One of the best places for Ethiopian food nearby is Lalibela, a strip-mall restaurant, modest on the outside and welcoming on the inside, in Whitehall.

The best part of eating a meal is sharing it with friends or family. If this is the case for you, too, Ethiopian food is right up your alley. And one of the best places for Ethiopian food nearby is Lalibela, a strip-mall restaurant, modest on the outside and welcoming on the inside, in Whitehall.

Ethiopian food is among the most accessible, universally enjoyable global cuisines. First, it is simple: Lentils, vegetables, lamb, chicken, beef or fish is the foundation of most dishes. The spices used-coriander, allspice, cardamom, paprika, ginger, onion-are familiar. And it's fun-you are expected to eat with your hands, employing torn pieces of injera. A cross between a crepe and sourdough bread, injera is flat and spongy and has a pleasant tang that stands up to those heady spices.

Request to be seated at a mesob, a colorful woven communal table, and start off with some Ethiopian beer ($4) or honey wine ($4). The restaurant has a full bar, but liquor doesn't strike me as a good match for the food, and I've never seen a cocktail at a table.

Go for a combination platter (price varies) with your choice of meat. I love lamb, but eating vegetarian here is hearty and satisfying, too. The meal arrives on a large platter, most of which is obscured by an enormous disc of injera, topped with mounds of different dishes. The main attraction is in the center. Two people will be challenged to finish all of this by themselves-but do save a little room for the injera beneath all the food, which by the time you reach it is saturated with flavor.

Servers at Lalibela gladly identify dishes, suggest orders and answer questions-it's clear they welcome a diverse clientele, many of whom are trying Ethiopian food for the first time. At lunch or dinner, dining room tables are filled with a mix of taxi drivers taking a break (you'll see their cars in the parking lot), groups of friends, families and couples.

The check will probably be a pleasant surprise, too: On a recent visit for lunch, we walked out stuffed and happy for less than $20, including tip. lalibelarestaurant.net