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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
7.5
4.3
$20
Sudanese
Counter service

Hours
Daily 9:00am–3:00am

Features Delivery
Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC

Shaw
1782 Florida Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 986-5031
El Khartoum
Treat yourself to some Sudanese grub

At first glance, this just looks like another dumpy African-Middle Eastern joint, albeit one in an advantageous location on the well trafficked intersection of 18th and Florida; it’s on the edge of Adams Morgan but reachable from Dupont. And, indeed, the interior of El Khartoum is as dumpy as the exterior. There are just a few tables in the humble space, and none for more than four people. The atmosphere is zero; even the office ceilings are falling apart at the seams.

But El Khartoum is much, much more than that—and not just because of the owner’s unusual friendliness. It almost feels like it tries not to be—at least to the outside world—caught up in serving the usual Middle Eastern-Greek-American suspects that are often, inexplicably, dubbed “Mediterranean.” That’s not to say that El Khartoum’s versions of these dishes are bad; there’s quite good pita; decent versions of gyro, shawarma, shish tawook (marinated chicken); and a not-so-decent version of…drumroll please…pizza. But this tiny kitchen—really more of a galley—is capable of far greater things than that.

Order the Sudanese dishes from the interesting buffet—eggplant, foul, lamb, and so on—and you’ll be in for a surprise Adams Morgan treat. Best of all—and, at press time, just $4.50 at lunch—is a dish of stewed fava beans, which are decked out with jalapeños, tomatoes, pickled beets, feta, pickled onions, and various sauces. (It’s also available topped with smashed falafel.) This is hearty, delicious Sudanese peasant food at its best—and it’s not on the menu. The best thing on the menu is not on the menu (par for the course, you might say, for DC ethnic food). Another unusual Sudanese treat, available only sometimes, is gourrassa, a soft, circular wheat flatbread (in the family of Ethiopian injera) topped with (ideally) stewed lamb or spinach and okra.

Now we’re talkin’.

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