AWASH For at least a decade, this spot on a Columbia City side street was inhabited by the Ethiopian restaurant Fasica, a neighborhood favorite. So it was with some trepidation that my family and I returned when new awnings labeled Awash heralded a reincarnation. Happily, the whole clan gives the new enterprise two thumbs up—or should I say two thumbs in, since, as at most Ethiopian restaurants, you are encouraged here to eat with your fingers. Spongy, slightly tangy injera bread is your only utensil: Use it to sop up every drop of meat and vegetarian stews, subtly or strongly spiced (your choice). Novices might try the Awash combination, an array of stews and sauces of many colors and flavors, generous enough for two. The place is big and busy, with a dance floor and even a disco ball for special occasions—which seem to strike frequently at Awash. LYNN JACOBSON Serves: lunch and dinner. 3808 S. Edmunds St., 206-723-1971. COLUMBIA CITY $ MESOB Make your own atmosphere at this Central District stalwart. Once you've walked past the drab front room into the lush barroom in back, where posters proclaim Ethiopia's official tourism motto ("13 Months of Sunshine"), a cup of honey wine is only moments away. Among local Ethiopian restaurants, of which there seem to be more each year, Mesob continues to be one of the best, stealthily combining two key factors: flavorful, satisfying food, and unbeatable prices. Splitting a combo platter, veggie or meat, is a nice way to go; but if you're on the hungry side, you'll want to start with the wonderfully tangy and light tomato salad, dressed simply in vinaigrette and seasoned with cilantro. NEAL SCHINDLER Serves: lunch and dinner. 1325 E. Jefferson St., 206-860-0403. CENTRAL DISTRICT $ PAN AFRICA When eating ethnic, we tend to think that if the restaurant is populated by native eaters of the cuisine in question, we're golden. It's a good enough guideline, but as you all know, it's the exception that proves the rule. There are a lot of non-Africans at Pan Africa whenever I'm there, and boy, are they enjoying themselves. Like the name suggests, Pan Africa takes its cues from the specialties of many different countries (Zimbabwe, Madagascar), though Ethiopia gets precedence. Injera, that wonderfully spongy, pancakelike bread, comes with just about everything; use it to swab up bites of fragrantly spiced root vegetables, tender sautéed beef, or black-eyed peas stewed luxuriantly in thyme. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: lunch and dinner. 1521 First Ave., 206-652-2461. PIKE PLACE MARKET $

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