Café Lalibela serves exotic Ethiopian cuisine

Café Lalibela serves exotic Ethiopian cuisine and is located on Hardy and University Drives. The restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1997. (Photo courtesy of Cafe Lalibela.) Café Lalibela serves exotic Ethiopian cuisine and is located on Hardy and University Drives. The restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1997. (Photo courtesy of Cafe Lalibela.)

Located in a little strip mall off University and Hardy drives, the spices and smells of Café Lalibela hug patrons as they walk into the simply decorated Ethiopian restaurant.

Café Lalibela has been family owned and operated since 1997, bringing the tastes of Ethiopia to Arizonans.

Ethiopian food is made up of spices and red chili powders, which awaken senses that other ethnic foods cannot. The Ethiopian spice is not like that of Mexican or Thai foods, but a little more fresh and hard-hitting when eating the spiciest dishes.

During lunch hours, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., customers can choose from a soup and salad, a sampler plate or a spicy wrap, each for $7.99.

If eating Ethiopian food for the first time, order the sampler plate. Customers can choose three items from meat dishes and vegetarian dishes. The sampler also comes with injera, which is Ethiopian bread that resembles a crepe with a spongy texture.

Kye sega wat, or spicy beef stew, is cooked in berbere which is a mixture of red chili powder and spices.

Misr wat are red split lentils mildly spiced also cooked with berbere, herbs and other spices.

Café Lalibela's vegetables are not neglected, with only a little salt tossed on them, but their fosolia — carrots and string beans — is submersed in spicy flavors.

Finding Café Lalibela resembles finding a precious gem. You keep it close, but boast about it so everyone else can partake in its goodness.

The restaurant is a lot smaller than most, but even midday, it is full of others diving into delicious Ethiopian cuisine.

The decor around the restaurant boasts the Ethiopian culture, but is not overwhelming.

Equipped with one waitress, the service is relaxed and a tad slower than other American restaurants, but it gives customers time to soak in the smells, sights and sounds of Ethiopia without leaving the heart of Tempe.

Reach the reporter at natalie.miranda@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @natalieroxann


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.