While preparing for a humanitarian media project I am leading to Ethiopia for SalaamGarage, I was inspired to take my research one step further and head south to Little Ethiopia in Washington DC.

I discovered DC Metro Tours Little Ethiopia Walking Tour by chance on Twitter. The tour starts with a traditional Ethiopian breakfast followed by the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Lunch comes soon on the heels of the coffee ceremony and after about 3 hours, it winds up at an Ethiopian-owned Italian dessert shop.

I grew up in the DC suburbs. Back then there was a particular Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan that didn’t card us for our “innocent” orders of Irish coffees. My love for Ethiopian food was born then. It is my favorite cuisine, one best explored stateside in Washington DC; the Washington DC metro area is home to about 200,000 people of Ethiopian descent, the largest population of Ethiopians outside Ethiopia.

The restaurants are concentrated around 18th Street, U Street, and the newest concentration is on 9th Street, where there is a cluster of about 10 Ethiopian restaurants.


Ethiopian breakfast at Habesha Market and Carryout.

1. Ethiopian breakfast at Habesha Market and Carryout. Special Kinche: Cracked wheat blended with herbal butter and mixed with spices, fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, and mitmita (a spicy powdered seasoning). Although we were given utensils, we ate traditional style with our right fingers.


Breakfast at

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2. Breakfast at Habesha Market and Carryout. Another breakfast dish that is also vegetarian. Special Foul: broad beans, smashed and spiced, awaze (a spicy sauce), onions, topped with mayonnaise and fried scrambled egg. We scooped this dish up with injera and honey bread. Injera is made with an ancient grain called teff; it is torn by hand and is used to pick up food with the right hand.


Little Ethiopia Restaurant

3. This subterranean space is decorated to evoke the typical Ethiopian village. Though the kitschy cuteness of it seems touristy, the main clientele are Ethiopians who come for music, food, and socializing.


A woven Mesob, a traditional Ethiopian table

4. A traditional Ethiopian table called a mesob is strung with a women's shawl. The lid will be lifted off when guests arrive making room for food trays and coffee. A celebration of Ethiopian culture is evident in every corner of this family friendly spot.


Little Ethiopia Restaurant coffee ceremony.

5.Women traditionally perform the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. It starts with roasting the beans on a curved metal pan over an open flame or on a small coffee furnace. Here, the ceremony is performed on the small stage that hosts Ethiopian musicians on weekend nights. Roasted over an electric burner, these pale tan-green colored beans will soon be oily and black.


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6. The coffee ceremony is often performed for guests and on special occasions and is often accompanied with popcorn. During the Little Ethiopia Restaurant coffee ceremony, we were served spiced lentil sambusas.


In the midst of the Little Ethiopia Restaurant coffee ceremony.

7. These beans are mid-roast and smoking up the place with a mixture of sharp burned coffee and pleasing toasted smells. Once the beans are sufficiently roasted the pan is walked around to totally fill the room with aroma.


The coffee ceremony continues

8. The beans are ground for the coffee in the back with an electric grinder, a modern addition to the ceremony where once a mortar and pestle were used. Coffee steeps in a beautiful clay pot with an elegant spout and handle called a jabena.


Coffee ceremony

9. Coffee pour... Coffee (bunna), represents 60% of Ethiopia’s export earnings. Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee, so the importance of coffee to Ethiopian’s can’t be exaggerated.


The coffee ceremony continues

10. The women prepare the cups and saucers for the coffee that has just finished brewing. The heady scent of incense and coffee steam fill the air.


Cups of Coffee

11. Our cups of black coffee with a little sugar. Coffee is poured in small cups called cini that resemble demitasse espresso cups.


Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery.

12. Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery.Lunchtime comes soon. Collard greens, part of a traditional vegetarian sampler are piled on an aluminum tray lined with injera.


Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery

13. Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery. Doro Wat: (the Ethiopian national dish) a spicy chicken stew with boiled egg. We used the large spoon to cut up the hard-boiled egg.


Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery.

14. Zenebech Injera Deli and Grocery. Doro Wat on the injera covered platter


Yetenbi Restaurant- Cafe and Pastries

15. My brother Matt celebrating his 27th birthday by digging into a tiramisu while my friend takes a photo of the Yetenbi chocolate and hazelnut biscotti.


Yetenbi Restaurant- Cafe and Pastries

16. Yetenbi Restaurant- Cafe and Pastries. The pastry chef at Yetenbi was trained in Italy. Although Ethiopia is one of the only countries in Africa to never have been colonized, it was occupied by Italy from 1936-1939. As a result, Italian food and deserts like pasta al forno, tiramisu, and biscotti, are quite popular in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A very nice tiramisu to end the tour completely stuffed.