Washington, D.C. has the highest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia. And as you could imagine this has had a wonderful impact on the food culture in the city. Ethiopian restaurants are plentiful and Washington, D.C. has become known for their cuisine. One such restaurant has been especially wonderful for family dining, the following is a review of Letena.
I should start by saying that I have very little academic knowledge of Ethiopian food, but it is quickly becoming a favorite in our household. For children it is an exceptionally delightful cuisine, due in large part to the way in which it is consumed. Meals are served on and eaten with a spongy crepe like bread called injera. The injera is broken apart and used as an edible vessel for bites of food. Traditional Injera is gluten free and made from a highly nutritious grain, called Tef.
Located on Park Road in Columbia Heights Letena is a spacious restaurant with a fast casual vibe and pricing and is in good company as far as family friendly dining is concerned. Next door to Los Hermanos a Dominican restaurant (one of my favorites) and across the street from Vietnamese Chelsea where you can be served huge servings of their delicious pho. Letena opened up a few months ago and I was mistaken in thinking the lack of crowds was a reflection on the food.
Ooey and I first popped in for lunch a few weeks ago and I was amazed at both the service and the food quality. I ordered my favorite Ethiopian dish, Doro Wot, a chicken stew served with a hardboiled egg. Our food came out quick (timing is critical when dining solo with a toddler) and additionally the staff were kind enough to bring out additional injera and menu items for Ooey to try that they’d notice kids prefered, a lentil stew and a chicken stew. (and no, they did not know a review was to be made) They also didn’t know that Ooey eats exclusively Injera so I was the fortunate one getting an extra helping, both items were quite good.
Our second visit was for a weeknight dinner,where the staff remembered us. (Not sure if that was a good thing or not, dining with a human tornado and all) We ordered at the counter while Ooey rambled around, I another order of chicken with a side of mushrooms and my husband the chef’s special tibs, chunks of medium-rare steak in a savory sauce. The chef’s special tibs were so good I adopted the plate from my husband. Like my first visit the restaurant was nearly empty, with a few other families dining this time. Ooey was again satisfied with her injera, and spooning entrees from one plate to another. She was pretty unhappy to leave which is a pretty good sign that this place is a hit. (and yes, they have changing tables and room for strollers)