An Ethiopian Restaurant Where Everyone Is Family

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Seferash Yegezaw is the owner of Family Ethiopian Restaurant in Shaw. Photo: Alexander M. Padro, Courtesy Shaw Main Streets

Pictures and traditional East African art hang on the exposed brick walls of Family Ethiopian Restaurant at 1414 Ninth St. NW, making the cozy space truly feel like home.

For owner Seferash Yegezaw, the restaurant is a second home. She works seven days a week, open to close, even on holidays. “We are never closed,” Yegezaw said. “Especially for the holidays. I don’t want to close for my regular customers who don’t have family. I have to be their family.”

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Yegezaw came to the US when she was 18. Inspired by her heritage and her mother’s recipes, she cooked meals for her large family, which, in hindsight, was like cooking for a restaurant. When she relocated to the District, she wanted to share her love of food with the community, opening the restaurant in 2000. “I want to make sure that everything is perfect,” Yegezaw explained. “The name is Family and I have to prepare food as I would for my family.”

The menu is filled with classic Ethiopian recipes with a variety of vegan and vegetarian options. Most popular, she recounted, are the meat and vegetable platters that allow guests to sample a variety of different preparations and spices. In addition to classic, authentic dishes, the menu also features some fusion offerings, like the popular spring rolls served with a unique sweet and sour sauce that incorporates east African spices.

The restaurant’s spices and gluten-free injera are imported directly from Ethiopia, while the injera and much of the produce is sourced from local DMV businesses and fresh-farm markets.

The name Family, Yegezaw explained, not only honors loyal customers but also her support system. She named the restaurant after her siblings, friends and mentors who have been her family. “It’s not only mine, it’s everybody’s,” Yegezaw said.

Family Ethiopian Restaurant is open Monday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Visit www.familyethiopianrestaurant.com to learn more and place a takeout order.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com