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Ethnic in Tempe?

Will be heading to Tempe on the 12th for the Fiesta Volleyball tournament. Whenever we get to the city, we try to search out the best in ethnic food, especially, Vietnamese and Thai--though anything off the beaten track will do. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Tempe has plenty of ethnic options. I recommend the following:

    Cafe Istanbul (Middle Eastern)
    Efes (Turkish)
    Thai Basil
    Pita Jungle (Middle Eastern/Mediterranean)
    Cafe Lalibela (Ethiopian)

    And, if you are looking for some decent Mexican food, Rosita's is quite good.

    As for Vietnamese, I have checked out Tempe for that cuisine, but just north of Tempe in Scottsdale is Noodles Ranch, which I think has some good options.

    Enjoy your stay in Tempe!

    1. I second all choices named above. In addition, Tempe is home to about half a dozen Indian restaurants. Udupi Cafe is my current favorite.

      Also, although food and drink of the British Isles isn't always considered "ethnic," you might want to check out two other places in Tempe:

      Cornish Pasty Company for an inexpensive lunch or dinner based on the pasties traditionally consumed by British miners.

      Rula Bula -- an Irish pub. The food can be spotty, but the beer and atmosphere are always fun.

      1. I highly second Udupi Cafe. In my opinion, some of the best Indian food anywhere in the Phoenix area. Great food, very popular. You will not be disappointed.

        I couldn't find a website. It's address is 1636 N. Scottsdale Rd (northern Tempe). It's on the west side of Scottsdale Rd, approx. a half-mile south of McKellips Rd.

        1. Mucho Gusto on University is also pretty good.

          1. Lots of good recommendations. At the top of my list for "ethnic" in Tempe would be Cafe Lalibela and Cornish Pasty. If you are willing to drive a short bit 10-15 minutes, there are three good Asian options in neighboring cities. Cyclo in Chandler and Dragonfly in Mesa both serve up some pretty good Vietnamese food and Lee's Sandwiches in Chandler makes some excellent, affordable ($2-4 range) Asian sandwiches.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Billy Bob

              Some more to add:

              Pasand (Indian) on McClintock and Baseline
              The same strip mall has an Indian grocery with a small selection of chaat dishes
              China Max (McClintock and Guadalupe)
              There's a Mongolian Grill place at Southern and McClintock (never been there)

              1. re: zebcook

                I have a few Indian ladies I work with and they like Pasand and the Chaat/Market

            2. Mongolian Grill...aaacckk. Good for starving college students, okay for penny-pinching lunch if you're not particular. (It's a quasi-buffet of mostly uncooked meats and veggies, add rice or noodles if you wish, fill your bowl, select a sauce - watch the "chef" dump everything onto a grill - voila! Your lunch or dinner - in a bowl. (Okay - if you're careful, you could construct a reasonable bowl of ...something. And it wouldn't be awful. And that really is the best I can say for it.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Alice Letseat

                I think "Mongolian Grill" restaurants, including YC's (the one referred to above) are a fun, inexpensive, and quick way to eat a healthful meal. Certainly, some are better than others, and my personal observation is that the YC's location on Elliott Road in south Tempe is better than the location mentioned above at Southern and McClintock. While the quality of the Mongolian grill experience may vary from location to location, I think it may be rash to dismiss the entire concept.

              2. Fair enough. Perhaps it was the sight of so many laboring to keep the contents of overstuffed bowls from spilling before getting it to the wok that made it memorably distasteful....

                3 Replies
                1. re: Alice Letseat

                  Yes, gluttony is never pretty and is a disease common in any all-you-can eat environment. I always take a small bowl at YC's and still walk away satisified. It's not really necessary to overstuff the bowl, but plenty of people do.

                  1. re: silverbear

                    I had the same reaction as Alice, but I don't think gluttony is the problem. In fact, I love the idea of being able to whip up a quick, light meal from a variety of already prepped ingredients.

                    It's the one bowl concept that is the challenge. Or add to that a lack of technique for most, coupled with the pressure to decide on ingredients as you slide past them.

                    Great Chinese meals are usually a procession of unique courses with few ingredients and matched sauces. Even at more generic tasting Chinese buffet places, the offerings are prepareed individually, then spread out in stand-alone serving trays.

                    At YC one is given a a big bowl and a line full of stuff. I think this causes most people to jam as much variety into that bowl as possible. 3 meats. 2 Seafood. 14 types of veggies. 8 sauces. And the result is a big bowl of undefined mush.

                    The end result is a reflection on the patron rather than the cook. But how many patrons know how to cook up 3-5 Chinese menu items?

                    1. re: tastyjon

                      I think you make a good point. The issue seems to be with the application of the Mongolian Grill concept by many of the customers, who overload with every item imaginable, resulting in an unappealing mess.

                      I guess my general happiness with YC's and other Mongolian grills lies in my ability to tune out what others are doing. I think if I carefully scrutinized what other diners do in almost any context it would bother me. For example, I am always disappointed when dining companions salt their food without tasting it first, so I've learned just not to look too hard at what others at the table are doing. Of course, a skeptic might say that I just derive a little smug satisfaction from tacitly comparing my approach with that of other customers.

                      In any case, YC's works for me, and that's what inspires me to defend the concept.

                2. I want to bounce off of some other comments.

                  "I highly second Udupi Cafe. You will not be disappointed." The post MAY be disappointed to find out it is strictly vegetarian, LOL. However, it was and is excellent. Ditto for..
                  "Pasand (Indian) on McClintock and Baseline."

                  Mega-dittos for the three mentioned here, "Cyclo in Chandler and Dragonfly in Mesa both serve up some pretty good Vietnamese food and Lee's Sandwiches in Chandler makes some excellent, affordable ($2-4 range) Asian sandwiches.
                  "

                  ".. my personal observation is that the YC's location on Elliott Road in south Tempe is better than the.." other locations they have, such as The Pavillions.

                  1. I didn't see this mentioned above and I just ate at Khai Hoan today, so that is another option.

                    I had the shrimp spring rolls and the rare beef pho and thought it was great.

                    It's on Apache between Rural and McClintock (which means traffic is horrid due to construction) and the place is loud, ambience is zero and the service is v. fast-paced, but the food was delicious, authentic and affordable.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HomeCookKirsten

                      I love their vietnamese coffee there too - it's the authentic drip with the condensed milk. Also in that shopping plaza is Haji Baba, which is half a grocery store and the other half is a middle eastern restaurant. The food is really good and very reasonable. My favorites there are the babaganoosh, gyro platter, beef kafta, and the lamb kabob. One of my friends always orders the rose water lemonade and the homemade pita bread - which is off the menu. The rose water lemonade is pretty fun, you drink it, then breathe, and it has a rose fragrance. I know it sounds weird but it's really refreshing. Also, if you go there for lunch, it's always packed so you may have to wait.

                    2. I have to follow up and give up a thumbs up to Khai Hoan Vietnamese Restaurant. The best orange chicken anywhere...and the best Pho on the East Side.

                      As far as Indian goes, Pasand is the best.

                      1. Does Japanese count? I was surprised by the quality of food at Ra Sushi. One in Tempe, one in Scottsdale.

                        My first visit to Ra was in Scottsdale. The loudish music and cool red decor gave this place a young, modern L.A. club vibe. I sat at a table by a curved wall under a dim wall light. Nabeyaki udon passed my noodle and broth standard. Expertly prepared sushi. Good seaweed salad. It was a little, if not outrageously, expensive.

                        So then I visited the Ra in Tempe. Mill avenue felt vibrant and young. I sat at the bar (in the middle of a dark, corridor-like space) and ordered sushi, a la carte, adding up the amount in my head. The sushi was really quite good, but after the 4th plate I was still hungry. So I ordered an udon to fill up. I think I paid around $35.

                        They were both good, but I liked the one in old Scottsdale better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: grocerytrekker

                          I also think the food at Ra is reasonably good, but the "L.A. club vibe" (an apt description) isn't my favorite type of atmosphere. My favorite Japanese restaurant in Tempe is Sushi Eye at Elliott and Kyrene.

                          In general, restaurants on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe cater to a younger crowd and tend to have a high-energy, loud scene inside. Restaurants in other areas of Tempe are generally a little more subdued with emphasis squarely on the food. Choose according to the atmosphere you seek.

                        2. Not a big fan of Ra myself. We walked out of the Tempe one the one time we went there for dinner...maybe we're too old for the scene - couldn't take the loud music. Have eaten at the Ahwatukee location and was not impressed by the quality. When craving Sushi we visit Sakana 50th and Elliot.

                          I recently started working at Priest and University....a few place I've found that I like(in addition to several mentioned above) are Lemon Grass Thai at Hardy and Broadway, the yakisoba at Tokyo Stop at 52nd and University, and while not ethnic I"m also a fan of TEd's Hot Dogs at McClintock and Broadway.

                          1. I'll add my praise for Efes Turkish Cuisine, Cornish Pasty Company, and Udupi Cafe in particular. One place you ought not to miss though and which hasn't been mentioned is Blue Nile Cafe, an ethiopian place on Rural just south of the 202 freeway. Having eaten at some of the best ethiopian places in the country , I don't hesistate to rank it among them and over the other local places like Cafe Labelia or Tina's. While those places are certainly quite good, and have a better asthetic, if you're looking for a chow worthy meal check out Blue Nile (and though I'm biased, being a vegan, stick with the vegetarian options and make sure to try the eggplant and shiro/miser watt; the eggplant is unique among places I've tried and the shiro/miser watt served is superior to any other versions I've ever had).

                            On that note has anyone been to Blue Nile lately? The last time I attempted going they were inexplicably closed with nothing posted on their door or on their voice mail.