From Mesa to Germany in 15 Minutes

From Mesa to Germany in 15 Minutes

As a lover of all things travel related, I have found that food is a huge component of travel that cannot be ignored. I have always loved seeking out new foods whenever I’m in another country. And when I'm not traveling, I love finding ethnic restaurants in my hometown to satisfy, not only my cravings for international foods, but also my longing to be in a new culture. It's fascinating to be able to drive ten miles up the road to a locally owned ethnic restaurant and feel like I've actually entered into the country itself. It's not always just the food that's attractive, but being in an atmosphere that feels like you've been teleported out of America into a totally unique culture. The food is just a bonus.

Recently, America has seen corporately owned restaurants popping up in every corner of the country. We’ve gone from down-to-earth, locally owned mom-and-pop shops to huge franchises in a matter of years. We’ve focused our attention and stomachs to places like Chilis, Outback Steakhouse, and Taco Bell. I don’t think we realized that right outside our doorsteps there is a world of locally owned diversified restaurants, where you can get a more authentic taste than any chain restaurant. Some may think that immigrated ethnic cuisine has lost its touch, due to the overflow of delicious and affordable chain restaurants, but for anyone looking to support local and immigrated foods, here is a guide to several culturally relevant restaurants right in Arizona. Since many of us can’t afford to jump on a plane today to Germany to chow down on an authentic Deutschland bratwurst, or to go on a wine tasting tour in Australia,  I’ll take us down the street to get the same great tasting piece of meat, and more delicious cuisine from all over the world.


Zur Kate German Restaurant

Since 1983, Zur Kate has been a hidden German gem tucked in a forgotten strip mall in Mesa. It began when Günther and Irene Krause left their well-established restaurant in Hamburg, Germany and journeyed towards the ‘Land of the Free’ where they settled in the Grand Canyon State. With experience in butchering, culinary skills, and managing their own local restaurant, the Krauses’ opened Zur Kate in Mesa. They were joined by Horst Schlembauch, a 23-year-old immigrant from Bayern, Germany, who is now the owner. Walk into this little shop and you’ll be fascinated by the elegant traditional German decor. The walls are filled with a variety of paintings of Germany, assorted animal heads, and German hunting rifles. Flags from every region in Germany align the eastern wall.  A large community table, where you’ll be obligated to talk with your neighbors, sits amidst cozy booths. 
As you converse with your fellow visitors, a seasoned accordionist will serenade you with traditional German tunes. Some songs may even cause you to get up and dance. The first time I came, an old woman couldn’t help but jiggle her body to the tunes. And to spice it up a bit, the accordion player began the infamous “Chicken Dance” melody. The poor lady didn’t know the dance moves, so a young man got up and taught her. My friends and I, in our booth, did the motions from afar and were encouraged to get up on the dance floor. Sorry, but I preferred dancing from the comfort of my seat, thank you. But if you so feel led to move your body, the staff will certainly not forbid you.
The menu will overwhelm you, in a good way, with an assortment of diverse Bratwurst and Schnitzel, along with the choice of two sides, including a distinctive German potato salad, home fries, spätzle (an egg-noodle dish), and sauerkraut. The bratwurst here was just as I remembered it in Munich. There is not one dish on the menu that is over $12. If you’re much of a drinker, you can’t leave the place without trying one of the many authentic German beers right on tap. Prices of beers range from $2-$4. This highly affordable, authentic German restaurant is the best place to go if you’re looking for something to satisfy your unique European cravings.


Down Under Wine and Bistro

After living in Australia for a year, I knew I had to check this place out! I wasn’t let down. Love wine? How about having a true Aussie wine served and recommended by a true Aussie himself? At Down Under Wines and Bistro in Gilbert, this can happen to you. Roger Carpenter, a typical looking blonde hair, blue eyed Australian, came from the Land Down Under to Arizona to open what is the only Australian restaurant in Arizona. Walking in to this darling bistro, you’ll see all things wine and all things Australian….boomerangs, aboriginal art, and even a wine shop at the front of the restaurant. You have a choice of sitting at one of the glass-top wine barrel tables, which reveal wine corks from several wine bottles, or on cooler nights, sit outside on the patio. The lights are dim, the
mood is calming, and the people are friendly. I suggest you forego the classic Outback Steakhouse on Saturday night and head over to Down Under Wines, where you’ll hear live acoustic music, and if you’re a wine addict, you can sign up for the Saturday night wine tasting. For just $20, you’ll have a taste of five wines, plus an appetizer. Not a bad deal, hey? The Wine Menu consists of wines for all types of wine lovers. The sweet tooths can enjoy light wines like a Riesling or Moscato. The white wine drinkers can choose different types ofChardonnay from California to South Australia. And for the red wine lovers, there’s a Gemtree “Tatty Road” from South Australia, A Four Sisters Merlot from Southeast Australia, and various other red blends. Of course, they also carry the infamous Coopers beer, a favorite among Aussies.
Crocodile Potstickers
If you’re not a drinker, but have a daring and  adventurous spirit, come to Down Under to try  one of their infamous Australian dishes. I did. When I visited for my 21st birthday a few months ago, I started out with the Crocodile Potstickers appetizer with a plan to have Kangaroo as my main dish. Unfortunately, the server informed me that PETA had recently banned the import of Kangaroo. Bummer! Instead, I went for the next best thing, rabbit stuffed with jalapeno. Why? I’m not quite sure. It was something unique and something quite good. Other dishes include shrimp on the barbie, grilled barramundi (a type of fish), New Zealand mussels, and a range of decadent desserts, all meals for under $17. To complement my delicious dinner, the owner was kind enough to offer me a complimentary Sparkling Shiraz from South Australia. He wanted to get me started on my new life as a legal alcohol consumer. Then to top it off, the server brought me a piece of cake free of charge to wish me a Happy Birthday. Great service! If the food doesn’t give you enough reason to visit, their monthly events certainly will. July consisted of events like “Doggie Day Brunch” where you and your dog can enjoy some delicious treats together, “Karaoke Night”, and “Christmas in July” to celebrate Roger’s (the owner) 60th birthday. So, if you’re ready to try something exotically exciting, Down Under Wines and Bistro is ready for you.


The Nile Café

In this clean, Mediterranean infused restaurant in Scottsdale, you can either choose to go Greek or Egyptian for your meal. The Nile Café is run by an Egyptian woman named Souzan. I had the incredible opportunity to visit Egypt a few months ago with a group of my friends. Prior to our trip, Souzan helped us learn some Egyptian Arabic. She taught us the phrase As-salem All-ay-koom, which translates to peace be upon you. This is a typical greeting among Egyptians, and is responded with all-ay-koom salem. Souzan is very friendly and willing to answer any questions about her culture and the food. The menu consists of anything from Shawarma sandwiches to Koshari, a favorite among Egyptians, consisting of lentils, rice, macaroni noodles, and tomato sauce. I ate Koshari nearly every day in Egypt. It’s very rare to find this dish here, because it’s a very traditional meal in Egypt and not well known among Americans.                                      
Chicken Shawarma Sandwich
For appetizers, you have a choice of some very unique dishes including Babaganush, a charbroiled eggplant with pita bread, a Kibah Platter, which is simply meatballs with cracked wheat, and spices lightly deep fried, or Nile Fries served with feta cheese, parsley, and a homemade Vinaigarette dressing. If you’re a hummus lover, I recommend the sampler. It comes with five different types of hummus-regular, roasted bell pepper, cilantro jalapeno, artichoke, and sun dried tomato- and served with a pile of Pita Bread. It’s fun to try and guess which flavor each dip is. If your tummy is still grumbling after your meal, dessert options consist of Baklava, a rich pastry with layers of phyllo dough and served with nuts and honey, Kinafa, a pastry with syrup and a cream filling, and Rice Pudding. This culturally preserved restaurant will leave you feeling like you just stepped off a boat from the Nile River into Egypt.

So whether you’re an avid traveler, an adventurous food taster, or you simply would like to support local cuisine and try something out of the ordinary, these restaurants are definitely worth your time, money, and appetites. This weekend, why not change up your typical routine, grab a few friends or a family member, and head out to one of these unique restaurants. If you’re looking for a heavy European dish to fill you up, try out Zur Kate. If you have a craving for a nice glass of wine, rock up (Aussie slang for ‘to arrive’) to Down Under Wines and Bistro. If you want something really different, go for The Nile Café. Or, seek out a new ethnic restaurant you can call your own. I can bet if you pick a main road in your city and drive a few miles, you’ll be sure to find a delicious ethnic nugget much like these.

Restaurant Information:

Zur Kate
4815 E. Main Street
Mesa, AZ 85205
(480) 830-4244
Down Under Wine & Bistro
1422 W. Warner Road
Gilbert, AZ 85233
(480) 545-4900

The Nile Cafe
7051 East McDowell Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
(480) 429-6453
Need more ideas? Other fascinating ethnic restaurants to try include Essence Bakery, a Greek cafe at lunch and French bakery at breakfast, and Tum Nuk Thai, one of Mesa’s best Thai restaurants.

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