100 Best Restaurants 2011: Etete

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

Ethiopian cooking is home cooking—to look for finery is to miss the point. But this two-story cafe is more exacting than any in the area, making it an excellent entry point for those new to wats and tibs as well as a rewarding stop for diners eager to experience the depth of the cuisine at its best.

Tiwaltenigus Shengelegne runs the kitchen, as she did for many years at the late, great Fasika’s in DC’s Adams Morgan, spooning her signature doro wat and crusty-edged lamb tibs onto rounds of injera, the spongy, sour bread that serves as both plate and utensil. Those stews are as rich and concentrated as a wine reduction, rendering the occasionally chewy meats in them almost beside the point.

Owner Yared Tesfaye, Shengelegne’s son, has created a bistro-like setting (cocktails, mood lighting, polished wood floors) to play against the rusticity of his mother’s cooking. Modernity and tradition have seldom fit so well.

Also good: Sambusas, crispy lentil pastries; yebeg wat, a fiery lamb stew; vegetarian platter, including kik alicha (yellow split peas), mesir wat (red-lentil stew), gomen (collard greens), and azifa (green-lentil stew with Ethiopian mustard and jalapeños).

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.

>> See all of 2011's Best 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.