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“Wonderful Ethiopian food in Tempe!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Cafe Lalibela

Cafe Lalibela
849 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281-3463
(480) 829-1939
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Ranked #50 of 579 Restaurants in Tempe
Price range: $1 - $25
Cuisines: African, Vegetarian, Ethiopian
Dining options: Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Santa Cruz, California
Top Contributor
72 reviews 72 reviews
38 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
103 helpful votes 103 helpful votes
“Wonderful Ethiopian food in Tempe!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 28, 2013

We discovered Lalibela thanks to a friend who lives in the area, who'd seen it reviewed on "Check Please, Arizona." We're vegetarians who are always looking for great places to eat on the road, and when Ethiopian food is good, it's very good indeed, so we were very excited to give it a try.

We were not disappointed.

The first thing you notice when you step in the door is the enticing smell of berbere, the classic spice mixture of Ethiopia. If you haven't experienced it, let's just say that it's the kind of smell that says "really, really good food here."

We ordered two individual veggie platters, each of which consisted of three wats (stews) -- misir wat (a red lentil stew seasoned with berbere and herbs), gomen (stewed collard greens with garlic and onions), and tikil gomen (lightly spiced carrots, cabbage and potatoes) -- and a salad on a bed of injera (a crepe-like, fermented, teff-based bread), with a generous basket of injera on the side. The flavors were just wonderful...as good as any Ethiopian food I've ever had.

In fact, it was so good, we went back a couple of days later. This time, being major fans of all things legume, we added a regular "family-style" platter with double portions of mesir wat, shiro wat (ground peas seasoned with berbere, garlic and ginger), yekik alicha (yellow split peas with turmeric and herbs) and a single portion of the tikil gomen. So, so, so good! Everything was so flavorful, we kept picking at it long after we were way too full to eat another bite.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is very casual. It's situated in a strip mall, and has kind of a "hole in the wall" feel, but it's the kind of "hole in the wall" that everyone wished he'd discover...an unpretentious place that just happens to serve exceptionally good food.

Service was prompt and pleasant on both visits.

If we lived here, we would definitely be regulars (probably very fat, but happy, regulars!). As it is, we will definitely be repeat customers, should our travels bring us back to the area again.

  • Visited February 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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47 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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    21
    6
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    1
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Scottsdale, Arizona
Contributor
17 reviews 17 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
“Great food - Worth repeat visits”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 24, 2012

My wife and I have been here multiple times, and each time we've been as impressed as the time before. The staff is very friendly and accommodating, and the interior of the place is as it needs to be - no frills, just simple. The servings are ample, and will definitely fill you up. Their lentil soup is very good and worth trying before the main dishes come out. A great selection of Ethiopian beer is also available. If its your first time going, and you dont feel comfortable ordering something you've never heard of, dont be shy to ask the servers - they're very willing to help you choose something that hits your spot - vegan or not. Definitely try this local gem out.

  • Visited October 2011
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Saint Louis, Missouri
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
6 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Delicious healthy food. Friendly service!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 17, 2012 via mobile

Had the Manager's Choice sampler- rich spicy doro wat, yellow split peas, curried veggies and salad. Was delicious, fresh and full flavored.

    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Kansas City, Missouri
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Great food”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 2, 2012

I love Ethiopian food and was pleased to see this restaurant near my hotel. Great food and pleasant service. Since I was eating alone I was pleased to see single serving plates--As i wasn't prepared for a giant family style portion. Really nice meal

Visited May 2012
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Princeton, New Jersey
Top Contributor
86 reviews 86 reviews
46 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
44 helpful votes 44 helpful votes
“Ethiopian: always a treat”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 26, 2012

In the interest of full disclosure: 1) I love Ethiopian food 2) my love affair with Ethiopian food is based on experience with a grand total of one other Ethiopian restaurant.

Having said that, this is definitely the second best Ethiopian restaurant I have eaten in. All the dishes were solid, but lacked the well-defined, distinctive flavors that I was expecting. The injera (a spongy, tangy soda bread that serves as the foundation for all of the dishes) lacked zest. The service was friendly but low-key, the decor undistinguished, and the ambiance eclectic and good-natured. Overall, a good dining experience, but not outstanding.

Tip: Ethiopian food is traditionally eaten with your hands (using the injera to grip the food), so if this sort of thing makes you queasy, request a fork when you place your order. Also, if you assemble your own combination, while the restaurant urges you to pick three items, two might suffice, unless you are very hungry.

  • Visited April 2012
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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