Soretti's Ethiopian is the name of the family-run restaurant on Rte 198 in Burtonsville. It opened as Coffee Oromia and sold a few Ethiopian items under a coffee shop menu. Now, the rechristened spot serves a broader menu of beef, chicken, lamb and vegetable stews.
I don't claim Soretti's competes with the Ethiopian hotspots in DC. But it's a great casual option for injera and the vegetable, beef and chicken stews that make Ethiopian unique, tasty and really healthy as well. The injera bread isn't Mrs. HowChow's favorite, so I have stopped at Soretti's most often for lunch. The vegetable combination has become my go-to dish because you get a half-dozen flavors that make for a memorable meal. Lentils, beans, carrots, greens, cabbage -- they're all recognizable and accessible, but cooked with flavors make them new.
I'm also a sucker for Ethiopian meat stews. The meat often seems lean and can be tough, but the right stews are spicy and delicious. Beef or chicken tibbs are easy entries into the cuisine. If you go with two people, I'd recommend ordering two combinations -- one vegetarian and one meat. You'll get to try most of the menu, and you'll be bound to find something that you like. And you need to eat the entire injera that comes under your stews. The sauces soak into the bread, and those soaked pieces can be the best part of the meal.
Soretti's is a comfort food like of place. You sit at a casual table, and the owner comes around from the counter to take your order. If you're new to Ethiopian, just know that you eat with your hands. You'll get injera under the stews, plus more pieces on the side. You rip bite-sized pieces of bread, then use them to scoop up the stews. If you can eat guacamole with a Frito, then you can eat Ethiopian. It's easy and fun.
(Update: Soretti's has just gotten nicer in 2011. They spruced up the art and the curtains at the front. In early spring, they were running an $8.50 special at lunch. Still a huge plate of food, but a special price. The vegetarian combination had five items, including greens, lentils, and a spicy tomato salad. Check out the injera made from authentic teff -- an Ethiopian grain that makes a drier, less sour bread.)
Burtonsville is super-convenient off Rte 29, and it is just one exit south of Howard County. If you're go down there, check out the the homemade ice cream at Seibel's or consider dinner at Cuba de Ayer or Maiwand Kabob.
Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine
15510 Old Columbia Pike (Rte 198)
Burtonsville, MD 20866
NEAR: This is on Rte 198 just west of Rte 29. From Howard County, you take the first exit on Rte 29 south of the river. That exit puts you on an old piece of Rte 29 that passes an Indian temple and a garden center. Turn right on Rte 198 at the traffic light. Soretti's is a block up on the right next to a Maiwand Kabob outlet.