When mealtime becomes a battle, sometimes you have to put down your forks. That’s right — let your kiddos eat with their hands. Home to the largest population of Ethiopians in the nation, D.C. has more than 45 Ethiopian restaurants (where forks are optional) in a five-block radius, and even more outside and around town. Ethiopian food is kid-friendly, mom-approved and full of palate-expanding adventures. Here are three of our favorites.

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Etete
Etete might look traditional, but don’t let the ho-hum façade fool you. Inside, culinary wonders await, including marinated short beef ribs and gomen (fresh garlic collard greens). Big kids will stay busy by taking a crack at guessing which D.C. political celebrity (looking at you, President Clinton and Rep. Mike Honda) peeks over their shoulder. 

Insider tip: Utensils are optional at Ethiopian restaurants – in fact, some don’t even offer them – because their main attraction is injera – a gray, spongy, sourdough-like bread that looks like a pancake and is served underneath most dishes, and used to mop it all up.

1942 9th St. NW (U St. Corridor)
202-232-7600
Open daily, 11:00 am-1:00 am
Online: Eteterestaurant.com

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Gebeta
Gebeta’s bright green walls and corner piano with Ethiopian pianist Araya Woldemichael tickling the ivories (call for times) sets this place apart from others in the area. Brightly colored African art adorns the walls giving little ones plenty of eye candy. Try a vegetarian sampler which comes with four, six or eight meatless dishes like Misir Wet (lentils with onions) and Fassolia Wet (fresh green beans and carrots) .

Insider tip: If you took the metro or walked to this spot, order a glass of Tej (a traditional honey wine), or a bottle of Tella (a home-brewed beer). Kids can sip Ambo, a carbonated mineral water from the highlands of Ethiopia; tell them it’s soda, and they’ll never know it’s good for them!

8123 Georgia Ave. (Silver Spring, Md)
301-588-0000
Open Tues.-Thurs., 11:30 am-11 pm; Fri., 11:30 am-12:30 am; Sat., 11:00 am-12:00 am; Sun., 11:00 am 11:00 pm
Online: Gebetaethiopianrestaurant.com

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Enjera Restaurant
With indoor and outdoor seating, there’s something for every diner at Enjera. It’s slightly more upscale (think: tablecloths and glassware) than your neighborhood pizza place, but still cozy enough to bring the kids along. The waitstaff is super attentive and very helpful. If, for example, you have no idea what Habesha FitFit is but are dying to try it. Hint: It’s marinated beef in a spiced red pepper sauce.

Insiders tip: Desserts aren’t really a part of Ethiopian food, so you may only find American options, or cut fruit. However, much to the benefit of tired moms everywhere, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee so you can round out the meal with a cup.

549 23rd St. (Arlington, VA)
703-271-6040
Open Mon.-Fri., 11:00 am-2:00 am; Sat.-Sun., 9:00 am-2:00 am
Online: enjerarestaurant.com

Have you ever tried Ethiopian food with your family? Let us know in the Comments section below.

—Hilary Reidemann

Photos courtesy of paul s. via Yelp, Yonas B. via Yelp, Rae Marie Y. via Yelp