One of DC’s Best Ethiopian Restaurants Is Reopening in Adams Morgan

Tsehay has found a new, larger home after closing in Park View last year.

Tsehay will take over the Adams Morgan space formerly occupied by Los Cuates. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

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Selam Gossa opened Tsehay Ethiopian restaurant in 2019 as an homage to her late mother’s Addis Ababa cafe. The Park View restaurant quickly grew a following for its standout vegetable platter, rosemary tibs, and shiro (a creamy chickpea-flour stew). It earned a spot on Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best Restaurants list and in DC’s Michelin guide. Then, the restaurant closed last spring, with a promise to reopen. Now, that’s finally happening: Tsehay has secured a new, larger home in Adams Morgan, and it will debut by early June.

Gossa’s husband and Tsehay Managing Partner Ted Yirdaw says the small dining room at the original Park View location was limiting: “Even though we were full pretty much every day, we were not turning tables as fast as we wanted. Every month, it was just breaking even or a little bit over the margin that we wanted.”

The owners started looking for a larger space, initially at the Wharf and in Navy Yard, where Yirdaw says one landlord told them they didn’t want an “ethnic restaurant.” Ultimately, they landed in Adams Morgan, as Popville first reported, in the longtime home of La Fourchette, where Gossa coincidentally worked years ago. (More recently the address belonged to Mexican restaurant Los Cuates.) Now, they’ll have triple the number of seats.

The menu will be largely the same as the original, and will feature the popular vegan platter, lamb and beef stews, and that shiro made with stone-ground sun-dried-chickpea flour that’s cooked with shallots, tomato, garlic, and a house blend of spices. Tsehay will also serve a fried whole snapper as well as a new bone-in ribeye. Weekends will bring Ethiopian brunch dishes such as shiro with scrambled eggs and a spiced fava-bean stew.

Gossa—who also owns Le Chic hair salon—learned to cook from her mother, Tsehay, the second-oldest daughter of 14 siblings. Tsehay prided herself on grinding her own spices, maintaining her own garden, and getting the freshest ingredients at the market—lessons she passed on to her own children.

“The biggest thing that sets us apart from most of the other Ethiopian restaurants is we source these main ingredients, like the shiro and the seasonings, straight from Ethiopia, so the flavor is pure, as real as it can get,” Yirdaw says. “And then the vegetables that we use, it’s all from local vendors here, bought daily.”

Yirdaw, who’s bartended in DC for more than 20 years in addition to his IT day job, has created a cocktail menu that incorporates Ethiopian ingredients. A margarita gets a savory, spicy kick from mitmita, a chili spice blend, while a riff on an Aperol spritz is topped off with Ethiopian honey wine.

An intimate back room will be dedicated to an Ethiopian prix-fixe experience with sambosas, meat or vegetable platters, honey wine, and a coffee ceremony. The room will be filled with traditional Ethiopian artifacts and low chairs, with occasional live entertainment.

“We believe that Ethiopian food is just very underrated,” Yirdaw says. “So it was imperative that we reopened in no later than a year.”

Tsehay. 2429 18th St., NW.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.