DCentric » Restaurants http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Ethiopian Restaurant Finds Success In Going ‘American’ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/ethiopian-restaurant-finds-success-in-going-american/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/ethiopian-restaurant-finds-success-in-going-american/#comments Fri, 04 May 2012 17:15:01 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15927 Continue reading ]]>

LollyKnit / Flickr

Restaurants around D.C.’s unofficial “Little Ethiopia” have been experimenting lately, hosting everything from rock bands and comedy nights, to serving macaroni and cheese instead of injera and tibs. It’s all been part of an effort to stay competitive and alive in the midst of a struggling economy.

So, is it working? Maybe so, at least for Queen Makeda. The restaurant switched over to American fare and has been holding hip hop nights and hosting bands. It’s been so successful that the restaurant now needs more space. This weekend will be Queen Makeda’s last night at 1917 9th St. NW. The restaurant is closing with plans to reopen in a bigger space in the neighborhood.

“There’s definitely a niche in D.C. for what we do,” said Queen Makeda bartender Jeremy Quarless-Cole. “You have to [change] in that area, simply because there are so many Habesha restaurants serving the same food.”

Perhaps there’s still a healthy market for Ethiopian food in D.C. Just not when it’s all concentrated within a few blocks.

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Cupcakes and Bulletproof Glass http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/cupcakes-and-bulletproof-glass/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/cupcakes-and-bulletproof-glass/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2011 14:01:20 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=11875 Continue reading ]]>

lamantin / Flickr

Nothing says neighborhood change and gentrification like a cupcake shop. But what if such a shop has bulletproof glass inside? The Washington City Paper reports that the first cupcake shop east of the Anacostia River, Olivia’s Cupcakes, has a “thick sheet” of bullet-resistant glass behind the counter:

“It broke my heart to do that, but it’s a deterrent,” says proprietor Cindy Bullock, who runs the cupcake shop alongside her husband, Bob Bullock, and their daughters, Kristina, 20, and Alexis, 18.

“Several people asked (about the glass) and said, ‘It’s a beautiful shop, its unfortunate that you have it up,’ but we had to have it,” Bullock says.

“I have owned several business in this area and we have been robbed several times,” she explains. “We wanted to make [the shop] elegant and beautiful, but because of the teenagers and having my children here we wanted to protect them.”

D.C.’s bullet resistant glass initially appeared in stores in the wake of the 1968 riots, and became much more widespread at the height of the crack epidemic. Like the Bullocks, many store owners have installed glass after bad experiences.

In gentrifying neighborhoods, the glass barricade coming down is a turning point. It’s also sometimes necessary to appeal to a wealthier clientele. Take Logan Circle, where most liquor and convenience stores had the glass for decades. Then Whole Foods opened on P Street, NW in 2000. Property values rose, and Amare Lucas, owner of Best-In Liquors on P and 15th streets NW decided to take down his glass. The more inviting atmosphere, along with new stock he brought in, attracted more customers, new and longtime residents alike. “Some [customers] told me they had been in the neighborhood for 15 years, kind of passing the store by because of the glass,” Lucas told Washington City Paper‘s Dave Jamieson in 2005. “They’re in my store now. It really gives you a satisfaction.”

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Ethiopian Restaurant Converts to ‘American’ Fare http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/ethiopian-restaurant-converts-to-american-fare/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/ethiopian-restaurant-converts-to-american-fare/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2011 17:05:50 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9699 Continue reading ]]>

avry / Flickr

Is Ethiopian food slowly disappearing along U Street?

Ethiopian restaurant Almaz is undergoing a renovation and will reopen in a few weeks with a new menu of “American” fare, reports Prince of Petworth.

The U Street restaurant is joining other Habesha eateries in “Little Ethiopia” that have repositioned themselves in an increasingly difficult market. The recession and the concentration of so many Ethiopian restaurants in such a small area has led other owners to also convert their menus, such as Queen Makeda. Other restaurants are opening their doors to new kinds of clientele and uses, including rock concerts. Almaz itself participated in a recent rock festival that brought country and western music to the U Street restaurant.


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Getting Fast Food Restaurants to Serve Better Veggies http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/getting-fast-food-restaurants-to-serve-better-veggies/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/getting-fast-food-restaurants-to-serve-better-veggies/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2011 18:26:12 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9500 Continue reading ]]>

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Living near a grocery store doesn’t mean you’ll have a healthier diet. On the flip side, proximity to fast food joints does affect your eating habits, particularly if you’re low income. So is the fix for unhealthy diets to get rid of fast food restaurants altogether?

Owners of one D.C. restaurant — Amsterdam Falafel, which sells $5.50 falafels — say not necessarily. Instead, they’re organizing a veggie flash mob to encourage fast food restaurants to serve higher quality vegetables. Eater DC reports:

As owner and organizer Arianne Bennett explains, “We walk into a hot dog place or a hamburger place and you smell everything and it smells so good. You should walk into a place where vegetables are being carried and where the place smells absolutely delicious.”

Some fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, have answered calls for healthier options by placing salads and other items on menus. Perhaps more people would opt for salads instead of burgers if the vegetables were fresher, locally-grown and still inexpensive.

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In Your Words: the Importance of Authenticity in Food http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/in-your-words-the-importance-of-authenticity-in-food/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/in-your-words-the-importance-of-authenticity-in-food/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2011 17:05:15 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9075 Continue reading ]]> Our post on what makes a restaurant authentic posed a question: does the authenticity of food matter to you? The responses so far indicate that no, as long as the food tastes good.

Bardia Ferdowski, an Iranian immigrant who opened a Cajun restaurant in Adams Morgan, was quoted in the original post as saying what matters the most is that “the food is good and comes from the heart.” Commenter rmpmcdermott agreed, writing:

“If you care enough about the food and the tradition and you study the culture and the reasons behind the food then you can make great food from any culture outside of your own. It’s all about respect to me. Respect for the culture. Respect for the ingredients. In fact I’ve had Italian food cooked by non-Italians who really cared about the food and it was way better than food I’ve had by Italians who clearly didn’t care.”

Houston Press food blog Eating Our Words weighed into the debate tweeting that “the concept of ‘authenticity’ is such a nebulous thing to define, much less capture.”

@ And often, it's those cross-pollinated, inauthentic dishes that end up standing the test of time & becoming their own cuisine.
Eating Our Words

Even the best efforts of old country-trained chefs may be thwarted; some dishes can never be replicated due to differences in available ingredients, writes commenter lacrisha jones: “I think the only way to get ‘authentic’ cuisine is to go to the place where it actually comes from. The water, soil, grass and air all make a food what it is, and those elements can’t be transported somewhere else.”

Jason Lam / Flickr

Dishes like gumbo arose out of cultural fusions.

Beware of restaurants that bill themselves as “authentic” in their advertising, writes Nandalal Nagalingam Rasiah, who “automatically distrusts” such establishments: “I find the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ far more useful.  There is a pizza place that serves 100% authentic Neapolitan pizza in my town but I 100% dislike Neapolitan pizza and thus it is ‘bad.’”

We also asked whether authenticity in cuisine was even desirable. Commenter Cob writes sometimes it is, but “mostly though, I want life to be fun and creative, and creativity inherently involves change and innovation:”

at home, i combine irish cooking with indian cooking. i mix my sense of mexican with thai. all the time. too many fun and delicious results occur and we lose out when we don’t mix things. creole is a prime example of why mixing is fantastic. creating Creole is all about throwing away authenticity. italian food wouldn’t be italian food if they hadn’t tossed away authenticity when marco polo got back.

All of this leads us to ask: does anyone take issue with the authenticity of the food they eat? If so, weigh in below.


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Home Cooking: Middle Eastern Italian Food http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/homecooking-middle-eastern-italian-food/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/homecooking-middle-eastern-italian-food/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2011 15:59:11 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9035 Continue reading ]]>

Josh / Flickr

Does it matter if the tomato sauce recipe was developed by an Italian?

Friday’s post “What Makes a Restaurant Authentic?“, in which I interviewed chefs hailing from countries other than the cuisine they prepare, held a particular resonance with me. I’m Iranian-American, and my family owns an Italian restaurant.

How in the world did that happen? Not much differently than it happened for the other restaurant proprietors I profiled: my father arrived in the U.S., put himself through school by working at Italian-owned restaurants and he paid attention to what worked and what didn’t. He developed his own sauce recipe and, taking a risk, opened his own restaurant.

Growing up, many people assumed we were Italian, particularly since there weren’t many Iranians in our fairly homogenous community. Sometimes we’d joke that my grandmother was part-Italian, or that my father had flown over Italy and that counts for something. Some customers, among them Italians, would tell us how the food reminded them of restaurants in Little Italy or Italy itself.

Stephen Howard / Flickr

Traditional Persian rice with tadeeq.

In our home, my mother’s Persian cooking reigned supreme. But sometimes we’d eat white pizza and eggplant parmigiana from our restaurant, which was also home cooking. At large family get-togethers, we served traditional Persian dishes alongside baked ziti.

Anyone who’s grown up in a family restaurant knows that everything revolves around “the restaurant.” You have to cut vacations short, reply “no” to wedding invitations and drive through blizzards to make sure the kitchen pipes haven’t burst. But you’re also eternally grateful to the restaurant. It’s provided you a livelihood: shelter, food, and in my case, a college education. The loyalty I have to Italian food runs deep.

When many of us are feeling a bit nostalgic, we eat comfort food. It’s the food that reminds us we’re loved and a part of something bigger. In those moments, I eat kubideh, ghormeh sabzi or simply noon-o-paneer. But a hearty bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, made with my dad’s tomato sauce, works just as well. My people may not have been cooking pasta for centuries, but Italian food still feels like home.

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What Makes a Restaurant Authentic? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/what-makes-a-restaurant-authentic/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/what-makes-a-restaurant-authentic/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2011 13:00:43 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=8850 Continue reading ]]> Hungarians preparing Japanese dishes; Koreans serving Eastern European fare; Salvadorans making kabobs –a number of D.C. chefs and restaurant owners serve cuisine from countries far from their motherlands. Some to great acclaim.

But is the food authentic? Does it even matter?

“There are two kinds of music: Good music, and the other kind.” – Duke Ellington
Washingtonian food critic Todd Kliman answers with a Duke Ellington quote: “There are two kinds of music: good music, and the other kind.”

“Is it desirable [for food] to be authentic? It depends on who you ask,” Kliman says. “Some people say ‘Yes.’ Others say, ‘It doesn’t matter as long as the food is delicious.’”

Bardia Ferdowski opened Bardia’s New Orleans Cafe in Adams Morgan 19 years ago. The Iranian immigrant spent more than a decade working in Louisiana restaurants while attending college.

“We love the food,” diner Don Wilson says on a recent afternoon. “Bardia spent so much time in Louisiana… and he brought it all up here for us.” Wilson mentions photographs hanging in the restaurant of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a frequent patron. “That tells you a lot.”

“The cross-pollination almost makes it better,” adds Martina Vandenberg, another customer.

Some find the mix appealing, but the appearance of inauthenticity can hurt a business. Some diners post Yelp reviews with warnings such as, “This is not authentic Creole cuisine.” Other Louisiana natives love it.

Take D.C.’s Ethiopian restaurant scene, which has grown over the past decade, resulting in mostly non-Ethiopian customers. “When it becomes a crossover hit, and becomes really popular with non-Ethiopians, it begins to look like an ‘inauthentic’ place” to some people, Kliman says.

Where’s the chef from?

Bardia Ferdowski came to Louisiana from Iran to attend college. He worked at Cajun restaurants for a decade before opening up his own in D.C. Bardia's New Orleans Cafe has been open in Adams Morgan for 19 years. Beignets are a popular dessert item at Bardia's New Orleans Cafe. Owner/chef Bardia Ferdowski says he creates them using his own recipe. Bardia Ferdowski takes empty plates from a couple dining in his Cajun restaurant. Ferdowski is an Iranian immigrant. Jose De Velasquez prepares a pizza at Moroni & Brothers. The Salvadoran immigrant spent years working at Pizzeria Paradiso before opening his own restaurant. Moroni & Brothers in Petworth has a menu that's half pizza, half Central American fare. Jeff Lindeblad eats a pizza with his two daughters at Moroni & Brothers. The Petworth resident typically orders pizza and quesadillas.

Ferdowski feels a special connection to Cajun food. He says the southern hospitality he experienced in Louisiana “was just like home.” And he’s heard it all — people have mistaken him for French, Creole and Russian.

“People are very curious because of my accent,” he says.

Unlike Bardia’s, with its Cajun-only menu, the owner/chef of Moroni & Brothers made his roots very clear: the menu is half pizza, half Central American fare. Salvadoran immigrant Jose De Velasquez worked at Pizzeria Paradiso for 15 years, leaving after he worked his way up to kitchen manager. He opened Moroni & Brothers four years ago in Petworth.

A wood-fire oven blazes in the back of the restaurant. Above it, a picture of De Velasquez making a pizza hangs on the wall, next to an ornament with “El Salvador” emblazoned on the front.

“The most important thing is to know how to combine the ingredients, and the dough recipe,” De Velasquez says in Spanish. “But we’re Salvadoran and we wanted something traditional. This is a good combination.”

At one table, a couple eats pupusas. At another, Jeff Lindeblad and his two daughters eat their usual meal: quesadillas and pizza. The menu “didn’t seem odd at all” on his first visit, Lindeblad says.

“Is it important to have someone from Italy make the pizza? No,” Lindeblad says. “And the pizza here is fantastic.”

Kitchen hierarchies

Moroni & Brothers is a classic example of how a kitchen worker can ascend heights to chef and restaurant owner. And the influx of Latinos in the area and in the service industry means Latinos are among those successfully climbing the ladder. Take Johnny Kabob, a Salvadoran-owned Persian restaurant in Germantown. The owner started out as a dishwasher in a Persian restaurant. Now, he has Iranians telling him his food reminds them of their mothers’ cooking.

“Most of the people doing the cooking in the kitchens, at least in this city and many big cities in the Northeast, they’re Latino,” Kliman says. “It’s one of these things where if you look at it from the outside, you’d say, ‘These people should get much more credit. They’re doing the hard work, the chef is there, a high profile chef who is getting a lot of credit.’ But the reality is the kitchen is [the chef's] vision, and that’s kind of the way it’s always been.”

It’s the same master-apprentice model that’s been practiced for hundreds of years, Kliman says. But even though the original masters may have shared a homeland with the cuisine they’re preparing, now a new crop of masters don’t have a country in common with the food they love and serve.

“If [the food] is good and it comes from the heart,” says Ferdowski, “that’s what matters.”

Your turn: How important is authenticity in a restaurant? How do you judge a restaurant’s authenticity? Let us know in the comments below – and we wouldn’t mind a D.C. restaurant recommendation if you’ve got one.

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Fast Food and Food Deserts http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/fast-food-and-food-deserts/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/fast-food-and-food-deserts/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2011 17:24:52 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=8723 Continue reading ]]>

Paul J. Richards / Getty Images

This Burger King hamburger has 1,010 calories and the fries have 500 calories.

Many of the tactics cited to fight food deserts focuses on encouraging supermarkets to open in neighborhoods where there aren’t many. But a new study shows that simply bringing in a grocer doesn’t translate into healthier eating habits.

The Archives of Internal Medicine published the study, which shows that having more grocery stores in neighborhoods didn’t have much of an impact on how many fruits and vegetables people ate. The study does, however, find another link between income and fast food, reports Reuters Health:

For low-income men in the study, living close to lots of fast-food restaurants meant they ate at those restaurants more often — but there was only a weak link for middle-income people, and no clear link for those with the highest incomes…

[Researchers] say policymakers’ attempts to get new supermarkets into poor urban neighborhoods might not be enough to change the tide of obesity, diabetes and other health problems common in those areas.

“We’re talking about a top-to-bottom approach that would be important,” [study author Penny] Gordon-Larsen said. That would include educating people in the community and inside those supermarkets and grocery stores, organizing the stores to promote more healthy food options and giving incentives to make healthy food cheaper than less-healthy alternatives, she said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, D.C. has seven food deserts. But the USDA definition of a food desert only applies to low-income areas with limited access to supermarkets or grocery stores. Perhaps a new category is needed to define low-income areas with an abundance of fast food options.

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More Pho Options in D.C. http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/more-pho-options-in-d-c/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/more-pho-options-in-d-c/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 17:25:40 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=8673 Continue reading ]]>

Joshua Rappeneker / Flickr

Pho, delicious pho.

D.C.’s food truck scene just got a little more diverse with the start of Phonomenon, the city’s first pho truck. Look out, San Francisco!

The prevalence of the Vietnamese noodle soup in the District-proper has grown in recent months. Pho DC opened its doors in Chinatown this past winter, and Instant Noodles, which serves pho in addition to other dishes, opened this month in Adams Morgan.

Most of the District’s estimated 1,600 Vietnamese residents reside in the Columbia Heights area, where Pho 14 and Pho Viet are located. But those searching for a plethora of Vietnamese restaurants and businesses may find themselves leaving the District — Fairfax County, Va., where an estimated 26,000 Vietnamese reside, is also home to Eden Center, a large Vietnamese shopping center and self-proclaimed “heart and soul” of the East Coast Vietnamese community.

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Why Rock Bands are Playing D.C.’s Ethiopian Restaurants http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/06/why-rock-bands-are-playing-d-c-s-ethiopian-restaurants/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/06/why-rock-bands-are-playing-d-c-s-ethiopian-restaurants/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2011 18:55:04 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=7733 Continue reading ]]>

Courtesy of Bora Chung

Brian Waitzman plays with pop-Americana singer Flo Anito at Almaz on Sunday. An Ethiopian flag hangs behind him.

On Sunday afternoon, Ethiopian music blared from speakers in the first floor dining room of 1920, a Habesha restaurant in the heart of Little Ethiopia. But the sound of a woman crooning in Amharic was overpowered by Bake Sale, a post-pop rock band playing on the second floor.

All up and down the U Street Corridor this past weekend, bands representing an eclectic range of rock music played in Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants as part of the first Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Music Festival. Six Habesha-owned or themed restaurants took part.

Organizer Dave Mann said when he first hatched the idea to hold a two-day rock music festival, he asked the city’s more traditional rock venues to host shows, “but they weren’t into it.” Some already had booked calendars and this was the first STPP festival, so it was uncertain how much revenue it’d bring in.

Then Mann met Mike Naizghi, the Eritrean owner of Bella Café, who was looking for music to fill the second-floor of his café that serves American and Eritrean fare. He then introduced Mann to more Little Ethiopia restaurant owners, and soon six were on board. The restaurants made money through drink and food sales, the bands made money through merchandise sales and all shows were free. Mann brought more than 100 bands to the restaurants and he plans to hold a bigger festival in October.

“The consensus of all of the owners of the Ethiopian restaurants is, they say to me, ‘Look, there are tons of Ethiopian places in D.C., so obviously a lot of them aren’t going to have the same amount of business as the others. We need a different clientele,’” Mann said.

The festival kicked off just after news broke Friday that no charges would be filed in the death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed, which had initially been linked to rock club DC9 employees and sparked outraged among the Ethiopian community. While there is a considerable amount of pain and confusion in Little Ethiopia over the case, there wasn’t much resentment and anger to be found over the weekend. Concertgoers milled in and out of venues as bartenders were kept busy serving drinks.

Mann said no one brought up Mohammed’s death as he booked acts in the restaurants. And the festival’s aim wasn’t to focus on or ease any such tensions. “It’s about bringing the D.C. music community together,” he said.

Dave Mann performs with his band Mittenfields at Ghion on Saturday night. Mann brought a wide range of rock acts to D.C., including folk, post-pop rock and hardcore. Enoch Mihrataep takes a drink order from Josh Chapman at Ghion on Sunday while The Collaters played upstairs. Chalking along 9th Street, NW advertised the Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Music Festival this weekend. Concertgoers went from venue to venue to catch rock acts. Concertgoers filled Bella Cafe, an Eritrean restaurant, to watch rock band Hiding Places perform on Sunday. Ghion was one of six restaurants in Little Ethiopia that hosted rock acts over the weekend. Maaite Abraham serves a drink to Caroline North at Bella Cafe on Sunday. Owner Mike Naizghi said sales increased by at least 35 percent over the weekend. Brian Waitzman plays with pop-Americana singer Flo Anito at Almaz on Sunday. An Ethiopian flag hangs behind him. Aaron Lim stands outside of Ghion on Saturday night as rock shows took place inside. The Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Music Festival brought more than 100 bands to Little Ethiopia.

Naizghi spoke over the loud music playing at Bella on Sunday, saying he’s seen at least a 35 percent increase in sales thus far.

“It’s slow, but we’re trying to pick it up. At least this is going to pick up business,” he said. “We tried to make new business. So far it’s going OK. It’s the first time.”

Craig Keenan of D.C. came to Bella to support local bands, and he said the idea of the festival taking places in local Habesha restaurants “is awesome.”

“It’s in all of these neighborhood places,” he said. “I’ve been here once but knowing they have music, I’ll probably come back.”

Julia Eiferman had been to Bella once before, but said she probably wouldn’t have come back if it weren’t for the music festival.

“[D.C.'s rock clubs] get a lot of national acts, but they don’t get as many indie acts,” Eiferman said.

Andrew Laurence, president of the Ethiopian-American Cultural Center, has noticed many restaurants have renovated or added additional floors in order to host shows and private parties to help make ends meet. The revered Dukem, for instance, just opened a second-floor VIP lounge.

A few blocks away from Bella, Charlie Harrison Band bass guitarist Justin Cohen just finished up a gig at Almaz. He sat with friends, eating injera and vegetables and drinking Ethiopian beer. Cohen said that on his way to the show, he had thought how interesting it was the he was going to play country and Western music in an Ethiopian restaurant.

Stephen Carleton of Denver came to watch Cohen play in what was his first visit to an Ethiopian restaurant. Attracting such first-timers is what many of these restaurant proprietors are aiming to do. But some are slowly drifting away from serving Ethiopian cuisine altogether in an effort to be competitive.

Reggie Eliacin and his girlfriend recently bought Queen Makeda, which was once an Ethiopian restaurant on 9th Street, NW. They hosted shows during the music festival, and had hip-hop DJs and other bands in the past.

“There are so many Ethiopian restaurants here. We are going to do something a little different,” Eliacin said. “[Ours] is more like a bar. We don’t even serve Ethiopian food anymore.”

Eliacin said hosting new types of music can be good for other restaurants in the neighborhood.

“The diversity is important to just get exposure to their restaurants. Some people maybe never thought of coming into the area or a restaurant now have an opportunity to come in,” he said. “I always say, if you’re open to different ideas, it gets the name out there, and I think it’s better even for this sort of community.”

Laurence, considered Little Ethiopia’s unofficial historian, has mixed feelings. He welcomes any way to keep these restaurants alive.

“I love the fact that all these people are coming down for the first time. It is a way of marketing, of Ethiopia opening arms to the whole world,” Laurence said. “The diversity of America is a two-way street. Maybe this is what we should be aiming for. This whole U Street is happening because of this kind of energy.”

But Laurence also said it does take away a bit from the idea of a true “Little Ethiopia.”

Ideally, he’d also like to to see young professional Ethiopians also host their parties and events in Little Ethiopia’s restaurants, rather than go downtown to upscale clubs like The Park.

“After 10 [p.m.], if I come down here on a Friday or Saturday night, you don’t have the sense of Little Ethiopia. So that is sad,” he said. “It does, to me, take away somewhat from the block and the whole feeling, the smells, the tastes… It does detract somewhat of the ultimate dream, the fantasy. But on the other hand, this is a whole other fantasy that I’m beginning to appreciate.”

STPP festival was just hours away from wrapping up on Sunday night, with the sounds of hardcore rock still filling the air along 9th Street. But the smells that filled the air were still of tibs, spiced-lentils and key wot.

Photos courtesy of Bora Chung.

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