While what many would consider D.C.’s “Little Ethiopia” has moved to Silver Spring, MD and Alexandria, VA, the District’s Adams Morgan and Shaw neighborhoods still play home to thousands of Ethiopian immigrants and their families. As well as their food.
But as these neighborhoods continue to develop and evolve, so too, do the restaurants that populate these streets. Etete, at the corner of 9th and U, is no exception. In late 2016, the restaurant temporarily closed for renovations only to open six months later with a new look and new executive chef, Christopher Roberson.
Roberson culls influence from across the globe – hello blistered sardines – but maintains a connection to his restaurant’s namesake, Chef Tiwaltengus Shenegelegne, otherwise known as ‘Etete,’ meaning mom.
Roberson also offers his own spin on traditional Ethiopian. Etete makes two kinds of injera (the national dish of Ethiopia). One with imported teff flour, the other not. They call this the “American” version. Compared to the American version, the teff injera is a little less spongey and a little more sour.
The injera taco shells Roberson fills with chicken, ayib cheese, and collard greens are best eaten quick before the bread starts to break apart.
Other highlights from the menu include blistered sardines with coriander aioli on toast, crispy green lentil rolls, and the “Then & Now,” a nod to the communal, hands-on eating style most associated with Ethiopian food.
Overall, the menu leans more than a little spicy, though not unattractively so. In fact, most of the menu pairs swimmingly with an alcoholic drink or two. Might we suggest the Ethiopian Mule (lime vodka, Tej – a honey wine – lime juice, simple syrup, and ginger beer) or the Mbali (gin, grapefruit juice, rhubarb and hibiscus liquor, and lime juice).
Or, if desert is your style, seek out the almond cardamom cake. It comes with an Ethiopian coffee meringue cookie that evaporates on your tongue like magic. Only it’s not magic. It’s just delicious.