Adams Morgan: Exotic Eateries Let You Travel the World One Morsel at a Time

Injera bread dish

Show of hands: Ethiopian dishes often come with injera, a pancake-like flatbread with a spongy texture that acts as both a plate and eating utensil. Diners tear off a piece of the injera to scoop the various stews and salads that make up the entree.

Before moving to the District almost a decade ago (I’ve since moved out again), I’d never had Ethiopian food. In fact, I don’t know if I’d ever heard the term mentioned before.

But once I was introduced to it, I couldn’t believe how good it was. Beef, lamb, ground chickpeas, eggs, exotic spices and sauces, and of course the cuisine’s most distinctive feature: spongy injera bread. It’s all quite tasty.

The great thing about Ethiopian food is, depending on the restaurant, it can be a communal experience, as a whole slew of people can share the food, dining on a huge injera bread layout. It’s an odd, foreign and fun experience.

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To be honest, before moving to the capital, I’d never had many exotic ethnic foods (everyone eats Chinese, Mexican and Italian; they don’t count). Along with Ethiopian cuisine, Adams Morgan (and more broadly, the capital itself) features about as diverse a dinner menu as you’ll find on the East Coast outside of New York City: Latin American, Middle Eastern, Asian, soul food, American, seafood, vegetarian.

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What we’re going to do here is focus on three diverse restaurants, leading off with what I was babbling about in the beginning.

Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant
2434 18th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20009

Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant
2434 18th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Cuisine: Ethiopian

Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant has loads of accolades and has been written up in everything from The Washingtonian, The Washington Post, The Denver Post and on Frommer’s website, with the most succinct line of praise coming from Washington City Paper: “We said it before, we’ll say it again. Meskerem is the best.”

A click on their website is a colorful experience, showing off their food and the color yellow. (One warning, I couldn’t get the annoying music to stop, but that’s why we have volume control on our computers. It’s colorful at first, but gets grating fast.)

There is a broad range of beef, chicken, lamb and seafood dishes here, and vegetarians aren’t left in the cold either. Entrees are very reasonably priced, in the $10-$13 range, with the vegetarian dishes a little less. A good meal at Meskerem will have you playing the krar like Eddie Van Halen on a 10-day sake and Schlitz bender.

Mama Ayesha’s
1967 Calvert St., NW, Washington, DC 20009

Mama Ayesha’s
1967 Calvert St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Cuisine: Middle Eastern

You can go far and wide and not see any mural more interesting than the one that graces the wall of Mama Ayesha’s. It’s a portrait of the matriarch herself surrounded by presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, all in a row. Whatever you think of our government, it doesn’t matter. Kitsch, high-art, whatever. It’s one cool-looking mural. Mama Ayesha left this earth in 1993, but her legacy lives on through her family business.

Inside this very classy joint – and the décor is visually striking – diners will take advantage of the Middle Eastern cuisine. I don’t know what you’d consider pricey, but with most entrées under $20, that’s not too bad.

The menu is lamb heavy, but they also serve up vegetarian plates as well. There’s also plentiful rice, spices, chicken and onions to be had. Mama Ayesha’s has a very impressive wine list as well (that’s where they get you!). And really, who doesn’t want a shish kebob every now and again?

Habana Village Restaurant and Bar
1834 Columbia Rd., NW, Washington, DC 20009

Habana Village Restaurant and Bar
1834 Columbia Rd., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Cuisine: Cuban

The Habana Village Restaurant and Bar in Adams Morgan is one of the only places I know of where you can not only dine on exotic ethnic food but also learn to dance. Part dance club and part restaurant, Habana Village seems like a fun place to work off the calories you just ingested.

Habana Village sports Cuban cuisine with a price range (as listed on their Facebook page) between $10-$30, so I guess you could call that moderately expensive. As always, it’s the drinks that boost the bill. And Habana being a dance club of sorts, you know that a little libation will help you work up the gumption to put on those dancing shoes.

Salsa lessons are 10 bucks a shot, and the club offers both beginner and advanced lessons. Best of all, you don’t need a partner. While we don’t expect you to become a Latin-fused version of John Travolta circa “Saturday Night Fever” or even the “Pulp Fiction” version, for all you cut-a-rug types, learning the salsa will be fun. To all of you guys out there, many women really do go to dance clubs to dance, so actually knowing how to dance, particularly the salsa in a Latin-themed club, can only help you in those ventures. This way when they turn you down, you can say, “Hey, I’m here to dance!” and actually mean it. Kinda.

As expected, Habana Village is open very late on weekends.

For apartments in Adams Morgan, visit Apartment Showcase.

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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