East Valley restaurants: Ethnic

Byblos (3332 South Mill Ave., Tempe [480] 894-1945). Middle Eastern cuisine doesn’t get much better in the Valley. The Mirza family’s signature tomato soup is a must-have item and their stuffed grape leaves are nearly as good. You can’t go wrong with the chicken Mediterranean or any of the kebabs. $$

Café Lalibela (849 W. University Drive, Tempe [480] 829-1939). In the mood for something really different? Try Lalibela, where traditional Ethiopian injera (a crepelike sourdough-tasting bread) topped with varying wats (stewlike sauces of vegetables or meats) is served to your entire group to tear off and eat with your hands. The cafe has won local awards for best vegetarian and one-of-a-kind meals. Just don’t lick your fingers, tempting as it may be; Ethiopian etiquette frowns on it. $$

Cornish Pasty Co. (960 W. University Drive, Tempe [480] 894-6261). The pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is England’s answer to the calzone, but with a pie-like crust. The carne adovada and lamb vindaloo versions rock, as does the mine-shaft style and shape of the pub and the $9.50-and-under menu. Additional location in Mesa (1941 W. Guadalupe Road [480] 838-3586). $$

The Dhaba (1874 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe [480] 446-2824). This small eatery with big ambience dishes out Punjabi food — think naan, chicken tikki masala, gulab jamun and a mean veggie platter appetizer — that keeps locals coming back. They voted it a 2011 Best of East Valley award winner in an East Valley Tribune reader poll. $$

Pita Jungle (1250 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe [480] 804-0234). Vegetarians aren’t the only ones who love Pita Jungle, with its huge portions of mostly healthy fare. Usually crowded, with cool art on the walls, this is one spot that college students and postgrads can agree on. Additional locations in Chandler (1949 W. Ray Road [480] 855-3232), Gilbert (1431 E. Williams Field Road [480] 814-2535), Mesa (1850 W. Southern Ave. [480] 615-7482) and Scottsdale. $

Romeo’s Euro Café (207 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, [480] 962-4224). The eclectic, Mediterranean-influenced menu includes more than two dozen pitas, a delightful selection of seafood and other intriguing dishes like Transylvania chicken and sunflower beef. For a fun and easy way to expand your palate, reserve a spot at one of their frequent food and wine pairings. $$-$$$

Rúla Búla (401 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, [480] 929-9500). In addition to pints of Guinness and Irish coffee with a jolt of Bailey’s, this Mill Avenue bar and grill — modeled after the pubs of Ireland — serves a mean shepherd’s pie. Other specialties at this fun, colorful hot spot include corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, lamb stew, boxty and bread pudding. $$

Zur Kate (4815 E. Main St., No. 16, Mesa, [480] 830-4244). With it’s warm Bavarian flair, authentic spatzle and sauerbraten, and German music, it’s easy to imagine Zur Kate isn’t all that different from any casual hole-in-the-wall you’d find in the old country. It’s got a real gemütlichkeit (coziness) about it. Oddly, the only other German restaurant in the East Valley — the fancier Bavarian Point — is located in the same strip mall. $$.

Photo: Cafe Lalibela, long established in Tempe, is airy and casual, with brightly colored prints and wall hangings against a backdrop of African music and art.