By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant, a collaboration between New York restaurateur Philipos Mengistu and Alexandria resident Daniel Solomon, opened Monday on Alexandria’s West End.
The 95-seat restaurant, located at 516 S. Van Dorn St., features traditional and authentic Ethiopian fare, served with injera, a sourdough flatbread. The restaurant also includes a full bar, which will serve the Ethiopian specialty honey sangria. Chef Senait “Mimi” Tedla is running Makeda’s kitchen.
The restaurant’s co-owners have known each other since they were children. Mengistu has been running restaurants for more than two decades and founded Queen of Sheba, which is still operating in New York City’s midtown section, in 1997.
“We opened [Queen of Sheba] to introduce Ethiopian food to New Yorkers and to serve the international community. We’ve loved sharing with family and friends and now we’ve brought that experience to Alexandria,” Mengistu said.
Solomon has lived in Alexandria since 1992 and is a longtime fan of Mengistu’s New York restaurant. He wanted to bring the same experience to his hometown, so the two have been working on opening the new restaurant for about five months.
“For me, this is a new experience,” Solomon said. “It looks very promising so far.”
Mengistu said he and Solomon have done their research in the greater D.C. area, dining out and assessing the competition. Though there are a number of Ethiopian restaurants, Mengistu said they’re focused on making Makeda stand out.
“We’re trying to be the best,” Mengistu said.
Although the bulk of the menu is based on Queen of Sheba’s menu, Mengistu said they have adapted their approach slightly. Diners will be able to opt for pita bread or rice instead of the traditional injera. In addition, Makeda will offer gluten-free injera and is working to make sure its menu caters to health-conscious eaters.
He said customers should expect good food and service above all else at Makeda.
“We’ll make sure, by the time they leave, that they’re happy – and full,” Mengistu said.