Cuisine: Ethiopian is among the great strengths of Washington’s ethnic-dining landscape, with restaurants, bars, groceries, and even bakeries dotting the scene. This family-run operation remains the best spot to dig into the complex, spice-laden stews, called wats, that form the backbone of the cuisine. Tiwaltengus Shenegelgn, who runs the kitchen, is a star in the local community, and no wonder: Her cooking is the most refined, with clear flavors and a lingering depth in her saucing.
Mood: The coziness and sophistication call to mind a contemporary urban cafe, and the multicultural crowd, sipping cocktails and sharing platters of stews, reinforces the relaxed vibe.
Best for: A cheap and sustaining meal before or after a concert or outing on U Street; a big gathering with friends (particularly if the group includes vegetarians).
Best dishes: Sambusas, crisp, three-cornered pastries filled with spiced beef or lentils; yebeg wat and doro wat, the former made up of sliced lamb, the latter involving a leg of chicken and a hard-boiled egg, and both of them buried in the same thick, spicy, brick-red sauce; a vegetarian platter with azifa (brown lentils with Ethiopian mustard), kik alicha (a creamy, yellow-lentil stew), and yemisir wat (spiced red lentils).
Insider tips: The coffee ceremony, which takes place in the afternoon, is a treat, featuring strong, dark brews, bowls of popcorn, and the smell of incense—a chance to take a moment, slow down, and breathe.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.