Tempe’s Mill Avenue sometimes seems awash in sandwich shops and taco joints, some of them more bars than restaurants. It’s worth remembering that Downtown Tempe’s most walkable corridor is also home to lesser known restaurants that carve out their own niches based on the uniqueness of their food. Med Fresh Grill not only has the distinction of being one of the more stable restaurants in the ever-changing Mill Avenue landscape, but also stands out as one of the few local places to serve the cuisine of Turkey, often under-appreciated in the United States. Continue reading “Med Fresh Grill”
With medical marijuana dispensaries continuing to proliferate, a restaurant called “the Munchies” might sound like a place dedicated to a certain “herb.” Actually, the name is more a reference to a late closing time (3:00 AM every day) than any controlled substance, and the Munchies Cafe is a straightforward Middle Eastern and Greek quick service restaurant in the heart of Downtown Tempe. Look for the Munchies on the short cul-de-sac of Sixth Street that extends east from Mill Avenue, three blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “The Munchies Cafe”
The news from Yemen hasn’t been very good in recent years. The country at the southwestern corner of the Arabian peninsula is most often portrayed in terms of terrorism, drone strikes, civil war, and Saudi intervention. Despite all the bad news, Yemen, like almost all war-torn lands, has a culture and a cuisine largely hidden by the strife but worth exploring. Apache Boulevard in Tempe is home to numerous restaurants serving Middle Eastern food of numerous nationalities, but one in particular, Mandi House, stands out with its distinctive focus on the food of Yemen. Continue reading “Mandi House”
On July 5, 2011, Phoenix was enveloped in a moving wall of dust so monstrous that the news media started using the Arabic word “haboob” to describe it. Since then, the borrowed word has been used, perhaps overused, for describing garden variety dust storms. On Apache Boulevard, another bit of wording from the Middle East, “haji-baba,” long used in literature and movies, is also the name of one of the area’s longest established restaurants. Tempe’s Haji-Baba has endured since the ‘80s in a strip mall a quarter mile east of the Dorsey / Apache light rail station. Continue reading “Haji-Baba”
Two decades is a long time to stay in one place. It was over 20 years ago that the first Pita Jungle opened in a little strip mall in Tempe. More than two decades later, the restaurant has become a regional chain with over a dozen locations in Arizona and a few more in California. With expansion, Pita Jungle has finally outgrown and moved out of its original storefront location. It remains in Tempe, though, with a new site close to the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. The restaurant’s other urban location is near the Roosevelt / Central light rail station in Phoenix. Continue reading “Pita Jungle”
In just a few weeks, the holy month of Ramadan observed by Islamic populations around the world begins. For Muslims, Ramadan requires fasting during daylight hours in order to concentrate on prayer and self-improvement. For the majority of Phoenix Metro Area residents who don’t practice that faith, however, meals go on as scheduled — even at a restaurant located right next door to a mosque. Anyone at any time of year can experience Middle Eastern foods at Phoenicia Cafe, which is part of the same complex as Tempe’s Islamic Community Center on Forest Avenue.
Some of the funniest “Saturday Night Live” sketches have been about food and restaurants. From the classic early ‘90s cast, one of the best was a scene based on Hub’s Gyros of Chicago. A customer requests more of the juice, or “au jus,” that goes with his sandwich, and staff with thick accents find endless occasions to say “You lika da juice” back to him. Of course, the whole thing went on too long, and in a bit of self-referential contrivance, David Spade had to come on stage to request that the sketch come to an end.