100 Best Restaurants 2009: Etete

No. 80: Etete

Cuisine: Among local Ethiopians, the name Tiwaltengus Shenegelgn is on par with the name Michel Richard among foodies. Stevie Wonder seeks her out whenever he’s in town. What’s the fuss? Etete, as Shenegelgn is known—it means “mama” in Amharic—cooks with the finesse of a demanding craftswoman, her peppery stews hearty and complex but never burdensome.

Mood: With lacquered tables and wine-bar-style lights, this dining room has the feel of a modish bistro. Etete occasionally makes the rounds, like any proud chef, but she’s much more likely to dispense gomen (buttery, jalapeño-laced collards) from a long-handled pot than talk about her sourcing. An expansion has created a second dining room upstairs to handle the overflow from young urbanites on their way to and from clubs.

Best for: Leisurely lunches or dinners with friends and family. As with dining in Europe, expect to be left alone for long stretches and to flag down your server for the check.

Best dishes: Sambusas, deep-fried three-cornered pastries filled with lentils; berbere-powered stews, including doro wat, which comes with chicken and a hard-boiled egg, and yebeg wat, with cubes of lamb; vegetarian sampler, which might include gomen, yekik alicha (a soupy split-bean stew), and azifa (green-lentil stew mixed with a fiery Ethiopian mustard and served cool).

Insider tips: If you’re dining with a group, the fasting platter—an array of vegetable stews—is a good choice to balance a mainly meat-filled meal.

Service: ••½

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.

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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 Logan Circle.