DC is rightly known for its Ethiopian food and Letena offers a new model for Ethiopian food: a bright fast-casual restaurant where you order at the counter, you take a number and the food is brought to your table. Mercifully, Letena avoids the “bowl” phenomenon that is rampant at other fast casual places like Cava and ShopHouse, where great cuisines are bastardized by throwing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl. Fortunately, Letena serves actual Ethiopian dishes, including kitfo, which is one of my favorites. Kitfo is the Ethiopian version of steak tartare (or is steak tartare the French version of Kitfo?) Either way, kitfo is a mound of raw beef that is deliciously seasoned and served on top of injera bread. Letena’s kitfo was massive and made for an indulgent feast that is a carnivore’s dream. I have to admit I get a sort of primal joy out of eating raw meat. Friendly service rounded out what was a solid dining experience. My only gripe is that I wish they served alcohol, like tej (Ethiopian honey wine) and Ethiopian beer.
Letena is located at 3100 14th St NW (though physically on Park Road) in Columbia Heights.