Chercher Ethiopian Restaurant owner Alemayehu “Alex” Abebe just kicked off an ambitious and multi-part expansion project that includes adding dozens of seats to the original, opening two new locations, and centralizing all cooking into one spot.
The six-year-old colorful restaurant (1334 9th Street NW), which started in the basement with 10 seats, draws a steady stream of regulars for its affordable vegan, vegetable, and meat platters alongside injera and other Ethiopian staples. A second location popped up in downtown Bethesda earlier this year.
Renovations kicked off this week to grow Abebe’s Shaw restaurant in size from 69 to 110 seats by December. Chercher will remain open during the project.
Construction is also under way across the bridge to open a joint restaurant and coffeehouse (2000 N. 14th Street) near the Courthouse metro stop in Arlington, Virginia by January. The new Chercher — the first in Virginia — will fit around 100 diners inside and 55 outside.
That’s not all. Abebe says he’s also started work on a 60-seat Columbia Heights location at 3608 14th Street NW that’s scheduled to open in February. That Chercher, the smallest of the bunch, will house a large kitchen in the back where staffers will prepare and cook all of the food for the entire chain. Abebe says he’s installing a central kitchen, in part, to maintain quality control across the brand.
“The problem is … they don’t cook the same,” Abebe told Eater DC. “Because why does it take a while to cook a stew, like chicken stew long hours? So we (will) cook in one place so everywhere people go, they get the same kind of food.”
A central kitchen also frees up more time to let Abebe expand more down the road, if he decides to. Once the current expansion phase is complete, there will be four Chercher locations across the D.C. area.
Abebe, 50, has lived in the U.S. since 1994 and hails from the mountainous Chercher region in eastern Ethiopia.
“Chercher has the best meat in Ethiopia,” says Abebe. “Anybody knows if it is Chercher, it’s the best food — the best meat.”