian dishes. But don't go for the Italian dishes. If you go with somebody, they have an appetizer of toasted injera that is very good. If you are alone, then more injera is not the first thing somebody thinks of when eating Ethiopian.

                          1. re: Steve

                            I talk to a lot of Ethiopians (not just cabdrivers) about restaurants and Dama is a favorite of a whole lot of them.

                            I've only eaten there once and it was good, although probably not as "refined" as some of my other favorites. It did have a very low percentage of non-Ethiopians (as in we were the only ones there for the entire meal).

                            -----
                            Dama Restaurant
                            1503 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                            Dama Restaurant
                            1503 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                            1. re: Mississippi Snopes

                              Anyone tried Enat near where Lincolnia Rd. meets Beauregard St near Landmark in Alexandria? I'm not sure what Enat means, but a Google search finds several Ethiopian restaurants by that name but no reviews of this one.

                              For what it's worth, when I go past it at lunch time, there are usually a couple of cabs parked outside.

                              1. re: MikeR

                                It's a mixed bag; the veggies are a little lackluster, but the stews are very good. I like the Beg Wat (lamb shank stew) a lot. For those who care about injera, there's is pretty good but mostly wheat rather than teff.

                                (FYI, "Enat" is I believe Amharic for "Mother".)

                                -----
                                Enat Restaurant
                                4709 N Chambliss St, Alexandria, VA 22312

                                1. re: sweth

                                  Aha! A restaurant named "Mom's" can't be all that bad. ;) Thanks for the info.

                                2. re: MikeR

                                  We just went and it was pretty amazing. Didn't have any veggies but their kitfo and tibbs are both out of this world. I'll have to try some of the veg next time but based on the two dishes I did have it shoots right up to the top of the list for me. I can't wait to go back.

                                3. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                  My only experience with Dama is from a couple years ago. Lots of cabs in the parking lot, for sure. We ended up leaving without getting any food. It was just impossible to get any service. I'm hoping it's improved in that respect.

                                  -----
                                  Dama Restaurant
                                  1503 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                                  1. re: MsDiPesto

                                    I wasn't arguing Dama's merits. I just noted that it's striking how many Ethiopians I talk to name Dama as their favorite restaurant. When we ate there, it was good but not notable and the service was no problem -- but we did have to park down the street a ways.

                                    -----
                                    Dama Restaurant
                                    1503 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                                    1. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                      Oh, nor was I judging the food, since I never got any to judge.

                            2. The Queen of Sheba..no question.,,,the vegetable platter is simply the best...and I mean better than etete and all others mentioned. audbender

                              1. isn't it cool you get to argue about the best? I'll always try something again even if I don't like it (earlier discussion, yes I want so-so and later find better) and in DC you have this amazing luxury of choice. never forget that.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: hill food

                                  This is a great thread. I've never had Ethiopian food and am definitely not a "white bread" diner :) Since we'll be visiting, I don't want to spend my eating time trying to find the better or best. And if I found mediocre the first time, I'd probably say 'oh well, now I've tried it and didn't care for it. Won't do that again?' How would I even know if it was mediocre if I had nothing to compare it to. I've saved this thread and will be heading to U Street!

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    c o: DO!!! yes the area around U and 13th is indeed the target..you could try to just graze from app to app and place to place, but it really is best for a lounge-y slow dinner in one location.

                                    I was never crazy about injeera (the bread/plate/utensil) until I had it in DC (still not totally hooked, but I just ask for a spoon as well for when I just want the "stuff", sort of like ordering a drink with a water back) but then again as so much is stewed/braised you'll want something to sop up the entire dish.

                                    and as Sekelmaan pointed out upstream, if you order kitfo (think spicy steak tartare), just dive in and have it raw.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      If you order a vegetarian platter, you'll get a half dozen scoops of differently flavored legumes, you're sure to like a few of them. For another $2 or so, these places usually throw in a fried fish for animal protein. Doro wat in white meat if available, otherwise you get the traditional single leg, lame in my book (as is the poor chicken left without a leg). Tibs if you really need red meat. Dukem, Etete, Queen of Sheba. That's enough to get started on the right foot.

                                      -----
                                      Etete
                                      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                      Queen of Sheba
                                      1503 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                  2. I've eaten at Etete several times, Dukem twice and Queen Makeda once (recently). I haven't tried Ethiopic or Queen of Sheba yet. I have had very good meals at all 3 places where I've been. It's hard for me to compare the three since a lot of time lapsed between each meal I had. (I really enjoy Ethiopian food, but it isn't something I want to eat with a great deal of frequency.)

                                    I would put Etete and Queen Makeda at the top and Dukem half a notch below them. Atmosphere-wise, I think Etete is the nicest and feels more like a conventional restaurant. Queen Makeda feels like eating in someone's living room (not a bad thing) and Dukem feels like eating in a dance hall.

                                    For a first experience, I think Etete is the way to go.

                                    -----
                                    Etete
                                    1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                    Queen Makeda
                                    1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                      Last summer I dragged my young teenage vegetarian niece to DC from Bawlimer for a day at the zoo/Smithsonian. While Meskerem is admittedly the most well-known/touristy of all, it was such an exotic treat for this young lady, and a very memorable meal for the two of us. I've eaten Ethiopian all over the US, & while I've had better, we can't lose sight of perspective here. Adams-Morgan is an ethnic eater's dream, I'd kill for a nabe that groovy here in Austin. Keep in mind, it's all relative, it's all about what you've experienced previously & your (hopefully not-too-jaded) perspective. Eat bravely!

                                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                        Good comparison, and I agree with your conclusion regarding Etete.

                                      2. Since this thread has been revived...

                                        Tyler Cowen claims that the best Ethiopian food in DC is at Zenebech Injera. http://tylercowensethnicdiningguide.c... . I can't comment on that particular statement, since I've only eaten Ethiopian food in DC once. But I can say that it was the best I've ever had anywhere. It's short on seating (four tables, I think) and ambience (unless you like glass-fronted beverage coolers), but the food is fantastic.

                                        -----
                                        Zenebech Injera
                                        608 T St NW, Washington D.C., DC 20001

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          I haven't been, but I will now have to go.