5700 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
CUISINE Ethiopian, Vegetarian/Vegan
PRICE Under $12
HOURS Open for lunch daily; dinner daily
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2008
Best Restaurant 2009
Best Restaurant 2010
Best Restaurant 2012
NEARBY METRO None
By Warren Rojas
Food: 6.6 Ambiance: 6.4 Service: 6.1
Meaza’s continuous service means there’s usually a welcoming face at the front door and, more often than not, hungry patrons already in the seats.
Staff continues to struggle a bit with the language barrier, a likely consequence of dealing almost exclusively with native Ethiopians (North Americans remain a distinct minority at this North African stronghold).
But though our tongues may clash, our shared penchant for spice unites us all.
Crunchy pastries piped full of peppery onions and lentils whet the appetite, but cry out for material support (some sort of sauce—hot, sweet or otherwise—would have sealed the deal).
A bubbling pot of powdered peas, onions, hot peppers and cubed beef slowly simmered in Ethiopian butter unleashes a punishing, jalapeno-fueled brew best reserved for diehard chileheads.
Minced lamb, amazingly, bests stewed tripe and coarsely chopped liver for most distinguishable protein in a berbere-spiked meat medley.(November 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 7 Ambiance: 6.6 Service: 6.9
“You ever tried Ethiopian food?” Meaza general manager Eshetwa Gebreysus asks when she finds me studying the menu perhaps a little too intently.
A sheepish nod later, Gebreysus swings boldly into action—extracting my likes and dislikes with surgical precision before constructing a pain-free introduction to her native cuisine.
She swings back by before the first dish arrives to drop off a sample of creamy lentils stirred with awaze (potent Ethiopian hot sauce) to further my “education” of Meaza’s Ethopian cuisine.
Wild thing, I think I love you.
Weighty strips of golden beef tripe are simmered down to fork-winding pliancy alongside tomatoes, onions and carrots (excellent residual sweetness) in an aromatic white wine brew.
Bone-in lamb nuggets steeped in garlic, turmeric and butter transmit requisite blasts of heat (riveting) even through the protective shield of spongiform injera.
The spice assault is quickly quelled by lemon-like custard baked into a cookie-like crust, all topped with chopped almonds and powdered sugar—a palate-cooling closer regarded affectionately as “grandma cake.”(November 2008)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 7.0 Ambiance: 6.7 Service: 5.8
Granted, raw beef and exotic spices may not be for everyone. But those who treasure the allure of warm dough, chilled meats and fiery sauces never need fear walking away from Meaza unsatisfied.
Injera queen Meaza Zemedu decided to consolidate her local power base—until recently, she had been supplying many local Ethiopian restaurants with their porous, utilitarian bread—by opening her eponymous cafe and market.
Inside, sand-colored walls and plaid-upholstered chairs suggest calm, while detailed portraits of revered Ethiopian leaders cast on stretched animal skins are equally patriotic and provocative.
The menu features mostly beef and lamb preparations, with a few safety dishes (spaghetti, mixed proteins and rice) thrown in for good measure.
Fit-fit (diced tenderloin) is sauteed with hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and torn injera, until everything is coated in fiery berbere paste. Doro wot yields more adrenaline-producing fare—“This is really, really good,” one guest sputtered as I watched beads of sweat collect across his brow—tempered by stewed chicken legs and preserved eggs (potent stuff).