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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Sun–Thu 11:00am–2:00am
Fri–Sat 11:00am–3:00am

Features Delivery, live music, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1917 9th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 232-5665
Queen Makeda
Regal Ethiopian, served in a place that’s actually pleasant to spend time in

On the restaurant-lined block of Ninth Street—DC’s Little Ethiopia—the ambience generally takes a back seat to what’s on the plate. Queen Makeda is a notable exception, setting itself apart with an unusually welcoming environment, particularly on the second floor, whose ceilings are covered by elaborate hangings, whose chairs are cheerily woven and outfitted with red cushions, and whose tables are fashioned from African drums made with stretched cowhide. Over at the bar, a roof descending from above aims to create a faux-outdoor feel, and brass lanterns add yet another evocative element.

The cooking technique at Queen Makeda seems to differ slightly from surrounding Ethiopian kitchens in that the kitchen manages to achieve an unusual degree of tenderness from the stew meat. This tenderness reaches its apex with lamb alicha, colored yellow from turmeric. Ground beef is excellent, too, but pot-roasty gored gored, made with red pepper, is less impressive. The flip side is that, perhaps due to a combination of cooking at an appropriately slow simmer and a lack of skimming, the stews are also fairly oily. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the injera (a good version, appropriately soft and spongy with just a whisper of sourness) quickly absorbs the brightly colored pools of beef and lamb fat, turning it into a mess of soppy deliciousness from which your fingers will definitely need a wet nap to recover. The oiliness might not be for everyone.

Kitfo, the iconic steak tartare, is more aggressively herbed than usual, and it can be substituted into the lunch combo special if you ask really, really nicely; request it raw, as you should, and you’ll get the standard raised-eyebrow-plus-smile response. The menu is more pared-down than most in the area, but veggie dishes like shiro (yellow split-pea stew) and collard greens are successful too.

In a departure from the norm, the exceptionally friendly staff will bring out the big silver tray lined with injera first, and then bring your stew dishes in separate metal containers, dosing them onto the bread as you go for a more elegant effect than usual. It’s just another of the many little touches that elevate Queen Makeda above the pack.

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