Loath as Baltimoreans may be to admit it...

by Lynn Williams
October 15, 2004

Loath as Baltimoreans may be to admit it, that city to our south really does do some things better than we do.

Take Ethiopian food. Washingtonians really "get" Ethiopian. For 30 years or so, they've enthusiastically supported an array of restaurants, from casual holes-in-the-wall to elegant places with traditional basketwork tables and live entertainment.

Baltimore, on the other hand, typically has one Ethiopian restaurant at any given time - right now it's X Café in Federal Hill - and most have not lasted long enough to achieve the ethnic-icon status enjoyed by, say, the Helmand or Thai Landing.

This situation is poised to change, though, thanks to a little bit of Washington know-how. Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant, a popular, upscale spot at 12th and U in D.C., will soon be opening a Dukem II at 1100 Maryland Ave. This is an address already known to Ethiopian buffs, as it was once the home of Ghion, perhaps Baltimore's best-ever place to sample the cuisine.

According to owner Tefera Zewdie, Dukem (named for a town near Addis Ababa) has no relationship with Ghion's owners. He was, rather, attracted to the location by "the closeness to the University of Baltimore and the nice neighborhood." That neighborhood includes, of course, the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, whose well-dressed patrons might have been scared off by Ghion's barroom dinginess. They should have no such problems with the new décor; an extreme makeover is both expanding and beautifying the space. According to Mr. Zewdie, Dukem will start small, with 25 to 30 seats, and will eventually open an upstairs dining room with 50 more seats and authentic Ethiopian décor. A late October or early November opening is planned for the restaurant, which will be open 365 days a year.

For an advance look at the menu offerings, check out the D.C. Web site at www.dukemrestaurant.com . The prices will, however, be lower for Baltimore!