First Taste: Lucy Brings Authentic Flavors of Ethiopia to Downtown Bethesda

Second plcae of renouned Silver Spring grill takes over former Grapeseed location

A platter of dishes served on injera during Lucy.

A platter of dishes served on injera during Lucy.


Bethesda diners can finally unearth a authentic flavors of Ethiopia though roving to obvious enclaves of a cuisine in Silver Spring or Washington, D.C., by visiting Lucy, a new grill named for a remarkably total fossilized hominid class excavated in a African nation in 1974.  

Diners in a area have mislaid a few longtime dining destinations recently, including Redwood and Lebanese Taverna in downtown Bethesda and The Classics in Silver Spring. But a few courageous restaurateurs with reduction informed cuisines have stepped into Bethesda’s open genuine estate, including a owners of Lucy, a Bethesda appendage of a renouned Silver Spring Ethiopian restaurant, that non-stop in a former Grapeseed plcae on Cordell Avenue during a finish of February.

This is a second grill for cook and co-owner Seble Lemma and her husband, Mekonnen Abraham.  They chose Bethesda for their second plcae since of a vast thoroughness of diners there, many of whom they have beheld in their grill in Silver Spring.  “We wanted to pierce a singular cuisine with many vegan options” to what they trust is a demographic that is prepared for it, Abraham said.


Other than adorning a grill extensively with murals—including a vast one by a doorway depicting a story of Ethiopia and a seemly illustration of “Lucy” over a bar, all embellished by internal artist Tesfaye Wondmagegn—Lemma and Abraham haven’t remade a blueprint dramatically from a prior incarnation, and dual vast TVs confuse from an differently pacific environment. However, what comes out of a kitchen is a finish 180-degree spin from a former occupant’s Continental fare.

During a weekday lunchtime visit, and again on a weeknight, a grill was quiet, with only a few of a 13 tables occupied. However, during primary time on Saturday night, a corner was buzzing with a extended demographic of business enjoying a new dining choice in a neighborhood. 

Food and drinks

For a uninitiated, Ethiopian cuisine is mostly presented like an artist’s palette, with tiny servings of colorful, spiced vegan and beef dishes spaced symmetrically around a vast platter surfaced with injera bread. The food is scooped by palm regulating ripped pieces of a skinny injera, a soft, spongy, sour-tasting prosaic bread. It creates for a fun, hands-on dining experience. Ultimately, we can even eat a “plate.”

But beware: Eating a “plate” can be filling. I’ve found a injera dripping in a deeply dainty salsas is irresistible, though generally when consumed with a juicy Ethiopian beer, it can be utterly filling. I’d suggest eating solemnly and gripping a pinches of injera small.

Think of starting a plate with a warm, flaky sambusa ($4), a delicious pressed fritter that is suggestive of an Indian samosa. We found a easily sharp beef some-more beguiling than a lentil variety, that had an upsetting aftertaste. However, a categorical transport is really filling, so cruise skipping appetizers if we are grouping a “special platters,” and pierce right to a categorical course.

Ethiopian food is a vegan or vegetarian’s dream and can also be ideal for those with gluten-free diets, if they hang to a Ethiopian injera rather than a “regular” injera that mixes wheat flour with a normal teff. Ethiopian injera is somewhat some-more green and some-more brittle, though we still found it pleasing.

The endless vegan multiple platter ($18) includes 8 tiny dishes. Our favorites were a yatekilt wot, that is stewed fibre beans with carrots, and a twice-cooked lentils, called azifa. Heat seekers, be certain to ask a chef’s homemade prohibited salsas done from garlic, chilies and Ethiopian spices.  

Beginning in mid-April, on Thursdays by Saturdays, Lucy was approaching to start portion Kurt (aka Ethiopian sushi), that is a plate done of uninformed tender ribeye in an Ethiopian prohibited salsa (depending on availability).

Omnivores competence wish to supplement a integrate of beef dishes to their platter, such as Doro Wat ($15), bone-in duck with a rich, red berbere salsa that reminded me of a Mexican mole; or dainty (but in a case, somewhat too chewy) lamb or beef tibs ($16), that are cubes of meat, baked with herbs, butter and onions.

Less brave eaters competence suffer a Fish Gulesh ($14), cubed pieces of boiled white fish with a mild, sour salsa and served with rice and tomato salad, or even spaghetti with tomato or beef salsa ($11-$15). (Ethiopia was assigned by Italy quickly in a 1930s, that competence assistance explain a country’s clever pasta and espresso culture).

Lucy offers several Ethiopian wines and beers. If we like honeyed wine, try a Ethiopian Enat sugar booze ($10). For a drier red, try a Acacia-Girar ($10). The St. George drink ($7) offers a cooling contrariety to a North African spices. There is a full bar, though we suggest skipping a a Lucy Mule ($12), which, with a dash of beer, was a bit acrid-tasting for this cocktail lover.

Finish a plate with a cut of warm, buttery, honey-sweet baklava ($6). Stay tuned this summer for a launch of coffee time from 3 to 5 p.m., that will underline an Ethiopian coffee rite and coffee service.


The ability of a servers to promulgate fluently in English sundry on a visits and on calls to a restaurant. But all of a servers were contented and wanted to greatfully guests.

Go or skip?

Lucy’s chefs competence have tamed a traditionally sharp flavors a tad to fit into Bethesda’s demographic, where fewer Ethiopians are expected to stop by for a ambience of home, compared to restaurants in Silver Spring or along Ninth Street in D.C.  But a flavors are low and exciting, a food is fresh, and a atmosphere and use are pleasant, so give Lucy a go.


Aviva Goldfarb is a freelance food and transport author who lives in Chevy Chase. Find her during or on Twitter and Instagram @AvivaGoldfarb.






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