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Harar Mesob, Ethiopian at 542 23rd Street S. in Crystal City - Closed

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Stacey said:
We ate at Meaza and hubby said his meat was very gristly and hard to chew my lamb was a bit more tender. The food was over-spiced (not SPICY but too many types of spices and a medium amount of spice) and the meat was a bit off (the spice hid it a bit)...The place was lovely, the atmosphere mixed the service was spotty, one table who came after us got served before us but our waitress was very nice. The bread was good to me but hubby felt it was too gummy. Unforunately my stomach got quite upset all night after we ate here so I'm hoping it was a coincidence. (Yes there were Jalapeno's in the food so who knows.)

Anyhow, I was really hoping that I'd find a nice and different place on this side of DC but we will not be going back.

If you are trying to stay in the burbs, Harar Mesob on 23rd in Arlington near Crystal City is tops.

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Met a colleague for lunch this week at Harar Mesob (HM), at 23rd street in Crystal City.

Note to newcomers of this area: There are two Ethiopian restaurants on 23rd street. This posting is for Harar Mesob, across the street from the Deluxe Diner, not Enjera, adjacent to Deluxe Diner.

Since my last visit, I was pleased to discover HM has expanded their outdoor seating area. Diners now have the option of sitting at either the sidewalk level or the up-one-flight patio level, adjacent to the restaurant entrance.

We chose the sidewalk. While well-shaded via umbrellas, this did translate into more invasive noise of passing traffic. But the glory of dining outside on such a pristine day trumped the occasional service truck or wayward muffler.

Another change since my last visit was the uniquely flavored iced tea. Fruity, yet subtly spicy with absolutely no bitterness, I almost fell out of my chair at first taste. The server noted that HM uses “chai spices” and “other flavors” to brew this juicy, refreshing, exquisite beverage. I could certainly taste cardamom and cinnamon, with a subtle splash of peach or other stone fruit (could be artificial). One of my new goals in life is to drink gallons of this stuff. Perhaps one of the “other flavors” was crack because I am still coveting it several days later.

On to the foodstuffs…my colleague ordered the meat combo platter. For just over $10, it included three varieties-two beef (both spicy), one chicken on the bone alongside a boiled egg. One beef dish featured ground beef, the other cubed, both in distinctively flavored sauces. My colleague reported much enjoyment of both, and found the ground beef to be his favorite with a delightfully spicy kick. He was also a huge fan of the chicken. After tasting the egg part of that dish, he left most of it alone. He noted that the egg’s flavor was delicious, but the hard-cooked texture was displeasingly different than that to which he was accustomed.

I ordered the special veggie combo #2. For $9.99, it included yellow lentils, cabbage, collard greens, and a tomato salad. The tomato salad was the only flat note of the meal, conspicuously tough and flavorless like any picked-before-ripe nightshade. The collards were the most addictive, evenly seasoned and savory. The injera bread appeared to be half teff and half wheat, demonstrating a perfectly textured, spongy-yet-firm consistency with a just a slightly sour tang.

Service was exceptionally friendly, but erratic. It was an early lunch, and we were the only table seated outside. We had to track down our server a few times by stepping inside.

With the exception of the non-seasonal tomatoes, all ingredients seemed carefully selected and mindfully prepared. Harar Mesob offers a bargain-priced meal and the promise of something different for your weekday lunch. It’s a bit of a hike from the Crystal City metro, but plenty of metered spaces were available on 23rd and adjacent streets. Drag a co-worker out and enjoy.

But leave some iced tea for me, y0.

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On 7/14/2016 at 9:04 AM, ArlFred said:

Yelp reports this as closed. Is there any Ethiopian in Crystal City at this point?

Yes, there's Enjera which has indeed reopened (website). Also, the other day, I was driving on the east side of Route 1 across from Kabob Palace, and noticed - out of the corner of my eye - an Ethiopian sign very near it. I hadn't read this post, so wasn't paying attention, but there might be a second Ethiopian place near there (or, there might not be).


Edit: Looking around on Google, there used to be a Ethiopian restaurant right next to Kabob Palace called Demera, which has closed and is now Shisha Palace (owned by Kabob Palace, I'm pretty sure). It's possible there's still a remnant from Demera that says "Ethiopian" somewhere, and that might be what caught my eye, but Shisha Palace is Middle Eastern, and the late-night "Hookah sibling" of Kabob Palace.

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