The Meskerem: Taking a Quick Trip to Ethiopia Via D. C.

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 1990.

My most unique recent restaurant dining experience was a meal at an Ethiopian restaurant, the Meskerem, in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, D. C. This fascinating dinner was served to two friends, my family, and me as we sat on cushions on the floor.

The restaurant has regular tables and chairs on the ground floor, but for dining in the Ethiopian manner one requests seating on the Mezzanine, where we were positioned at small straw tables shaped like up-ended mushrooms and were served by women wearing African-style apparel. No silverware is provided to diners opting for the more authentic mode of service.

The other couple and we all chose different foods, which were brought out on large round trays. These trays were placed on the little straw stands. A plate of thin, foamy, pancake-like pieces of bread (injera) were served to us. (At first glance, this bread looks like a stack of hand towels!)

To eat the various types of beans, meats in sauces, etc., one uses a part of a thin injera to pick up a mouthful of food. Our order included a salad, served on the big tray along with the other food items, and comprised of delicious, ripe tomatoes, onions, and green chilis in an oil and lemon dressing. Mounds of garbanzos (chick-peas), lentils, and a type of potato salad were arranged on the platter. The stew-like main dishes were piled in the center of the tray. Our favorite entree was saucy, spicy lamb (Meskeren Tibbs). Shrimp Watts and Chicken Watts (“Watts” translates “stews”) were also enjoyable. The foods were all soft-textured and easy to pick up with the injera. Wines such as Tej (Ethiopian honey wine) are available.

Adams-Morgan is an up-and-coming area of D.C. The various restaurants there attract scores of locals and visitors, so a challenge in finding a place to park can be expected. We had to pay $12 to park in a lot for 2 hours; no street parking was to be found. The Meskerem is located at 2434 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C. Dinner costs approximately $15 per person including dessert and beverage. For a most unusual and memorable feast, dining at Meskerem (a word meaning “September,” which is the first month of Ethiopian springtime) is well worth the price of the meal — and even the parking!