Cheap Eats 2008: Etete

Why go: In a city full of Ethiopian restaurants, none matches the complexity and refinement of these spice-laden stews or tops the graciousness and warmth of this cozy storefront cafe—newly expanded, with 130 seats.

What to get: The crispy, lentil-filled pastries called sambusas; kitfo, the Ethiopian steak tartare, best taken with a bite of soft white cheese and a pinch of incendiary mitmita; yebeg wat, in which cubes of fried lamb are bathed in a rich red-pepper sauce; a vegetable platter that includes azifa, a mustard-spiked green-lentil dish, the soft collards known as gomen, a stew of potatoes and carrots and kik alicha, and a creamy yellow-lentil stew.

Best for: A quiet lunch for two or a noisy gathering of friends to break bread—or rather to tear injera, the sourdough crepe used as utensil, bread, and serving plate.

Insider tip: The coffee ceremony is excellent, the dark, thick brew a welcome antidote to chain coffee—making Etete a good spot for a late-afternoon pick-me-up. For something sweet, walk across the street to Chez Hareg, a terrific European-style bakery run by Haregewine Messert, an alum of the Ritz-Carlton pastry kitchen, for shortbread cookies and miniature elephant ears.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

See all 2008 Cheap Eats restaurants 

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.