City Paper is not for tourists
The Dish: tibs
The Location: Expo Restaurant and Nightclub, 1928 9th St. NW, (202) 299-9800
The Price: $9.99
The Skinny: It’s far too easy to walk right past Expo Restaurant and Nightclub in the Little Ethiopia section of Shaw. The ground floor is boarded up, in anticipation of Expo’s new cafe space, and even though there’s a sign that swears the upstairs operation is still open, the invitation seems more like a dare given all the dust and city permits everywhere. After ascending the stairs, though, I’m surprised to find Expo hopping at two in the afternoon. The narrow space is dotted with narrow two-tops, and most of the tables are occupied with men huddled over platters of wat stews or plates of pasta. Expo’s menu goes far beyond standard Ethiopian fare—-or even pasta dishes, those ugly reminders of when Italian fascism ruled the country—-to include such oddities as wraps. I ask the waitress for help, and she gladly walks me through the kitchen’s best offerings. I settle on a generic platter of tibs, which the waitress says she’ll make extra hot since that’s my preference. When my lunch finally arrives—-it takes so long that the server brings me a free plate of salad and crunchy bread—-I’m delighted by Expo’s approach to heat. The sauce is at first tart and acidic—-no doubt from the diced tomatoes—-and the burn only hits you on the back end, after you’ve swallowed. The caramelized onions add another level of complexity, both sweetness and aroma, to the expertly saut�ed tibs, each chunk satisfyingly meaty and firm. It’s easy to understand why folks seek out the place, even if it feels like you have to walk through a construction site to get there.