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Little Ethiopia' takes root in D.C.
Inside Dukem, one of the city's best-known Ethiopian restaurants, the bustle on the street seems far-removed as burning incense mingles with the aroma of spicy stews. On a small stage, performers in sequined white gowns thump on drums and sing traditional music from the East African nation. Patrons sitting nearby use their fingers -- no forks here -- to tear into spongy pancakes and scoop up exotic cuisine such as awaze tibs, which is lamb marinated with jalapeno, tomato and garlic. "You feel like you're in your own country when you come here," said Tefera Zewdie, the owner of Dukem, who left Ethiopia as a teenager 20 years ago.
New U/Logan Circle
New U/Logan Circle 1114 U St., NW (12th St.) Washington, DC, 20009 (202) 667-8735 Past midnight all week long this "solid anchor of the U Street renaissance" is 'jammed with Ethiopian expats "enjoying " fresh, cheap and delicious "fare delivered by a "friendly" staff wearing " authentic garb"; "try to dip in" after 10 PM "when the music starts" courtesy of live native bands, where using injera bread to scoop up the "unpretentious", "unbeatable" edibles is "lots of fun if you like eating with your hands." Washington Post Washington's Little Ethiopia A New Cluster of Restaurants Brings Exotic (Yet Inexpensive) Appeal to Ninth and U St By Walter Nicholls "... But the best-known Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood is the six-year-old Dukem. Owner Tefera Zewdie says that when he opened, the majority of his customers were from back home. "So much has changed in the last year and a half," says Zewdie, who has an adjoining carryout. On weekend nights in Dukem's outdoor area, there's a barbecue where Ethiopian-spiced New York strip steaks are grilled. "Now, I have far more white and African American customers," Zewdie says. The Washington region, with its 200,000 people of Ethiopian descent, has the largest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself, according to an unofficial estimate by the embassy. With the addition of Etete, which specializes in vegetarian meals, 10 Ethiopian restaurants now are clustered at U Street east of 13th and in the 1900 block of Ninth Street. Each has its distinct ambiance and fans. The new enclave has twice as many Ethiopian restaurants as Adams Morgan, where Ethiopian entrepreneurs began opening food businesses in the late 1970s. The exotic and inexpensive cuisine attracts not only fellow countrymen but especially students and tourists. Meals are a communal, social activity, and there is no need for a knife and fork. Ethiopian is all about finger food. Diners gather around a single, circular platter covered with a soft, 16-inch pancake or bread called injera . Spicy stews, seasoned vegetables and pureed legumes are artfully placed around the pancake. Additional injera are served alongside. That's when it's time to tear a section of the bread and use it to gather a mouthful from the assorted offerings. When the underlying pancake, soaked with sauce, is consumed, the meal is considered complete.
Nation's largest Ethiopian community carves niche
Washington: Nation's largest Ethiopian community carves niche By Brian Westley, Associated Press WASHINGTON — Inside Dukem, one of the city's best-known Ethiopian restaurants, the bustle on the street seems far removed as burning incense mingles with the aroma of spicy stews. On a small stage, performers in sequined white gowns thump on drums and sing traditional music from the East African nation. Patrons sitting nearby use their fingers — no forks here — to tear into spongy pancakes and scoop up exotic cuisine such as awaze tibs, which is lamb marinated with jalapeno, tomato and garlic. A new ethnic identity is taking root in a once-decaying neighborhood not far from the White House, where 10 Ethiopian restaurants are clustered together and dingy storefronts are now splashed with bright hues of blues, yellows and reds. "You feel like you're in your own country when you come here," said Tefera Zewdie, the owner of Dukem, who left Ethiopia as a teenager 20 years ago. The Washington region has the world's biggest Ethiopian community outside of Africa, according to the Ethiopian Embassy. The 2000 Census reports 15,000 Ethiopians have settled in the Washington area. But the embassy and those who study African immigration argue that number is far too low, saying the actual number is closer to 200,000. Now this growing ethnic group wants to be recognized in the city by naming a street "Little Ethiopia." But the location — near U Street — faces resistance from some in the community who want to preserve the area's historic significance. Before riots erupted in the 1960s, the area was known as America's "Black Broadway" because of its thriving black-owned jazz clubs, shops and theaters. "They're trying to erase us," said longtime city resident Ora E. Drummer. "This community was built by African-Americans. I would never go to Ethiopia and name it 'Duke Ellington Way,'" she said. Ellington, an influential jazz musician, was a native of Washington and is closely linked with the neighborhood's history. Kinuthia Macharia, a sociology professor at American University, said he believes the special ethnic designation is more about the potential economic benefit for business owners, rather than an attempt by Ethiopians to elbow out other cultures. "If you go to San Francisco or New York, people tell you about Chinatown," Macharia said. "In addition to eating, you visit businesses," giving them more exposure and raising their profile. There is already a Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles on Fairfax Avenue between Olympic and Pico boulevards. The area has many Ethiopian businesses and restaurants. A formal designation in Washington would be welcomed by Senedu Zewdie, Tefera's sister. Last spring, she decided to open her own restaurant, Sodere, a few blocks away from Dukem. On a recent weekday afternoon the restaurant was nearly empty — but she says the crowds pick up on weekends. Designating the area Little Ethiopia, she said, would make it more of a destination for tourists who might otherwise ignore that section of Washington. Opponents include community activist Deairich "Dee" Hunter, who claims the campaign is the work of a "small group of people who are obsessed" with the idea. But several thousand people have signed a petition circulated in support of the name change, said Tamrat Medhin, who is leading the effort to hang signs that say Little Ethiopia, or something similar, on Ninth Street between U and T streets. "The Ethiopian community came in and moved in when people were afraid to come to the neighborhood," said Medhin, who chairs the Ethiopian-American Constituency Foundation. His idea has the support of District of Columbia Councilman Jim Graham, who represents the neighborhood. Graham said he favors the idea of Little Ethiopia because of the immigrants' significant contributions. Besides restaurants, Ethiopians also have opened churches, hair salons and a community services center. "Anything we do that underscores the multicultural nature of where we live ... is fine with me," said Graham, who spent about a month in Africa last year to learn more about the people he represents. Many Ethiopians began arriving in the United States after a military coup in the 1970s, said Hermela Kebede, the leader of Washington's Ethiopian Community Center, which assists newcomers by helping them find housing and offering English classes. She said the presence of the embassy is a big reason Ethiopians initially decided to settle in Washington. Now, the community has grown so large it has its own Ethiopian Yellow Pages.
Dukem offers a new choice for Ethiopian dining
By Sloane Brown This is the season to be feasting. Dukem Restaurant opened just a week ago on Maryland Avenue south of the Meyerhoff. A brother to D.C.'s popular Ethiopian restaurant of the same name, this Dukem is also owned by brothers Tefera and Getachew Zewdie. The Zewdies bought the property -- which used to be another Ethiopian joint, Ghion -- a year and a half ago and have remodeled the place. Right now, just the downstairs is open -- with about 25 seats and a bar. Getachew Zewdie describes the place as "cozy and nice," with lots of dark mahogany touches, similar to its elder sibling. In the next few months, the second-floor dining room will add 50 more seats. The menu is the same is that in D.C., but the prices are about a buck less here, generally ranging from $8.95 to $15.95. There are various lamb, beef, fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes, as well as combo plates, which will run you a bit more money. There's doro wot, a chicken stew made with legs or thighs marinated in lemon, sauteed in butter and stewed in a red pepper sauce, flavored with onions, garlic, ginger and cardamom. The Dukem Kitfo is a mixture of minced beef with homemade cottage cheese, herbal butter and Ethiopian spices. Dukem Special Tibs is a lamb dish marinated in a "secret sauce" and sauteed with onion, rosemary, tomato, garlic and jalapeno. The complete menu is online at www.dukemrestaurant.com. Dukem Restaurant (410-385-0318) is at 1100 Maryland Ave. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It will be open New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
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!
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