four times a week, I drive down Arizona
Avenue on my way to and from the
months ago, I finally noticed Tina’s
Ethiopian Cafe, adjacent to El Coyote
Bar on Arizona Avenue just north of
weeks ago, I finally got around to
some chowhound I am. Tina’s, which
opened in March of 2004, is simply
outstanding, and I’ve already missed out
on two years of eating there.
food is unique. It’s primarily known for
injera, a spongy, crepe-like bread that
acts as both serving dish and utensil.
the tiny, high-protein grain called teff,
injera batter is fermented, so it’s
slightly sour. It cooks into a porous
bread that’s ideal for mopping up
sauces in question are those of watts,
Ethiopia’s delicious, subtly spiced
stews. Watts are served on a large piece
of injera with additional injera on the
them, you tear off a piece of injera and
wrap its spongy side around a portion of
watt, then carry this floppy taco to
all, it’s a fun way to dine. It can also
be addictive, particularly at Tina’s.
injera is thick and deliciously tangy,
manifestly the way it’s supposed to be.
I could eat this stuff all day long, all
even better wrapped around dishes like
yemiser watt (mildly spiced lentils) or
spinach watt (silky braised greens).
also blown away by “Tina’s Famous House
Salad,” an outstanding, lemony mix of
lettuce, onion, tomato, jalapeno,
sunflower seeds and spices. This
unpretentious dish has more finesse than
a salad you’d pay $15 for in Scottsdale.
Obviously, Tina’s is
vegetarian-friendly. But with chicken
and beef dishes, it caters to
marquee item here is beef tibbs, grilled
beef served with onions and green
peppers. The limited menu also includes
yedoro (chicken) and key (beef) watts.
order a single dish or a combination of
them; they’ll all be served together on
the same delicious round of injera.
Tina’s food is authentic and terrific.
But the atmosphere deserves a word, too,
because I’m pretty sure you’ll either
love it or you’ll hate it.
it, myself. Tina’s belongs to the
“hole-in-the-wall” category of
restaurants, a genre I’m stubbornly fond
surroundings are very, very casual, and
the overall effect is of eating in
Tina’s living room, because yes, there
is a Tina.
eponymous Tina Hildebrand is the
restaurant’s single cook and server.
She’s an Ethiopian who came to the
United States in 1991.
her talents in the kitchen, Hildebrand
is warm, gracious and hardworking, and
her devoted customers love her for it.
She creates an atmosphere where it’s not
uncommon to chat and exchange numbers
with the people at the next table.
sounds delightful to you, give Tina’s a
try. If it sounds obnoxious, you’ll
probably want to get your Ethiopian fix
at the Valley’s more conventional
restaurants: Cafe Lalibela and Blue
Nile, both near Arizona State University
something here? The Phoenix metro area’s
Ethiopian restaurants are all clustered
in the southeast Valley.
more good reason to reside in the Kyrene
Ethiopian Cafe, 479 N. Arizona Ave.,
(480) 917-3088 or