Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant Readies To Open in Bethesda

Second outpost of Silver Spring establishment will offer vegan, gluten-free options


Glass art on the wall at the entrance of Lucy. The restaurant is decorated with art inspired by Ethiopia.

Joe Zimmermann

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant is about to open its second location in downtown Bethesda.

Manager Mekonnen Abraham said Wednesday that he hopes to open on Monday. The restaurant is largely ready, but workers are still finishing setting up the interior.

Lucy is opening at 4865 Cordell Ave. in the place of Grapeseed, which closed last summer. Abraham said the restaurant will be similar to its location that opened about six years ago on Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring.

“We’re known for our customer service and the dishes we have, and we’re going to do the same thing here,” he said.

The menu will be mostly the same—with a number of beef and lamb plates, like kifto sandwiches and boneless, braised yebeg alicha—but the Woodmont Triangle location will also offer beef and vegan samplers, which Abraham said are aimed at introducing Ethiopian food to people who haven’t had it before.

Abraham said the menu is “very health conscious,” with most items gluten-free and many vegan options. The meat usually comes straight from the butcher, he said.

Abraham runs the restaurant with his wife, Seble Lemma, who acts as the restaurant’s chef and co-owner. “She is my better half,” he said. “The product is hers.”

Lucy in Bethesda seats about 120 people and features a full bar with beer, wine and liquor. Later on, the restaurant might start roasting its own beans and hold a “coffee time” in the afternoons, he said.

Hoping to evoke, as Abraham said, “a feeling of where the food comes from,” Lucy’s walls are decorated with scenes from Ethiopia. Paintings of African landscapes surround the restaurant’s two private rooms, and near the entrance are drawings of Menelik I, son of King Solomon, and the Church of Saint George, a cross-shaped church hewn out of a single rock.

The restaurant takes its name from Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus whose remains were discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.

Abraham, who is from Ethiopia, said the restaurant and its food are very personal to him and Lemma.

“We dine here too,” he said. “We’re cooking for ourselves.”

Lucy will open at 11 a.m. daily. Abrham said the closing time will depend on demand in its first weeks, but it could stay open until well into the night. Lucy in Silver Spring closes at 2 or 3 a.m.

Photos by Joe Zimmermann

This story was updated on Feb. 23 to correct the subject of one of the drawings. It shows Menelik I and not King Solomon, his father.

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