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Triple Shot: Franchise free

Ethnic food an adventurous alternative to fast food and chain restaurants

 by Tara Brite  published on Thursday, February 24, 2005

<em>Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>The Blue Nile Cafe, near University Drive and Rural Road, features Ethiopian cuisine.  /issues/arts/692155
Danielle Peterson
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
The Blue Nile Cafe, near University Drive and Rural Road, features Ethiopian cuisine.
 

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Night after night, a typical college student is on the hunt for good, cheap food.

But oftentimes, the options seem limited.

If it's not Whataburger or Taco Bell, it's Subway or Hungry Howie's. And while their fare may be cheap, it can only be enjoyed so often during a week.

Dinnertime in Tempe can be a lot more interesting than fast food and chain restaurants such as Chili's and Ruby Tuesday's.

The perfect way to spice up your dining experience is with local ethnic food restaurants, which are plentiful and offer tasty, adventurous options for students starved for change.

Here are a few of the area's best.

The Blue Nile Cafe

Cuisine: Ethiopian

Location: Southeast corner of University Drive and Rural Road

Phone number: (480) 377-1113

Best for: An open mind and empty belly


Although there is nothing special about the outside of The Blue Nile Cafe, one step inside reveals a truly unique and pleasant atmosphere.

First thing's first: seating.

Diners can choose between sitting at a traditional table or in a separate room, which is dimly lit and decorated in mostly red. The seats and tables are made out of a type of wicker and can be best described as overturned baskets.

Its decently priced, tasty and slightly spicy menu items include assorted meats and vegetables mixed with palate-pleasing sauces. What's truly unique about Ethiopian dining is with what you eat the food. All dishes are served with flat, sponge-like bread called maskal teff, which takes the place of silverware.

To eat, one must break off pieces of maskal teff and grab chunks of food with it. Alone, the spongy bread is very bland and unpleasant. But mixed with the spicy cuisine, it acts as a perfect compliment.

Conveniently located on the southeast corner of University and Rural Road, The Blue Nile Cafe is within walking distance from campus and is the perfect way to experiment with a completely new and generally delicious type of food.

Char's

Cuisine: Thai

Location: Southeast corner of University Drive and Rural Road

Phone number: (480) 967-6013

Best for: A completely foreign experience


Eating at Char's is an adventure that rivals the escapades of Indiana Jones.

The Thai restaurant is like a tiny Asian country plopped in the heart of Tempe. The foreign feel of the place can be intimidating, especially when the menu hits the table; it is not in English.

Luckily, each dish is numbered for those courageous customers who decide to venture on and order something.

The food at Char's is decently priced ranging from $6 to $8 per meal and is served family style. Most of the dishes are a combination of meats, vegetables and different sauces. The possibilities are nearly limitless, except for vegetarians, who have very few options other than requesting a dish without meat.

Once the food arrives, its appearance is appetizing and not nearly as intimidating as the decor and confusing menu. Most dishes resemble those available at most chain Chinese food restaurants, only Char's food is authentic with a large selection of flavors.

Located within 100 feet of the Blue Nile, Char's is also accessible from campus.

Pepin

Cuisine: Spanish 7363 Scottsdale Mall

Phone Number: (480) 990-9026

Best for: An exciting evening of dinner and dancing


If flamenco dancers, seafood and margaritas are more your thing, then the trek down to Old Town Scottsdale will be more than worth it when you enter the world of Pepin for authentic Spanish cuisine, which is nothing like Mexican food, as some people think.

Entrees consist of mostly seafood, but also include duck, veal, lamb, and pork, all averaging around $20 a plate. Appetizers range from calamari (fried squid) to frog legs, and are about $10 each.

The food might not be cheap, but the live flamenco dancing and romantic atmosphere make the experience worth it, especially if you spend it with someone special.

The flamenco shows run from Thursday through Saturday nights. Dancers stomp their feet and move their hands in wide, florid movements to some of the most beautiful music in the world.

The decor at Pepin also is captivating. Its bright color scheme, potted flowers, and Spanish photos and posters lining the walls provide a calm, friendly atmosphere, even on a rainy day. And don't forget to look up; the ceiling is painted like the sky and is just as beautiful.

Reach the reporter at tara.brite@asu.edu.



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