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 Urban Kitchen & Bar

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 Urban Kitchen & Bar”

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”

Phoenicia Cafe

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.

falafel deluxe

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MedFresh Grill

We’ve all read the distressing statistics about failure rates for new restaurants. According to some studies, more than half of all eateries opened perish within three years. On the other hand, often repeated claims of 90% failure are most likely exaggerated. Regardless of the exact numbers, five years of operation is a good sign that a restaurant has attracted a loyal clientele and developed some staying power. In Downtown Tempe, just a block from the Mill Avenue / Third Street Station, MedFresh Grill has just turned five.

exterior from Mill

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Sami’s Gyros

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.

exterior

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