The Best Ethiopian Restaurants In DC
photo credit: Michelle Goldchain
When it comes to Ethiopian restaurants in the United States, few cities can compare to DC. The city has one of the largest Ethiopian communities in the country, and is home to exceptional spots serving up traditional dishes. From hearty breakfasts to vegetarian platters brimming with flavor, these restaurants serve as reminders, on days when the sweat is pooling under your armpits and random shoulders are brushing all up on you at Metro Center, why you’re so thankful to be here in the first place.
Chercher is the spot your (transplant) coworker is bragging about having just 'discovered' but as real ones know, Chercher's been the spot. Located on 9th and U St, Chercher is not an overrated cult classic, but a restaurant worthy of the hype and praise. Head to the second floor of the rowhouse and join the crowd awkwardly standing around the door waiting for a table because this restaurant doesn’t take reservations. That said, you should gladly cram in because the food here is that good. Their shiro, a chickpea stew, might be the best in the city and the vegan deluxe special comes with enough food to be shared with three people for only $20.
Das Ethiopian is the only fine-dining Ethiopian restaurant in the city, so expect all the frills and niceties: soft lighting, elegant decor, and glossy table settings. Enjoy the people-watching through the windows overlooking 28th and M streets while sipping honey wine from crystal wine glasses at tables draped in white linen tablecloths. The food here is outstanding, and their beef tibs are arguably the best in the city. The only caveat here is that the portions are smaller than other Ethiopian spots in the city. If you don’t mind counting your injera then you’ll be fine.
If you're looking for a classic Ethiopian breakfast, Heat Da Spot is the place. While they have American breakfast options (they’re alright), their ful, a fava bean and egg sandwich, is stuffed with flavor and their chechebsa, fried flatbread marinated in spiced butter and berbere, is crispy and spicy. For drinks, try their homemade honey iced coffee with a hint of cinnamon—there’s something particularly comforting about the flavors and the environment at this family-owned breakfast cafe. You can dine in but be prepared to hunt for seating on the weekends as it gets packed early and quickly.
You’ll have no trouble finding good eats at Letena in Columbia Heights. When you order the vegetarian sampler, expect a beautifully plated meal of vibrant veggies that’ll have you thanking whatever higher power you believe in. And it’s not just the food that’s appealing here. The restaurant is painted in warm hues of orange with rustic lanterns and framed art pieces lining the walls. And although Ethiopian food is customarily eaten in a group, Letena is the perfect place to dine solo—there are tucked away seats and a menu that caters to individual dining. After a few cups of honey wine and an order of the silky tiramisu, you may feel both buzzed and blessed.
Habesha Market and Carry-Out is the spot to hit when you want to take your food back to the warm confines of your bed. The Shaw restaurant is well-known and beloved by locals—one of those places you can confidently place your to-go order without worrying about the quality of your food. With extremely generous portions and some of the lowest prices in the city, Habesha is great for feeding the whole family or any big group. The cherry on top is that they’re open from 8:30am-11pm on weekdays and close at midnight on weekends, making it possible to indulge your craving at almost any time of day.
If you’re looking for a place to grab a chill lunch, Family Ethiopian is your spot. It’s bustling at dinnertime, but the crowds are smaller and the restaurant calmer during lunch hours, which makes it the perfect place to dine solo or catch up with friends while Ethiopian music plays in the background and sunlight wafts through the windows that span the length of the front wall. Have a seat in the bright yellow chairs and admire the traditional and handcrafted art while you wait for your food, which is fantastic. Be sure to get the catfish tibs, seasoned with onion and garlic, and the deluxe veggie platter with impressive portions—the largest we’ve seen at Ethiopian restaurants in the city.
Ethiopic is a popular restaurant on H St that serves great Ethiopian food. Inside, take your pick of big communal tables if you're catching up with friends or smaller, more secluded tables ideal for a first date. The mood here is captivating. You'll find yourself pouring honey wine in a room surrounded by rattan woven baskets and lanterns that flow from the ceiling to the floor. Ethiopian jazz plays quietly in the background, while candles flicker at every table. And while the portions here are smaller compared to other spots in the city, the service is great. It does get pretty busy here on the weekend, so if you're looking for something more intimate, ditch the crowds, and come on a weeknight.
This takeout joint on H Street blends two of our favorite things: soul food and Ethiopian cuisine. The fried chicken is coated in a buttermilk marinade made with berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend that consists of chili peppers, coriander, garlic, and ginger. The result is crispy skin that turns this caramel red and meat that’s packed with flavor. You can choose your spice level for most dishes, ranging from a mild “Naked” to “Burna Boy” hot. Weekends tend to get busy here and the restaurant doesn't offer indoor dining, so skip the long lines and order online beforehand.
Dukem is one of DC’s most recognizable Ethiopian restaurants in the city. It’s been around since 1997 and is an important part of the culture on U St and in DC at large. On the weekends, this place is bumping with folks from all parts of the city. You’ll find youths pregaming and uncles and aunties drinking Amber beer—in other words, locals that have come to Dukem for as long as it's been open. The food is good though the portion sizes have slimmed down over the years, and their injera, which they also sell in a storefront next door, is fantastic when made and served.