Washington has no Scandinavian restaurants, and almost no Eastern European restaurants, yet it has more Ethiopian
restaurants than any other city in the nation. Ethiopian food clearly is enormously popular here. It's spicy, it's cheap and you eat it with your hands. But there's even more to appreciate, as one can tell at our prettiest and most ambitious Ethiopian restaurant, Meskerem.
2434 18th St. NW
Hours of Operation and Prices
Open: Sun-Th noon-midnight, F-Sat noon-1 am
Lunch Entrees: $5-$10.50
Dinner Entrees: $7-$12
Credit Cards: All major
Entertainment: Ethiopian band F-Sat 11-3 am (no kitchen after 1)
On two of its three floors it serves on basket-tables. A table-size tray of injera - tangy, fermented pancakes that look like thick napkins - is set atop the basket, and various stewed meats, seafood and vegetables are spooned onto the layer of pancakes. You can order chicken, beef, lamb, shrimp or vegetable stews, hot or mild, but don't shy away from the hot. They're not fiercely hot, and
they feature the distinctive flavor of berbere, a haunting red pepper paste. There are also sauteed, diced meats with onions (tibbs) and
spicy, buttery, raw meat (kitfo). A plate of folded injera is served alongside, and you eat communally, tearing off pieces of injera to use as scoops for the stews. It's kind of a soft variation on chips and dip, and equally hard to stop eating. Dollops of lentils, cabbage, collards and green-bean stews provide variety.
Meskerem, unlike most Ethiopian restaurants here, offers a list of appetizers, including an exceptional shrimp cocktail with a tart, red-pepper dipping sauce, delicate samosas and refreshing salads of beets or potatoes. Its list of entrees is more extensive than any other's. And its cooking is lively and not greasy. Like its competitors, it serves locally made honey wine and a flavorful Ethiopian beer, brewed in Northern Virginia by Old Dominion.
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