Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meskerem, DC

UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.

As I may have mentioned before, DC is known for its excellent Ethiopian food. They say we have more Ethiopian restaurants than anywhere else in the country. I most often frequent Dukem in the U Street Corridor, but after this experience, I may have to trek over to Adams Morgan more often. Meskerem is an Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan that has been around for a very long time. The name refers to the first month in the Ethiopian calendar and is a common name for Ethiopian restaurants nationwide, often of no relation.

This unassuming restaurant is nestled among the dives in Adams Morgan near the corner of 18th and U Streets NW. It is quite large with two levels of dining area. The furniture varies throughout the restaurant from typical chairs to more traditional Ethiopian cushioned seating. On the top floor, where we were seated, there were only these funky cushioned seats along with tables woven out of basket weave.

We started off with white wine and vegetarian lentil sambusas. I should mention that all vegetarian items in an Ethiopian restaurant are vegan as they do not use dairy or eggs in the preparation of these meals. The lentil sambusas definitely get a 1 for presentation. They weren't that great -- just plain lentils in fried wrappers, but for $3.50, you really can't beat that deal.

For our meal, we ordered a vegetarian messob for two and requested a sampling of all of the entrees rather than just a few.  Ethiopian food is served with injera, a bread made of teff. It is spongy and soaks up all of the rich flavors of Ethiopian food, most of which is lentil-based. You use the injera to scoop up the different entrees one-by-one. No forks needed!

We dug in. The most unique dish was the Misir Azifa, which was a cold, tangy dish made of pureed lentils and a rare combination of finely chopped onions and green chillies mixed in vinaigrette sauce. I don't think I've ever had this dish before so it was a nice treat.

I also really enjoyed the Kik Alitcha made of slightly pureed yellow split peas simmered in a mild sauce of onion, herbs and spices.  The other five dishes were great as well. There was the Yemisir Watt, which was made of pureed lentils in a spicy, hot berbere sauce. The Atkilt Watt was made with string beans, sliced carrots, and potato chunks in a mild sauce. The Tikil Gomen was a similar dish made with sliced cabbage, carrots, and potatoes in a mild sauce. The Gomen Watt consisted of chopped collard greens simmered in a spicy berebere sauce. And, last, but not least, the Shurro Watt, was a seasoned milled chickpea dish also in berbere sauce.

By the end of the meal, I thought it was much better than the last few meals I'd had at Dukem for a few reasons. For one, the food just tasted better -- all of the dishes were seasoned just right with the right consistency. The prices were more reasonable -- at Dukem, they charge for extra injera while Meskerem does not. And you need extra injera!  And, lastly, they actually put the names of the dishes on the menu so you know what you are eating. At Dukem, they just put what is in the dish in English without giving you the Ethiopian name of the dish.

So, although the service wasn't the greatest, I think this is one of the better Ethiopian restaurants in the city and I will be choosing it over Dukem for now. If you haven't ever tried Ethiopian food, this would be a great place to go.

2434 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 462-4100 

Meskerem Ethiopian on Urbanspoon


  1. One of the reasons I stopped eating at Meskerem--even if it is a five-minute walk from my home--is that the service is just terrible. They will try to bring you bottled water and you have to specify that you want DC tap. They don't seem to care about the patrons. So I'm going to try to find a better Ethiopian place with good food and good service. Sadly, Dama is just too inconvenient to get to.

    I agree the food is good. I'm normally a wimp when it comes to spicy food, but I just adore shuro watt. But it's not enough to overcome the bad service.

  2. That's really a shame. I only hope the service improves as I think they have great potential.