The owners are Ethiopian, but the customers are speaking Spanish. They’re eating tamales and sopa de gallina, while I peruse a menu that includes kitfo and doro wat. I could only be at Manna Bistro & Bakery in Centreville.
Sisters Fenot and Rediet Berhane clearly know how to keep a business afloat, with injera sold in the front and pupusas in the back. Fenot told me later by phone that they would have had to close the business if they had not thought to add the Mexican and Salvadoran dishes to their menu.
My pescatarian dining companion and I score the last seat in the restaurant. It’s her first time having Ethiopian food, so I steer her to the vegetarian combo platter. But she wants a cheese pupusa, too. It turns out this is exactly the right way to partake of Manna Bistro.
The rustic corn cake is charred at its edges, and oozes with rich, tangy cheese. But when faced with the combo platter, it’s important to save room for an onslaught of meatless delights.
The stews are served in bowls, which means there is more of them than there tends to be when they’re piled on a layer of injera, the sourdough flatbread that’s exceptionally supple at Manna. The most vibrant of the five dishes is miser wot, red lentils simmered with basil and alliums. Kik alicha are split peas flavored with ginger and turmeric. Both are readily scoopable with the soft bread. It’s more of a challenge to bring gomen, garlicky collard greens, from bowl to mouth, but that’s part of the fun. The only stew left mostly uneaten is the fosolia, carrots and green beans that are a shade too sweet.
But there’s no question that the Berhane sisters have a good thing going. On a Meatless Monday, they have a world of eats literally at a diner’s fingertips.// 14215-X Centreville Square, Centerville
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