Washington, D.C. is home to one of the largest Ethiopian populations outside of the country itself. As such, our nation's capital is a mecca for Ethiopian food. Though many may not know much more about the cuisine than what they've gathered from Marcus Samuelsson, core to its essence are stews, berbere spice and honey wine. Perhaps most ubiquitous is injera, a fermented flatbread made of teff flour. Similar in appearance to French crêpes, injera tends to serves as the only utensil for the meal (though traditional silverware is often available, of course). Curious diners can start their exploration of Ethiopian cuisine at these four Michelin-recommended restaurants.
What Our Inspectors Say: "Set on the second floor of a townhouse just outside Little Ethiopia, this tidy jewel may have the bright walls and exposed brick so often seen in mom-and-pop spots, but rest assured that it delivers more than just a spicy stew with a home-kitchen feel. Expect authentic items native to the culturally rich region of the namesake mountains. Rip off a piece of the cool and lacy injera and then dig into the lamb wat, a tender stew fueled by the fiery notes of berbere. Simmered vegetables add a welcome dose of earthy flavor on the side, but wait, what’s that over there? It’s the under-the-radar and off-the-menu dishes that lure expats with bated breath. The larger—and swankier—sibling in Arlington's Court House neighborhood is a boon for Virginia residents."
What Our Inspectors Say: "Nestled inside a classic Georgetown townhouse, Das is a haven of soothing colors and lush fabrics. Great care has gone into its styling, and the warm, generous spirit of the staff ensures that the entire experience is every bit as pleasant and refined. The impressive menu runs the gamut from traditional Ethiopian cuisine to dishes that have the potential to take even the most seasoned and ambitious palate by surprise. A basket filled with injera—a spongy and sour bread that serves as both chaser and utensil—is bottomless. For a meal that won’t disappoint, order the chicken and beef combination sampler. Then use rolls of that delicious injera to dig into mouthful after flavorful mouthful of surprisingly varied textures and degrees of heat."
What Our Inspectors Say: "With its large windows, bustling energy and brightly hued interior, Ethiopic is an ideal fit for the melting pot that is H Street. Though minimalist, the dining room’s bare tables are juxtaposed with pops of color from decorative wall hangings and other artwork. This family-run spot turns out classic, well-made dishes with complex flavors, and the menu is a veritable treasure trove for vegetarians. Tibs, a marinated beef or lamb dish served with sautéed vegetables, delivers a kick of heat; while the slowly simmered beef in the sega key wot proves that good things do come to those who wait. Of course, everything arrives with the obligatory injera, thicker here than usual, and no meal is complete without a cup of that seriously rich Ethiopian coffee."
What Our Inspectors Say: "Go ahead and order breakfast all day long, since Keren keeps the morning meal front and center. However, before you show up expecting bacon and eggs, take a second look as this is a showpiece of Eritrean cuisine. The East African nation was once occupied by Italy, and this history continues to be an influential force on its cuisine—with many pasta-centric dishes popping up on the menu. A loyal crowd alternates between watching soccer, debating Eritrean politics and filling up on the sizable portions. Ful, a staple breakfast dish of favas, jalapeño, tomato and onion, is a good place to start (there are six variations). Then go for the “five Eritrean” items for a well-rounded, veg-focused combo that's so good it will render you unable to pick a favorite."
What Our Inspectors Say: "Silver Spring may be ground zero for Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants, but this family-owned Adams Morgan spot easily gives any other place a run for their money—it’s that good. In a region where occupation, civil war, famine, and political turmoil have dominated the narrative, this kitchen's exquisite cuisine reflects the many nuances of this deeply fascinating nation. While many cultures break bread together, few do it as well as the Ethiopians, where silky-smooth injera is torn apart to scoop up the shared stew, like awaze tibs. Its tender lamb cubes, in a brick-red berbere sauce, are then slowly simmered to perfection, crowned with perfectly seasoned greens, spicy lentils and potatoes for a dish that rarely receives the credit—or fanfare—it is due."
Hero image via Das.