Years ago, this was a coffee shop. But now Soretti's has spruced up the art, added more tables, and hung curtains to soften the front windows. They're serving beer, including an Ethiopian variety, and even offering bread made from the authentic teff.
Teff is a grain, actually a grass native to Ethiopia. It's a gluten-free whole grain that people traditionally turn into the spongy injera bread that literally forms the basis for Ethiopian meals. People take meat or vegetarian stews and serve them on plate-sized discs of injera. You eat by tearing pieces of bread and scooping up stew.
In most American restaurants, the injera is actually made from all or mostly wheat. Teff bread is more expensive and harder to make, but Soretti's has begun to offer the original for a $2 up-charge.
Give it a shot. I took advantage of the current lunch deal -- $8.50 for any dish except the meat combinations. I got a vegetarian combination, which meant five different stews and two pieces of injera. Two kinds of lentils, cabbage, greens and a spicy tomato salad. It's delicious food, and it was a deal even with $2 for the teff injera.
Teff injera is drier than the type that I'm used to eating. It is a bit darker. It is also less sour. I hold out hope that Mrs. HowChow will like it more. Injera has never been her thing -- thus why I go for the lunch special on a day when I was off work by myself. I feel like the teff was, ironically, less exotic and more like the flavor of a familiar bread. But let's be honest: It's a unique bread on its own.
I really can't suggest Sorretti's enough. The owner is extremely friendly, and the food is delicious. Definitely try the sambusas, which are a variation on the samosa, empanada, fried filled pastry. As I wrote before, two people should consider ordering a pair of combination plates -- one meat, one veg -- so that you can taste a variety. Or start simple with the beef or chicken tibs. This is a hole in the wall worth the drive one exit south of the county line.
If you're down on Rte 198, consider two other options for dessert -- homemade ice cream at Seibel's or tres leches cake at Cuba de Ayer. They're in the same stretch of Rte 198 just west of Rte 29.
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.