U Street

14th and U Farmers Market

Market Sign Mount Pleasant Farmers Market wasn’t the only market opening the weekend of May 2nd. The market at 14th & U Streets also had its opening day and I was determined to check it out. After hitting up the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, Brian and I hopped on the bus and traveled down 14th Street curious to see what we’d find. In its second year, the market has grown at an alarming rate. From it’s beginnings as a sidewalk market standing only in front of the Reeves Center on 14th Street, the market now wraps around to U Street. Like the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, 14th and U is a producers only market with local vendors selling locally grown and produced goods.

Orchard Fresh Apple Jam Market manager Robin Shuster (who also manages the Bloomingdale Farmers Market) has listened to her customers’ pleas for a fresh pasta vendor, welcoming Stefano Frigerio’s newest venture, The Copper Pot. Stefano, the former executive chef at Mio Restaurant in DC, produces fresh pastas, jams, sauces and vinegars (the vinegars, however, are not sold at the market but will be available soon via The Copper Pot website) all from locally grown fruits and vegetables. On his first day at the 14th and U Street Farmers Market, the reputation of Stefano’s quality products led to him selling out faster than he anticipated. Brian and I tried a sample of his strawberry and vanilla bean jam…only to learn he’d sadly sold out of it. The jam had a strong strawberry flavor without being overtly sweet. The undercurrent of vanilla added a depth to the jam that was unexpected but complimentary. I was quite disappointed to learn I couldn’t buy a jar of my own, but Stefano assured us he would have much more inventory next Saturday.  

Pumpernickel Raisin Loaves Robin also had the tough job of replacing one of 14th and U’s favorite vendors Breadline with a new bread maker. I will confess that I have never tried Breadline’s breads, so I am not able to compare them to the new bread vendor, Panorama. But hands down, Panorama turned out to be the best surprise of the day for me. Why? Because they sell SLICED fresh bread. As much as I love getting fresh bread from the farmers market, I hate having to slice it up. So when I went over to the Panorama stand, my eyes immediately went to the loaf of deli rye, neatly sliced and wrapped in a plastic bag. I clapped my hands excitedly and asked for a loaf. While waiting for my change, I accepted a sample of their multi-grain roll. Topped with sunflower seeds and other grains, the roll was crusty on the outside but soft on the inside. Tempted to get a few for that night’s dinner, I decided to wait and see if I liked the rye before buying anything else from Panorama. I shouldn’t have worried…the loaf didn’t last a week in my house. And it was the perfect bread for a grown up grilled cheese sandwich made with Keswick’s Vermeer cheese (another 14th and U Street vendor) and arugula from the Truck Patch stand.

I was also happy to see one of my favorite Penn Quarter market vendors, Dolcezza Gelato and Sorbetto. Dolcezza uses fresh cream and milk from Perrydell Farms in York, Pennsylvania for their gelatos and a host of herbs, fruits and honeys from farms all around the Mid-Atlantic region. Their dedication to quality ingredients is evident with just one bite of their gelatos and sorbets. I regularly pick up a half pint of one of their flavors every Thursday as a weekend treat, so I was pleased to know I could also pick up more on the weekends (trust me a half pint doesn’t go far when you’re sharing). More and more fruit and vegetables were on display as the Spring crops make their way to the market. Mountain View Farm even had stinging nettles for the adventurous cooks. I was tempted to pick up some, but admitted to myself I would need to research how to cook them further before plunking down the money for them. Over at the Truck Patch Farm stand, silver tubs of mesclun mix, kale and arugula were interspersed with coolers of their fresh pork and beef products. I picked up a slab of their bacon, along with some of their mesclun mix with the intent of making a bacon centered salad dressing for the salad.

Lovely Mint As with the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, asparagus was in abundance all around 14th and U. I have been itching to try an asparagus and mint risotto recipe I saw in Food and Wine magazine, so I picked up extra asparagus from Kuhn and McCleaf, along with a half gallon of their apple cider (which is my new favorite morning drink…liquid apples in a cup people!!!). For the mint, I headed over to Garner’s stand, which is filled with herb and vegetable plantings, as well as lettuce mixes, asparagus, spring onions and colorful chards. I overheard the mention of strawberries at the market the next weekend, so I made a mental note to come back for my favorite berries. With rhubarb still in season, I knew I wanted to make the strawberry rhubarb pie that was such a hit at a neighborhood brunch last year.  So this past Saturday, I returned to the 14th and U Street market for the first strawberries of the season!  With rhubarb from Kuhn and McCleaf and Garner's strawberries, I made the perfect Spring dessert.

Finished Pie 3Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Pie Filling
6 stalks rhubarb, diced into cubes
4 cups strawberries, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg wash for the pie crust
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Place the fruits into a mixing bowl and sprinkle with both sugars. With either a spoon or your hand, toss the fruits around to evenly coat them with the sugars. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla and continue to toss. Add the cornstarch and stir until the mixture thickens and a bit of a glaze is created. 

Set the filling aside and roll out the pie crust dough. Place it into a pie pan, trimming the excess off the sides to ensure an even crust. Whisk together the egg and water and brush the egg wash on the entire pie crust. Pour the filling into the pie crust and place in the oven for 45-55 minutes. The crust should be golden and the filling should start to gel. This may require you rotating the pie halfway during the baking cycle.  Allow the pie to cool and then place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours to allow the filling to fully set.

The 14th and U Street Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and is located at the corner of (where else) 14th and U Street NW in Washington, DC.

Etete Restaurant

Pic0234_2 I've been wrong for a while about Etete. A couple years back, I went to Etete, before it was remodeled, or had been written up by everyone and their brother and I had a horrible experience. The food was lackluster and the service was bad -- so bad I almost walked out. So, with so many choices in DC for Ethiopian food, I never went back.

Meanwhile, everyone has been talking about it like it's the greatest Ethiopian food you can get in DC. Many blogs have written about it; The Post; Washingtonian; Food and Wine. I've been wondering what happened that first time I went there so long ago. Was it some kind of fluke? Did I happen to walk into the place next door by mistake? I had to know.

We had a chance to stop by Etete last week. Amy has been craving Ethiopian food for a while now and we just happened to be over in the U Street area. With as much as we've all heard about Etete, I was surprised that we were able to walk in and sit down immediately. The seating is first come first serve, and the tables are very close together.A large group of boisterous friends having a great time were seated at the table right next to us, but we didn't mind. However, mood and atmosphere are probably not the best reasons to go here.

As I mentioned before, the restaurant has been remodeled since we were last there. You used to be able to sit at the bar and that's gone now, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether or not you're someone who likes to sit alone at a bar to eat. As part of the remodel, the owners added seating upstairs too.

Amy only wanted vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for some Kitfo so we ordered both. I was very curious what Etete's Special Kitfo. What made is so special? The server asked how I wanted it cooked, raw, medium, or well. I can't imagine eating kitfo cooked. I know the first time I ordered it at an Ethiopian restaurant, I was nervous. Eating raw beef is always a bit of a risk, but someone once put it to me this way. "What's the difference between kitfo and steak tartare?"

If your a vegetarian eating with non-vegetarian people, you should note that Etete (and most other Ethiopian restaurants for that matter) bring out the dishes all on the same plate. So it's likely that once everyone starts digging in with their injera that your vegetarian lentil dish will get mixed in with some of the sauces from the meat dishes. My kitfo was in the middle and all of Amy's various vegetarian dishes were surrounding it: red and yellow lentils; shaved cabbage and carrots; mustard, garlic and onion lentils; and tomatoes and onions.

I have to say that all of our food was really excellent. The kitfo was very tender and lean, and the flavors were a perfect combination of butter and spice, yet you could still taste the flavor of the meat. The special seasoned cottage cheeses were a nice compliment as well. I was mixing in some of Amy's vegetarian dishes and everything just went wonderfully together or by itself. We ate everything on the plate and I had room for more so we ate the injera that they cover the plate with.

(Actually, writing about this one an empty stomach is making me want to go back very soon.)

The service was fine. I mean, I'm not looking for 4 or 5 star treatment at a place like this, but I'm mainly looking for the server to come by and check on us once is a while to make sure that everything is okay and and that we don't need anything else. The servers did all of that pretty well. The only issue we had the whole night is that the Coke that Amy ordered initially was completely frozen and somehow shaken up at the same time. When she opened it, it fizzed up all over the place, but because it was frozen, she couldn't open it all the way so it just continued to fizz and fizz. The tables next to us noticed and were giving us their napkins, but there wasn't enough and it was about the run off the table onto our laps. The servers seemed completely oblivious as they walked by several times until I yelled out "Help!". It was actually quite comical.

I also ordered some honey wine for the first time, but I probably won't again. It was too sweet for my taste. I can see how it contrasts some of the spicier Ethiopian dishes OK, but I'd much rather prefer a good lager with Ethiopian food.

I think it's safe to say that our first visit, like the Coke "incident" this time, was somewhat of a fluke. I probably should've gone back to Etete sooner, but like I said, there are so many options for Ethiopian food in DC that it was hard to, which really shows how hard it can be for restaurants. One bad experience can turn a diner off for a long time. I'm happy to say we'll be going back soon.

1942 9th Street NW
Washington DC 20009
(202) 232-7600


Dress Code: Very Casual
Parking: Street Parking can sometimes be found
Closest Metro: U Street
Reservations: Not Taken
Baby-Child friendly rating: 2 diapers. They have child seats, but that's about it when it comes to kids. Not kids menu or anything like that, so unless you think your child will eat Tibs or Wat, you should probably think twice about it.

Cafe Saint-Ex

You don't usually expect to find good food at a bar. A bar is where you typically find great munchies like nachos, cheese sticks, mini-burgers, and maybe...maybe if you're lucky, you'll find some Asian-inspired potstickers.

Café Saint-Ex isn't your typical bar though. 

The first time I went to Café Saint-Ex, I mistook it for your everyday bar. It was when I first moved to DC, long before I started this site, and I think at the time I was looking for a place "to party", or something like that. I believe it was after a 9:30 Club show. My friends and I waited at the bar nursing some beers while we waited to get in downstairs, but ended up leaving when that took too long.

Little did I know, five years later, I'd be returning for a completely different reason. This time, it was before a 9:30 Club show (Carbon Leaf to be exact), and we were there for dinner...instead of a party. Amy and I were having a night out on the town without Noah, our first in about three weeks! We were looking forward to a relaxing, casual dinner and that's exactly what we got.

We enjoyed the experience so much that we returned two nights later for dinner, but this time we took Noah with us. When we were there the first time  we noticed that there were some other people there with children, so we wouldn't feel out of place with him. Also, the louder atmosphere made it ideal if he decided to throw a tantrum or scream out loud, which only happens occasionally, but you never know when that shortened afternoon nap will catch up with him.

As far as food is concerned, Café Saint-Ex is definitely doing things right, and after reading Chef Barton Seaver's Bio on the Café-Saint-Ex web site, it's not surprising. You can get an extremely good meal there for a very reasonable price. For appetizers, the wood-grilled calamari (or actually anything wood-grilled) is tender and makes you wish everyone was making calamari like that. If you're expecting those typical rubbery rings of calamari that you get everywhere else, however, you'll be sorely disappointed. This calamari is served whole. The beet salad rivals that of any that I've had at other restaurants, with a goat cheese that doesn't overwhelm the beets, but also isn't so bland that you can barely taste it. And a horseradish vinagrette punches up the entire dish.

As I said before, anything wood-grilled or maybe anything that's cooked close in proximity to where the wood-grilling happens is very good. Most of the fish is cooked this way and I'd recommend you try it. I don't think the smoky and spicy flavor will be to everyone's taste, but you've got to try it once to see. So far I've tried the salmon and flounder and both were a big hit with Amy and myself.

For desserts, the smooth and creamy goat cheesecake comes looking like a giant scoop of ice cream on top of a crumbled graham cracker crust. OH MY GOD was it good. This rivaled Ann Amernick's cheesecake I tasted at Palena not long ago. Seriously people, if there is one reason alone to go to Café Saint-Ex, it's this cheesecake. I hope they don't take it off the menu anytime soon.

I should mention that the price fixe option that Café Saint-Ex offers is a very good deal. Before 7, three courses are only $28 per person, and after 7, they are $32. Our bills have consistently been below $100 with a bottle of wine. The wine list at Café Saint-Ex is very European with the occasional appearance of a New Zealand of California wine. Prices for bottles range from $24 to $75 with a majority of them falling in the lower end of that price range.

The host/hostesses are friendly as are the servers, who don't seem to have enough time to be overly congenial, but are quick to help you with the menu and point out the price fixe option to save you some money.

Café Saint-Ex
847 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20009
(202) 265-7839
Web Site

Corkage: I didn't check. Call the restaurant to see.
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Street:  Street Parking. I found it pretty easy to find a parking spot on the streets in the area.
Closest Metro: U Street.
Reservations: Not Taken. First come, first serve. Dinner rush starts at about 7. If you get there before that, you probably wont have to wait long.
Baby friendly rating: 3 Diapers. The atmosphere is loud, which makes it great for children, and the waitstaff and hosts seem to really love babies.


Well, it finally happened -- For the first time I, Jason Storch, actually enjoyed an Ethiopian meal. For those of you that think I don't actually pay attention to comments, well..you're wrong. Back when I posted about Zed's, a couple people, through comments and emails, told me about Harambe in Adams Morgan. I noticed it again last weekend when I ate next store to it at El Tamarindo, so this week, I decided to give it a try since it's Mother's Day weekend and mother-to-be Amy loves Ethiopian food. (It turns out though, that Harambe is Eritrean, not strictly Ethiopian.)

I was a little hesitant to try Harambe, as are many people when they see a restaurant with no one in it. Last week when I looked in the window, there were maybe two tables taken. This week, as we approached the restaurant, there was only a single table with people at it.

"OK. Appearances aren't everything," I told myself as I opened the front door.

The restaurant is sparsly decorated -- the space has an old eclectic feel, but the furniture has a modern spin on it. Candles line the walls, but none of them are lit. In the rear of the restaurant by the bar, there was a single bar table with a group of men smoking by it, most likely friends of the manager with whom they were talking non-stop. Perhaps they were the owners or friends of the owner. Pretty much the whole night, one person would leave, and then about five minutes later, another would appear, they'd all greet him happily and bring out some food for him. Some smooth jazz played over the sound system.

The menu was pretty small -- no desserts that I could see -- Maybe they're on a separate menu. Also, the first page had pasta on it of all things, which I found really weird...at first. There were only three appetizers: Sambusas, chicken or beef soup, and Azifa (lentil salad). Under the appetizers is a section for pasta. On the menu it says "Experience this Italian favorite improved upon by influences from the east." Thinking back now, I probably should have at least ordered the pasta for $6 to see what it was like, but the ignorance of my white-suburban upbringing reared it's ugly head, causing me to raise an eyebrow and say, "There's something not right about pasta on an Ethiopian restaurant's menu." At that point Amy (with her photographic memory) recalled that almost all of the desserts on the menus at Meskerem and Zed's are Italian.

"Maybe there's an Italian influence in Ethiopia that we don't know about," she stated. It turns out, she was right. In 1889, Italy had significant influence over Ethiopia through a treaty where Italy thought that Ethiopia was its protectorate. Ethiopia, however, had a differing opinion and when Italy tried to invade Ethiopia in 1896, Ethiopia fought back the invaders. Through another treaty, Italy was allowed to keep a base in Eritrea. Then in 1991, Eritrea gained it's independance from Ethiopia and there have been ongoing border disputes between the two countries ever since. Since Harambe serves Eritrean food, perhaps the reason that they have pasta on their menu is because they had the greatest Italian influence due to the base being located there. It's amazing what you can learn from food. OK. Enough with the history lesson already.

The rest of the menu is traditional Ethiopian, or should I say Eritrean fare (I'm starting to get confused myself). Tibbs, FitFit, Wat, Kitfo, Gored Gored, all with slightly differently spelled names than other similar places we've eaten at. We ended up ordering a couple vegetarian sambusas, Harambe Tibbs (small morsels of steak in a sauce with onions, tomatos and jalapenos), Dorho (typically Doro Watt at other Ethiopian restaurants -- chicken in a garlic, onion and ginger sauce with a hard-boiled egg), and Shiro (pureed chick peas and mixed vegetables). The sambusas were rather good and probably better than other sambusas I've had. The outside crust was light and flakey and the inside filling, made with lentils, onions, and jalapenos, was juicy and spicy. One thing Harambe likes to put in their food more than anything else is fresh jalapenos and I appreciated the extra spice they added to each of the dishes.

Our entrees were all very good as well. The beef in the Harambe Tibbs was tender and all of the ingredients seemed fresh. I didn't get the sense that our dishes were sitting on a stove all night waiting for us to order them.  As with the sambusas, the entrees were adequately spiced. A nice balance was added to the meal with the Shiro which was sweet and complemented the other two spicier dishes.The only complaint that we had was that the Shiro was completely pureed and smooth and we would have liked a little texture to it, but I think it was served as it is actually supposed to be.  Compared with the Tibbs, the Dorho was a little bland. Entrees were served with a variety of vegetable sides (collards, spinach, cabbage, etc.), all of which were nice compliments to the main courses.

I tried a new beer called Asmara. It's brewed in the city of Asmara in Eritria. It had a creamy, hoppy flavor to it that matched the spicyness of the food rather well. This was the first place I've been to where I saw this beer being served. Don't even bother with the wine menu at Harambe. Most of the wines are those that you find at the local corner store in your neighborhood. The good news is that you wont find them charging $30 of the $5 bottle of Sutter Home Merlot -- it's more like $12.

As usual, we ordered way too much food and left a lot on the plate when we were done. Something about the injera just fills us up really fast. Of course, we didn't order any dessert. Our service was typical of and Ethiopian restaurant: not really quick and we had a hard time understanding our waitress, but it's all part of the atmosphere I guess. The manager came around to check on us at one point in the meal, which was nice. Now on to the financials...

Most of the entrees are only $9 - the most expensive being the combination dishes that are $13. Vegetarian entress are only $6! This was an extremely economical meal for us at $41 where we ordered three entrees, two appetizers, and I had two beers. Overall I wasn't completely blown away by this meal,  but it was one of the better Ethiopian places I've eaten at, and that says a lot.

1771 U Street NW (corner of U and 18th)
Washington, DC
(202) 332-6435

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Street Parking - Good luck with that in Adams Morgan
Reservations: You don't need them
Smoking: I saw people smoking by the bar
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Old and run-down but clean and well-stocked.
Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle

Continue reading "Harambe" »


Back in October, Kuna closed its doors. Everyone thought they were closed, including myself. Once everyone calmed down, the owners announced that they were simply remodeling and changing the restaurants format. Then in December, they reopened their doors as Opera.

On Christmas Eve, Amy and I decided to stop by and see if the change was for the better or worse. There weren't many customers there and the only people serving food were the owners. Talking to one of them, we found out that the change in format "...all started with a coat of paint." Then they realized that they needed new dishes and once they bought new dishes, they bought new silver, and then table clothes. After the remodeling happened, they felt it was also time to change the format of the restaurant from Italian to French.

Opera's menu is significantly different from Kuna. The pastas that used to make up the majority of the menu are gone - yes, no more penne with vodka sauce. (sob) Appetizers consist of salads and lighter items like steak tartare and country pate. Prices for appetizers range from $6 to $8. We had both the steak tartare and country pate at our last visit and they were very yummy. Nice medium sized chunks of steak tartare are served on top of potato skins. The steak is served with capers and chilies. It was nice and spicy! A "light fare" menu is also available with dishes like assorted cheeses, cured meats, and boudin noir, as well as some lighter choices like grilled asparagus and salmon tartare. Our first trip to Opera, we ordered the cured meats to start. When it comes down to it, cured meats are cured meats. However, you get the pate and garlic sausage with the cured meats, which are very good on their own. The meats were...well, meats. Cured meats, by themselves, get a bit boring after a while unless they're served with cheese. I'd recommend ordering the meats and cheeses to share with a table of four or more. Make sure you call and make a reservation if you want to go with a partner of more than four people though. There aren't many tables that can hold more than four. Our last trip to Opera, we ordered the pate on its own. It was served with fig and celery root moutarde (mustard). We enjoyed the pate much better on its own and it left us not nearly as full leading into our entrees. Dishes in the "light fare" menu range from $14 to $17.

Entrees change on the menu quite often. The last time we went to Opera, only two of the entrees remained on the menu from our first trip - the lamb chops and the pork chop, which I happened to order during our first trip. The pork chop comes with knockwurst, garlic sausage, and sauerkraut. The dish wasn't bursting with flavor but it tasted very different from any pork dish I've eaten in DC. Everything in the dish was baked together, almost as if it was a stew. The flavor of the sauerkraut was mixed with the knockwurst and the garlic sausage. The pork was tender and cooked just right - not dry, but juicy. You wont find lots of heavy, starchy side dishes served with Opera's entrees. Everything on the plate is meant to compliment and add to the flavor. Our last trip, I had a tenderloin dish served with potatoes, yams, carrots and onion. I wasn't so crazy about this dish because the way it was cooked (similar to the pork chop) kind of ruined the meat. The tenderloin was chopped up into small chunks and only a few were actually cooked medium rare the way I asked. Amy ordered a fried risotto dish that reminded us of the suppli that 2 Amys serves, only Opera's version is served with a vodka sauce (the vodka sauce returns!). It was pretty good, but in order to keep the fried risotto from getting soggy, the outside is made very crispy and ends up being a bit chewy.

This is a little off topic, but I've gotta mention it...Our last visit, there was this woman a few tables over who'd obviously had one too many glasses of wine and was talking very loud for the size of the dining room. She had ordered a dish with a thick bacon as one of its ingredients - a different version of the pork chop dish I'd ordered our first trip. Just think of someone with a nasal, Fran Drescher-esque sound to her voice saying this over and over, "I CAN"T BELIEVE HOW BIG THIS BACON IS! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SUCH HUGE BACON?! THIS IS THE BIGGEST BACON I'VE EVER SEEN!" It was all very phallic and Amy and I and the tables around us couldn't stop giggling.

Another significant renovation occurred in the area of the bar. The tiny serving area that used to be the bar has been increased in size considerable, and now there is room to store many more liquors. The drink menu has been expanded as a result. We've found ourselves ordering a few drinks each which has made our bill more expensive than it should have been. Drink prices range from $8 to $10. The wine list is not huge, but has some good wines on it from Italy and France. There is even the Insolia which is one of our favorite wines from 2 Amys. One draw back to the new format - the free wine tastings that Kuna used to have while you waited for your table are gone.

We have yet to try the desserts at Opera and haven't seen anyone else order them either. Both visits, we were too full to eat anything else after the entrees. Just to name a few though - panna cotta, chocolate torte, and tea poached figs.

We were pretty happy with both of our trips to Opera. As I said before, both times we ordered a few drinks each which caused our bill to be over $120. The drinks alone added $45 to our bills. Overall, I'd say the menu at Opera is very reasonable, with no dish costing more than $20 (with one exception - the tenderloin I ordered at our last meal was $22).

Is Opera better than Kuna? I'd say it's all a matter of personal taste. Personally, I'd have to say it's not. I miss the pasta dishes I loved at Kuna. However, there are lots of good things about Opera like the country pate and steak tartare that are worth going back for. Plus, there are plenty of other places in DC to get good pasta.

1324 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 797-0523

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: none - street parking is a rare commodity in the U Street corridor. There is no Valet either. I recommend cabbing or taking the metro. The U Street stop is a block away.
Reservations: Taken


Last Friday night, Amy and I got together with a couple recently engaged friends of ours - Mike and Jen. You might remember them from our trip to Komi. But to start this review off, I want you to read the IM conversation I had with Mike to set up Friday night. Keep in mind this was on Monday:

Mike: yt? Give me a holla' when you get a chance
jasewyndu: hey, whatup!
Mike: not too much - just chilling
Mike: hey Jen and I are finally back in town this weekend. you all going to be around?
jasewyndu: yep
Mike: want to do some dinner?
jasewyndu: sure!
Mike: ray's?
jasewyndu: sure, sounds good
jasewyndu: I'll do a writeup on the trip ;)
Mike: lol - i'll make a reserv
Mike: 8:30? 9?
jasewyndu: do they take reservations?
Mike: someone around here said i should get one
Mike: ok, i'll call and make a reserv
jasewyndu: cool
Mike: damn they're booked
Mike: fri and sat.
jasewyndu: no effing way!
jasewyndu: that blows
Mike: haha yeah
Mike: i guess you have to call at least a week in advance
jasewyndu: wow
Mike: or more
jasewyndu: so where else can we go?
Mike: hmm i'm not sure - i just im'd jen - see if she comes up w/ anything
jasewyndu: I'll think too. there are a bunch of places I want to try
jasewyndu: I am just drawing a blank right now
Mike: ethiopian? How about Dukem.
Jason: Oh yeah. I've been meaning to try that for a while now. People emailed me that I should try it.
Jason: supposed to be the best Ethiopian in DC
Mike: Ok, I've never had Ethiopian before. Guess this is a good time to try it
Jason: OK. So Dukem, Fri night.
Jason: Cool, see you Fri night then. Call me when you leave. We can meet at our place.

Dukem, which is probably the least rated Ethiopian restaurant, is regarded by many as one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in DC. I've had a number of people email me telling me that if I liked Meskerem and Zed's, I'll definitely like Dukem. So when Mike mentioned going to Dukem, I was all over it.

So Friday night, instead of meeting at our place, we decided to meet Mike and Jen at Dukem. It was 7:30 and rather than wait till 8:30 when we had said we would meet them, we decided to just go down and get a few drinks before dinner. Looking around the restaurant, in front of the bar where we sat, was a small dance floor, and behind that, as small stage with a large projection screen TV. Supposedly, bands play live music after 10. All around us, people were eating their dinners and they all seemed pretty satisfied with their meals. 

After a couple beers, Mike and Jen arrived. The hostess/one of the waitresses, told us she would get us a table. After about 15 minutes, we cornered the waitress again, asking about our table - "Yeah, it will be a few minutes more." Ok. Some people had just left and the waitress then came by and told us our table was ready, but it really wasn't. Another 5 minutes later after they actually cleaned off our table and put some place settings down, they were ready for us. If getting our table seemed awkward, the service seemed even more awkward. We were looking at the menu, and we decided to try a couple sampler platters - one with kitfo and another with tibbs and watt. We also order 4 lentil sambusas. One thing worth noting, Dukem seemed to be out of an awful lot on a Friday night. We first wanted to order 4 meat sambusas and they were out of them. We also wanted a combination platter with lamb watt and they were out of that, so they had to substitute in chicken watt instead.

When we ordered the Kitfo, our waitress checked to make sure we really wanted it, which is understandable. None of us had never had Kitfo before, but wanted to try it. Kitfo is very lean rare beef ground up and mixed with spices. This combination is particular, served it with homemade cottage cheese and fitfit, which is injera soaked in the sauce of the rare beef. Ok, so it does not sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, but we wanted to try it. After a few beers, we were feeling a bit more brave than usual. ;) Our waitress was very insistant that we did not want the Kitfo combination. When we insisted that we in fact DID want it, she brought over the manager who proceeded to draw a diagram on a piece of paper of the dish and explain what kitfo was to us again. "YES. WE KNOW WHAT IT IS. PLEASE PUT IN OUR ORDER FOR IT!" No, that's not really how I said it, but the situation was rather frustrating for us all. They must had a lot of people order that dish and send it back because they don't get what it really is.

About 20 minutes later, the food came out, and they had forgotten to bring out the sambusas before the rest of the food. Well, actually, we had to remind them to bring them out. I wasn't to crazy about their sambusas. They were really greasy compared to others I've had. My favorite sambusas are the cabbage sambusas at Meskerem

Ok, now this is where my review of Dukem takes a turn and starts to sound a bit more positive. The kitfo was good. No. Really good. We were all diving into it. It was spicy, and full of flavor. The chicken watt was very good as well. The chicken was tender and juicy - not overcooked and dry. (Although, I have to say that I'm not crazy about Ethiopian chicken dishes because they leave the chicken on the bone. Eating chicken on the bone with no utensils and only injera isn't the easiest thing in the world to do.) The lamb tibbs was pretty good, although I thought that the versions of the same dish I've had at Zed's or Meskerem were better.

In the end, Amy and I were pretty unenthused about our meal and we were ready for the check. Jen seemed to really like Ethiopian food - it was her first time eating it, so that was a good thing. The only thing about the meal that I thought was particularly rejuvinating about the trip to Dukem was the bill. For 4 people, it only came to around $90, which I thought was extremely reasonable. We ordered appetizers, enough entrees for 4, a bottle of wine, and a beer. That, however, doesn't make up for the spotty service, and slightly above-average food.

1114 U St., NW
Washington, DC, 20009
(202) 667-8735

Sunday - Thursday 11am - 2am
Friday - Saturday 11am - 3am
(Kitchen closes 1hr before closing time)
Carry Out: 9am - Midnight

Dress Code: From the Dukem web site: "We are an upscale restaurant with no formal dress code. We have an appropriate atmosphere for formal dining and entertainment but we welcome people in relaxed, casual clothing as well."
Reservations Accepted
Dukem Web Site

Ben's Chili Bowl

Oh right. This is sooo original. Reviewing Ben's Chili Bowl are you Jason? Well, yes. I am.

So Amy and I went to the Carbon Leaf concert Saturday night.  Carbon Leaf was completely inspiring and sounded better than ever. You can read more about the concert on Amy's site .  Now on to the FOOD!

wiiiine1Prior to the concert, where we drank a whole bottle of wine that our friends had given us. The fact that the wine bottle is in the trash is no indication to how good the wine was. Rather it is an indicator of how incredible the whole night was. After finishing the wine at about 9PM we left for the concert. We probably had about 2 beers each there and we were surprisingly sober thoughout the whole concert (I remember every detail).

Afterwards the concert, I had a craving for some cheese fries. Believe it or not, I've lived in DC for three years and never eaten at Ben's Chili Bowl. I'd always heard from other people that it was overrated. Boy  were they wrong! It was around 2:30AM when the concert ended. On the way there Amy asked, "Do you think they are still open?" I replied, "Of course they are! These guys are THE institution of drunken, comfort munchies." I was trying to sound like the expert, but in reality I didn't have a clue. I was praying they were open because I was STARVING!! When we arrived, of course they were open AND there was a line. It was not too long, but there still was a line. Coincidentally, we recognized the guy in front of us. He was this complete TOOL that pushed his way through us to get closer to the stage. It's a long story, but at the concert he was with a girl and now he was alone. What a shame. :)

Unsure of what to order, we just went with a large chili and cheese fries. After we ordered we went over and sat at the counter and they brought the food to us shortly thereafter. The styrofoam plates and plastic forks were perfect. All I can say is that I could have eaten three helpings of the cheese fries. We dumped a bunch of chili on the cheese fries and dug in. About 5 minutes later when we have finished up the fries and chili, we were ready to order more, but something told us that we would regret the next morning. We decided to hold off.

On the way out there was this cranky woman that as we walked by yelled, "DON'T TOUCH ME. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T TOUCH ME!!" We happily obliged.

Overall I wouldn't have expected anything else from Ben's Chili Bowl. It was the ultimate DC "Foodie" experience. I'll be going back again, that's for sure.

Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20009
(202) 667-0909

Dress Code: hehe, what do you think?
Mon-Thu 6 AM-2 AM
Fri-Sat 6 AM-4 AM
Sun 12-8 PM