Phoenicia Cafe

The three-block distance between the Tempe Transportation Center and the campus of Arizona State University has become a zone for intensive vertical development in just the past few years. New residential towers and hotels are occupying formerly vacant lots or, if a few cases, replacing existing buildings. Amid that high-rise development, one existing structure that seems likely to persist is the Islamic Community Center on Forest Avenue. The center is not only a mosque, but also houses a market and a Middle Eastern restaurant, Phoenicia Cafe. Continue reading “Phoenicia Cafe”

Freak Brothers Pizza

The path from food truck to fixed location is not always a clear one. Some establishments have made a successful transition to a permanent address that has served them well for many years. Others have had to retrench, change ownership, or even close entirely after a difficult transition from a mobile operation to a full-fledged restaurant. One food truck, Freak Brothers Pizza, has chosen to make the transition a gradual one by not opening its own standalone restaurant, but instead operating inside the Churchill, the shipping container project near Roosevelt Row. Continue reading “Freak Brothers Pizza”

Windsor

The intersection of Central Avenue and Camelback Road is an unusual crossroads. The immediate area is undermined by a big vacant lot on the southwest corner and the congestion-causing Dutch Bros. drive-thru on the northwest. Across the street, it’s a little better an an office building is converted to residential and new merchants fill the few remaining spaces at the recently renovated Uptown Plaza. Still, some of Uptown’s most attractive elements are found not right where Central and Camelback meet, but instead a few blocks in each direction. Continue reading “Windsor”

Med Fresh Grill

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”

Desert Roots Kitchen

Desert plants are often known for having shallow roots, which are better for quickly absorbing water during brief storms followed by quick evaporation. In Downtown Tempe, a restaurant aptly named Desert Roots Kitchen has displayed some unexpectedly deep roots, operating with essentially the same approach for over six years and building upon the traditions of an even longer lasting restaurant, In Season Deli, that came before it at the same location. These roots continue to grow just a block-and-a-half south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “Desert Roots Kitchen”

Mandi House

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”

Haji-Baba

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”

Province

From Canada to China, the word “province” describes a geographical and political division within a country, similar to an American state. There’s another meaning of the plural “provinces” to describe outlying areas of a nation beyond the capital city and financial center. Strictly speaking, neither meaning really applies in the heart of Downtown Phoenix, but the word does fit well with a theme of geographically named hotel restaurants along Van Buren. If the nearby Sheraton has a restaurant named District, why not establish a Province at the Westin just a few blocks away? Continue reading “Province”

Pita Jungle

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”

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