Friends in town interested in Ethiopian food led us to a recent lunch at Dessie (2655 University, next to Nick’s Diner), allowing me to check another Wheaton restaurant off my list of places I’ve never been. I did include Dessie in my Bodegas of Wheaton tour, but that involved only a perusal of the grocery side. This time, we sat and ate amidst heaping platefuls of rolled injera.
Ambience is fun: groovy Ethiopian pop music, lots of interesting art on the pastel walls, a tiki-hut-like bar area (what is the East African equivalent of the tiki hut?). Small tables and decorated chairs are arranged near the window, but we sat at a larger table covered with green plastic tablecloth, not sure if that was part of their Christmas decoration or just normal. Service is fine, communication can be tricky but the menu isn’t huge and pointing in combination with order-by-number works.
Vegetarian dishes won the day, especially the misir wot split lentils, the only offering that had anything approaching the kind of spice (in terms of both heat and just intensity or concentration) one expects from Ethiopian food. Yellow split peas were also good; green beans and collard greens okay. We tried several different meats, all “tibs”: I thought lamb was most flavorful, relative to beef and chicken, but all were overcooked and unexciting, accompanied by onion and plenty of pepper but no real sauce and nothing screaming “Ethiopia!” We didn’t try the kitfo, maybe a mistake, but if I go back I would stick with vegetables plus try to find a meat dish with maximum sauce.
The actual menu is twice as long as the one on the website. Overall, at around $12 per dish, a fair value, we enjoyed lunch, but I probably won’t rush back. On the other hand, Mrs. Me said she liked it, and she wasn’t expecting to (not historically an Ethiopian food fan).
We also noticed a bare-bones Ethiopian market (whose name I didn’t write down and have forgotten) has opened where a shady video store used to be in the Subway/Brazilian strip mall on Georgia just south of University. Along with Ethiopia Plus Market, just a half block further south on Georgia, plus Dessie, that’s plenty of Ethiopian cuisine availability in Wheaton. Still, I don’t think it will surpass Thai, Salvadoran, or Chinese anytime. No question my $12 was better spent at Paul Kee than at Dessie.
I’m sure there is a good Dessie/Loch Dess Monster pun to be made, but I haven’t found it yet.