Büna Coffeehouse: A Habesha Brunch

Büna Coffeehouse in Petworth, DC.

Büna Coffeehouse sits in a pretty quiet part of Georgia Ave in Northwest, DC, just a few blocks north of the Petworth Metro. Formerly the Uneeda convenience store, Büna came to be when Uneeda owners, couple Senaite Abebaw and Mastewal Worku, decided that Petworth needed something more unique. I’ve driven by Büna a thousand times, but wrote it off as just another coffee shop. Only recently did I learn that Büna, which simply means “coffee” in Amharic, offers much more than just great coffee. At the suggestion of a friend, I visited Büna to pick up some items for one of my park picnic brunches and was thrilled to find a sizable food menu with a variety of breakfast entrees, sandwiches, and Ethiopian staples. It was impossible to pick, and the wonderfully patient owner was kind enough to make some recommendations. Oh, fair warning, this post is only about their food menu — no coffee today. But I’ll fix that, soon …

Left, kifto sandwich. Right, steak sandwich. Both from Büna Coffeehouse.
Kifto sandwich from Büna Coffeehouse.

If you want to please a group, their sandwich menu has got you covered. Büna has a pretty big sandwich menu with lots of variety. Their eclectic mix of Italian, Mediterranean, American, and Ethiopian sandwiches provides enough options for the herbivores, omnivores, and picky eaters in your group. We ordered three sandwiches: the kifto, steak, and chipotle chicken avocado sandwiches, and the owners were kind enough to slice the sandwiches for me. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, because those plastic knives were not going to cut it — pun not intended.)

The kifto sandwich was my favorite out of the three. It’s steak tartare seasoned with mitmia (a chili powder-based spice blend) and herbal clarified butter, topped with ayib (an Ethiopian cheese) on ciabatta. I used to avoid steak tartare because it’s, you know, raw beef — the idea of raw beef just seemed wrong to me. I assumed the texture would be strange and gooey, and I’d somehow end up with food poisoning. But it’s nothing like that at all, and my gut is fine. I love steak tartare! It sort of melts in your mouth with delicious flavor, and this one did not disappoint.

The steak sandwich (sliced ribeye, provolone, horseradish, aioli, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato) and the chipotle chicken avocado sandwich (free-range chicken, avocado, spinach, chipotle aioli, provolone) were both also served on ciabatta. Both were equally delightful — well-cooked and seasoned meat, with fresh ingredients, and deliciously spicy condiments. A couple of my friends favored these sandwiches over the kifto. Each sandwich comes with a bag of kettle chips.

Left, shiro. Right, misir wat. Both from Büna Coffeehouse.
Misir wat from Büna Coffeehouse.
Shiro from Büna Coffeehouse.

We couldn’t eat those sandwiches alone, so we picked up a couple Ethiopian sides. Shiro (a stew made of powdered chickpeas, onion, ground ginger, tomatoes, and chili peppers) and misir wat (red lentils) made it into our picnic brunch line-up. These two made the perfect savory and spicy companions to our sandwiches, but were fine on their own with a piece of injera. My only complaint about these sides was that they were too small! There certainly wasn’t enough for several people to share. I really had to stop myself from eating the whole thing. Take note, order several.

Beef tibs from Büna Coffeehouse.

If you eat beef, and you eat Ethiopian food, then I’m sure you’ve had tibs. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered an Ethiopian meal or combination platter that wasn’t served with tibs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s good stuff. Tibs is beef tenderloin sautéed with onion, tomato, jalapeño, and clarified butter with salad and awaze (an Ethiopian spice paste). It’s flavorful, rich, sometimes spicy, and is usually served on injera. Büna’s tibs was seasoned and cooked really well, and hit the spot. We were even able to order gluten-free teff injera for the gluten-sensitive in our small group of brunch baddies.

The full spread from Büna Coffeehouse.

There are so many more items on Büna’s menu that I want to try! The turmeric goldenkraut, the Ethiopian breakfast bowl (kinché [a grain], tibs, eggs, and guacamole), their Habesha eggs, and their breakfast injera rolls (which I didn’t see on the actual menu but saw on Yelp). Oh, and the coffee! I still need to try the coffee!

If you’re curious about the ambiance, Büna has a cute little coffee shop vibe. It’s no big frills brunch spot, but the friendly faces make up for that. Büna also has some outdoor seating, which is perfect for laughing it up with friends and people-watching. Büna doesn’t serve alcohol, but they have an assortment of coffees, teas, and smoothies. Or, you can pull a Nichole and take this brunch home and make your own boozy brunch happen. Try one of our cocktail concoctions!

Büna Coffeehouse is located at 4400 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20011.

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