Best: Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine and Café
5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, (703) 820-2870
2nd Best: Abol Ethiopian Cuisine
8626 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, (301) 650-0061
Taken as a whole, the District is still the best place for Ethiopian eats. Etete, Dukem, and Queen Makeda all have their considerable strengths, but they all have their weaknesses, too. One may fumble the stews (Queen Makeda), and another may make you beg for someone, anyone, to serve you (well, all of them actually). But based on my visits to Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine and Café, the Falls Church operation doesn’t have any glaring deficiencies. Meaza Zemedu’s kitchen turns out a uniformly succulent selection of tibs (including a sizzling platter of beef ribs, which eats like the Ethiopian equivalent of fajitas), a savory array of stews, and some of the most assertive vegetable dishes around. Meaza even makes its own injera, which separates the place from, probably, 99 percent of the Ethiopian restaurants out there. Abol Ethiopian Cuisine, for example, doesn’t make its own injera, but it’ll hardly matter when you dip into the restaurant’s kitfo: You’ll be too busy searching for a water glass to rescue your tongue from the effects of this raw atomic beef. Abol is not for the faint of heart. The husband-and-wife team behind the restaurant takes Ethiopian cooking seriously, and you can taste it in every bite. Their vegetarian platter includes the sweetest yefasolia you’ll ever taste, and even better, Abol serves something I’ve never seen before on Ethiopian menus: beets and potatoes sautéed in oil, garlic, and ginger, which are unbelievably good. And get this: Abol doesn’t dump its dishes unceremoniously onto a platter of injera; Instead, the wots are often served on elegant trays or in bowls from which you pick with your injera. It’s a small refinement that speaks volumes about this humble storefront in downtown Silver Spring.