On the same few blocks of Ninth Street NW as the "philanthropub" helmed by two Peace Corps volunteers and 1905 restaurant serving Wagyu steaks, you can still make out the scent of berbere, that vibrant red spice mix crucial to Ethiopian cuisine. This short stretch, running north-south from V to T streets NW, is informally known as Little Ethiopia, a home away from home for one of the city's largest immigrant populations.
East African expats gather here to share giant platters of doro wat, pick up bags of spongy injera or throw back a bottle of Harar, an Ethiopian beer, at the end of a long shift.
Anyone in search of the best introduction to the culture should venture to Habesha Market, where berbere packets, various sundries and stacks of injera are piled for home cooks in the front, while the back is devoted to a hopping, highly informal cafe where every dish feels like a steal. A piping hot vegetarian platter for two, with six curry-like offerings, rings up at less than $10.
-- Lavanya Ramanathan