Letena Opens in Columbia Heights
Letena, a new fast casual Ethiopian restaurant opened at 3100 14th St. NW on the Park Road side of DC USA in the former Señor Chicken location on Oct. 19.
Letena serves a wide variety of Ethiopian food including vegetarian dishes, tibs, stews, salads and other specialties.
The 50-seat restaurant, has a coffee area where baristas serve a variety of specialty coffees and teas as well as pastries. The coffee house features coffees made from fresh roasted Ethiopian coffee beans.
The interior combines rustic wood and earth tones with Ethiopian sculptures and artwork on the walls collected by owner Yamrot Ezineh. Shelves in the dining area offer a taste of the country’s artistry.
The spices from the East African country are unfamiliar to most American, and meals are traditionally eaten by hand instead of with silverware. Dishes are served with a spongy-sour flatbread made with teff flour called injera. But Letena not only serves its dishes with injera in the traditional fashion, but also wrapped in it burrito-style or with bread and rice for those who wish to use utensils.
Ezineh, a native Ethiopian who spent time in the food industry there and in the United Kingdom, is maintaining the traditional flavors, which enjoy a wider following here than in perhaps any other city in the U.S. because of D.C.’s robust Ethiopian community.
Diners order at the counter, take a number and have food delivered to their table. They can order small or large dishes of popular Ethiopian dishes such as the spicy chicken stew doro wot, charred spiced beef or chicken cubes called tibs and kitfo, spiced minced beef served raw or cooked.
A wide variety of vegetarian options are also available, including stewed lentils and chickpeas, collard greens, sautéed cabbage and even a tofu version of tibs. Small and large versions of each dish are available, and the menu items are denoted as being either mild or spicy. Prices range from $6.50 for small vegetarian dishes to $18.50 for a meat sampler with two vegetarian side dishes.
In the next couple of months, Latena will add traditional Ethiopian coffee service during Sunday brunch, which involves washing, roasting, grinding and brewing the beans tableside. There are also plans to add non-Ethiopian items for less adventuresome customers including spaghetti, fried rice, chili con carne and a daily basked pasta special. “Even if they’re not Ethiopian, they’re very common in Ethiopia,” Ezineh said.
Letena is open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.