Mélange chef/owner Elias Taddesse is expanding with Doro Soul Food, an Ethiopian fried chicken joint. Photo courtesy of Edens.
Chef Elias Taddesse was educated in France and has worked in several Michelin-starred kitchens in Manhattan. But when it comes to his own restaurants, the chef, who grew up in Addis Ababa and Minneapolis, likes to explore the intersection between Ethiopian and American cuisine. At Mélange, his burger and sandwich-focused venture in the Mt. Vernon Triangle, Taddesse tries his hand at Doro Wat-inspired crunchy chicken sandwiches and Berbere-spiced fries—the kind of foods he’ll be using in his next venture. Doro Soul Food, a fast-casual eatery serving Ethiopian-style fried chicken and African-American soul food, will open in Shaw this fall.
“Since when has Ethiopian food been a staple of the DC scene? And we didn’t happen any more than it really is. We didn’t have many chefs who pushed the boundaries,” says Taddesse, who launched mélange at the start of the pandemic after years of pop-ups. “I want to be at the forefront, tell our stories, share our spices – and help them evolve.”
Taddesse grew up at Popeye’s in America and plans to bring an Ethiopian twist to the chain’s extra crispy fried chicken and sandwiches. He’ll dredge Amish birds in hot oil mixed with niter kibbeh (Ethiopian clarified butter) and three types of heat: mild, hot with berbere spices, and mouth-searing thanks to mita mita, a fiery chili blend. He will also be offering a vegan version of crispy tenders, made with jackfruit and pea protein at the same levels of spiciness.
Fine dining meets fast food in many of Taddesse’s dishes. A charcoal-grilled Doro chicken sandwich is given a Taddesse-era marinade in three Michelin-starred troisgros in France — yoghurt, harissa, spices — and rosemary aioli. For side dishes, the menu draws inspiration from soul food classics like buttered cornbread with cumin, collards braised with smoked turkey and Ethiopian spices, and doro wat-spiced macaroni and cheese sprinkled with crispy injera crumbs.
Finally, Taddesse dreams of discovering Ethiopian flavors using classic French and avant-garde techniques in an elevated dining format. But first: affordable, accessible, imaginative food for all.
“Given today’s environment, home cooking is what the customer would enjoy the most,” says Taddesse. “My The goal is to share as much Ethiopian cuisine as possible.”
Doro Soul Food will be opening blocks from Howard University for takeout and delivery. Stay tuned for an opening date.
Doro Soulfood. 1819 Seventh St., NW.