From Kliman Online’s “Word of Mouth”
U St. is dense with nightspots, but one of the most likeable and lowkey has got to be Selam, a cozy, low-ceilinged space with a curving bar and a slender, short, fierce-eyed owner whose personality fills the room. His name is Haile Gheresus – or, as he likes to be called, “Kuchi.” Kuchi has six children, and they help him out at the restaurant when they can. In the kitchen, though, it’s a one-man show. Kuchi is the cook, and that same big-heartedness shows up in the heaping portions of sharply spiced Eritrean stews that are spooned out onto the platter-sized round of injera. The place fills many needs: It’s open for breakfast, for plates of eggs and yogurt. It stays open until 1:30 on weeknights, ideal for a drop-by after a game or a play or a movie or a concert. And it’s a community gathering place at all hours of the day. Kuchi lives above the restaurant, but it’s clear that Selam is his home. On my way out the other night after dinner, I thanked him for his hospitality and generosity. He stopped me at the door, insisting it was too cold to go home without “a shot.” I told him thank you, but to no avail: He pulled me by the arm toward the bar and had his son pour me a drink. Thank you, Kuchi. U St. could stand a few more spots like Selam.
-February 20, 2007