Chef Elias Taddesse trained in France and worked in several Manhattan Michelin-starred kitchens. But when it comes to his own restaurants, the chef—who grew up in Addis Ababa and Minneapolis—likes to explore the intersection of Ethiopian and American cuisines. At Mélange, his burger and sandwich-centric venture in Mt. Vernon Triangle, Taddesse dabbles in doro wat-inspired crispy chicken sandwiches and berbere-spiced fries—the type of foods he’ll run with at his next venture. Doro Soul Food, a fast-casual eatery dedicated to Ethiopian-style fried chicken and Afro-American soul food, will open in Shaw this fall.
“How long has Ethiopian food been a strong part of the scene in DC? And we haven’t passed more than what it really is. We haven’t had a lot of chefs pushing the boundaries,” says Taddesse, who launched Mélange at the start of the pandemic after years of pop-ups. “I want to be in the front, telling our stories, sharing our spices—and helping it evolve.”
Taddesse grew up on Popeye’s in America and plans to give the chain’s style of extra-crunchy, bone-in fried chicken and sandwiches an Ethiopian spin. He’ll dredge Amish birds in hot oil mixed with niter kibbeh (Ethiopian clarified butter) and three styles of heat: mild, hot with berbere spice, and mouth-searing thanks to mita mita, a fiery chili blend. He’ll also offer a vegan version of crispy tenders made with jackfruit and pea protein with the same heat levels.
Fine dining meets fast food in a lot of Taddesse’s dishes. A char-grilled Doro chicken sandwich will get a marinade from Taddesse’s days at three Michelin-star Troisgros in France—yogurt, harissa, spices—and a rosemary aioli. For sides, the menu takes inspiration from soul food classics like buttery cumin-spiced cornbread, collard greens braised with smoked turkey and Ethiopian spices, and doro wat-spiced macaroni and cheese sprinkled with crunch injera crumbs.
Eventually, Taddesse dreams of exploring Ethiopian flavors using classic French and avant-garde techniques in a fine dining format. But first: affordable, approachable, inventive food for all.
“Given today’s environment, comfort food is what the customer would most enjoy,” says Taddesse. “My goal is to share as much Ethiopian cuisine as possible.”
Doro Soul Food will open blocks from Howard University for takeout and delivery. Stay tuned for an opening date.
Doro Soul Food. 1819 Seventh St., NW.