For a mix of authentic Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, head over to Keren Cafe and Restaurant.
The restaurant, located at 1780 Florida Ave. NW, is nestled in a strip of stores between Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle. The family-run cafe is a compact space with just 24 tables lining the room.
Paintings of Eritrea and wine bottles line the walls around the restaurant and behind the bar, where you can also grab coffee and espresso during the day.
Keren Cafe and Restaurant highlights Eritrea’s seafood cuisine with dishes like the fish dulet ($12.99) which highlights minced tilapia sauteed in chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil and a traditional Ethiopian spice blend known as berbere. Most dishes on the restaurant’s expansive menu are served on top of a sourdough Ethiopian and Eritrean bread, which is formed into crepe-like disks called enjera.
These spongy pieces of bread help soak up the sauces of dishes like the first one I opted for, silsi ($5.99), a thick and spicy tomato-based sauce topped with pieces of onion, garlic and other vegetables and stewed with berbere and fat.
Keren Cafe and Restaurant also offers several combination specials featuring stewed vegetables and meats like beef or chicken. But on the restaurant’s all-day breakfast menu, a dish called Ful ($5.99) is a standout dish that has garnered attention from national publications like Bon Appetit.
The base of this traditional breakfast dish is mashed fava beans infused with garlic. House-made yogurt is also scooped on top of the beans, offsetting the heat and earthiness of the stew with acidity. Berbere spice is also sprinkled atop the stew, giving it a savory barbeque, curry-like taste.
The stew is served in a bowl and topped with raw onion, tomato and jalapeño, adding a freshness to the otherwise hot dish. Ful is also served with french rolls, but customers should ask for enjera on the side instead to soak up bites of the flavorful broth. You can also add boiled or scrambled egg to your Ful for an extra 50 cents.
If you are looking for a hearty and authentic meal, Keren Cafe and Restaurant has you covered with generous portions that could be shared with a friend.