What do mangos and rabbits have in common? Both are examples of life that has propagated well beyond its original habitat. Mangos are often thought to be the most widely consumed fruit in the world, largely due to their cultivation in highly populated equatorial regions. Now, they’re popular even in colder climates. Likewise, European rabbits have been introduced throughout the world, even in places like Australia where they have become a pest. In Tempe, a boba tea shop called Mango Rabbit is also about popularizing concepts well beyond their place of origin.
Mango Rabbit is found in a small strip mall at the corner of Dorsey and Apache Boulevard, diagonally across the street from both the light rail station at that intersection and the eastern end of the Tempe Streetcar route. Bike racks are found in the corner of the L-shaped plaza outside Neko Mart Japanese snack shop, a worthwhile place to stop before or after a trip to Mango Rabbit to shop for treats like matcha Kit-Kats or every flavor of Pocky sticks imaginable. A bright red sign makes the boba shop’s presence known among the myriad tenants here.
This marriage of mango and rabbit, not to be taken literally, has several themes and not all of them are about food. The shop indulges the growing popularity of Asian sweets like boba, milk teas, and bubble waffles in the United States. At the same time, Mango Rabbit is also centered around popular culture. The store routinely hosts events for fans of K-pop and commemorates milestones like Taylor Swift’s recent tour opening in Glendale. Manga images adorn some of the space, and a giant teddy bear near the front of the room is an open invitation for taking selfies.
To order at Mango Rabbit can sometimes require a bit of effort. There’s a menu on a screen, the same one found on the website, but there are also numerous printed sheets at the counter describing additional items and specials. In fact, there are so many of them posted at times that they can interfere with face-to-face interaction between the customer and the person taking the order. Expect to move around a bit both to peruse all that’s offered and to convey what’s wanted to the staff. Fortunately, the employees are patient and friendly in explaining the offerings.
The usual choice here is between a sweet beverage or a bubble waffle. The liquid choices include all sorts of teas, often made with milk, enhanced with boba, and heavily sweetened. All those choices are customizable, though, and it is possible, with a little effort, to obtain some plain, unsweetened tea. For the more typical sugary experience, the house milk tea is a good place to start. It’s typically made with standard black tea, although green tea and Earl Grey are also available, and served cold. Variants with taro, sea salt, strawberry, are all possibilities.
Other types of drinks include both smoothies and slushes, the former involving pureed fruits like mango or avocado and the latter typically blending complimentary flavors such as mango and strawberry. An entire column of specials is even more interesting with creations like the Purple Dream with ube and taro and Oreo milkshakes. When available, the mango sago pomelo blends fresh fruit, with coconut and bits of a starch that is similar to boba but distinctive with its own mouth feel. The citrus flavor from the pomelo adds a bit of tartness to contrast with the mango.
The other main section of the menu is devoted to bubble waffles, wrapped around their accompaniments and served lying on their sides, despite being inserted into a cup. Each bubble waffle has five or six components: the flavor of the waffle itself, the ice cream that goes inside, a filling that is blended into the ice cream, a drizzle that is poured on top, and sometimes a final layer of “powder” in the form of granulated sugar or cookie crumbs. There are several signature waffles, including the namesake Mango Rabbit one, as well as the option for custom creations.
Like most boba tea and bubble waffle shops, Mango Rabbit has a small selection of savory snacks, including the usual suspects like popcorn chicken and French fries. They’ll do in a pinch, but anyone looking for a meal to precede (or even follow) their dessert/drink can do even better at Chou’s Kitchen, the Chinese restaurant in the same plaza. Normally quiet during the week, this rabbit is often hopping on weekends with special events. Whether it’s K-pop, boba tea, or bubble waffles that bring people in, those elements all come together in Tempe.
1250 E. Apache Blvd. #112, Tempe AZ 85281