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Review: Daphne's Greek Cafe

silverbear Mar 3, 2007 07:33 PM

Daphe's Greek Cafe
Locations in Arizona and California
Review based on a visit to the following location:
3510 Baseline Rd
NW corner of Baseline & Val Vista
Mesa AZ 85204

A hike in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix this morning took me farther into the reaches of suburbia than I usually travel. Coming back after a pretty intensive five-and-a-half miles, I was looking for a good lunch in an area of Mesa that is dominated by chains. I remembered seeing a Greek restaurant called Daphne's a few months ago and decided that today was the day to try it.

Daphne's is the type of restaurant known as "fast casual." Customers order at the counter, receive cards with the order numbers, and then take a seat. Shortly afterward, the food is delivered to the table. I was impressed upon entering Daphne's with three things: the colorful decor, the cleanliness of the dining room, and the friendly greeting that was proferred before I even reached the counter.

I reviewed the laminated menu and decided on the veggie combo plate ($8.50) as a quick and efficient means to sample several appealing items. Wanting to continue the healthful vibe of my morning of hiking, I ordered a bottle of orange juice ($1.75) to wash it all down. As I claimed a table, I was impressed that the tables were already set with high-quality paper napkins and steel utensils. This was a nice step up from napkins dispensers and plastic utensils.

The combo plate arrived promptly and featured a nicely arranged mixture of falafel, spanokopita, dolmas, salad, rice, hummus, tzatziki, and pita bread. The falafel was a little unusual in that it was disc-shaped rather than spherical. The taste and texture were reasonably good, but not as compelling as at my favorite Israeli and Lebanese restaurants. There was nothing wrong with the falafel, but it did not have the pronounced cumin flavor and the fresh-out-of-the-fryer feeling I crave. It was adequate as part of a combo plate but probably not worth ordering on its own.

The spanokopita seemed a little oily. The spinach and cheese inside were tasty, but the pastry was only average. Dolmas were also adequate but could have used a bit more lemony zing. The Greek salad was like any other: crisp lettuce with bits of feta, tomato, cucumber, and a few olives for good measure.

The two spreads on the platter, hummus and tzatziki, both had excellent texture. They were smooth and creamy without being too viscous. As with the dolmas and falafel, both could have benefited from more pronounced flavors, especially garlic and lemon. The pitas used to scoop these dips were a good renditions of what I would consider "food-court-Greek" pitas. They were thick and had no pocket for stuffing, but were quite tasty on their own terms.

The one item at Daphne's that most impressed me was the rice. It was served in a yellow pilaf with a slight lemony pilaf. I was pleased that the pilaf was not overloaded with salt like so many I've tried.

I finished most of the combo plate and ended up full but not stuffed. Portion size was not as excessive as at many restaurants in this category. For the most part, I liked, but did not love, the food at Daphne's. Nothing I tried was poorly prepared, but several of the items needed more assertive flavors. Daphne's may be deliberating underplaying strong flavors in order to succeed in suburban locations in which chain restaurants are the norm. I am not likely to make a special trip for Daphne's, especially since the Phoenix area locations are all far from both my house and my office, but I would eat there again if in the neighborhood.

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  1. silverbear RE: silverbear Mar 4, 2007 04:47 AM

    Correction to the penultimate paragraph: "It was served in a yellow pilaf with a slight lemony flavor."

    Correction to the final paragraph: "Daphne's may be deliberately underplaying strong flavors in order to succeed in suburban locations in which chain restaurants are the norm."

    Also, my first attempt to attach photos failed due to file size. Here they are after some compression.

    1. Grey RE: silverbear Mar 4, 2007 09:10 AM

      Good review. I've been curious to give Daphne's a try after noticing them pop up around town. Nice to get a fair and honest assessment.

      Thanks. I'll get around to visiting one of these days.

      1. z
        zebcook RE: silverbear Mar 4, 2007 10:25 AM

        That Daphne's is right by my office, so it's a frequent lunch stop. The gyros are respectable and they do a good job with fries. They also have a spicy dip of feta and chile paste/oil you can get that's pretty good. It's my understanding that they are a regional chain in SoCal and AZ (now).

        It is a good go for fast food Greek.


        2 Replies
        1. re: zebcook
          krez RE: zebcook Aug 15, 2007 04:09 PM

          Really the best part about Daphne's is the Fire Feta dip.

          1. re: krez
            lilinjun RE: krez Aug 27, 2007 03:03 PM

            ooh, agreed!

        2. o
          Oh Robin RE: silverbear Mar 6, 2007 02:04 PM

          I love Daphne's. Get the gyro, it's nice and crusty brown and moist inside. Great rice too.

          1. m
            mlgb RE: silverbear Mar 12, 2007 12:15 AM

            I used to go to these undercover around Southern California, and found them pretty good, although wish they would give more tzatziki. I usually got a grilled chicken combo of some sort and a salad, nice lemony dressing. Some pretty slow service during busy times, though. Oh, and you could get double salad on the combo plate instead of rice if you wanted.

            1. brekkie_fan RE: silverbear Mar 17, 2007 10:40 PM

              I always for the gyros. For fast Greek, it's the easiest choice down in SoCal.

              1. scorpioscuba RE: silverbear Aug 10, 2007 12:01 PM

                Yesterday I ate at Daphne's (same location as silverbear) for a quick lunch before my hair appointment. I ordered the marinated chicken pita combo which came with a small greek salad topped with olive tapenade and the rice pilaf. Silverbear - I agree with you on your overall assessment. I liked the food - but didn't love it. The chicken was very well marinated and tender but on my visit the tzatziki left little to be desired. I enjoyed the salad and ate a little bit of the rice, as I thought mine was pretty bland.

                1. l
                  Loren3 RE: silverbear Aug 20, 2007 08:44 AM

                  I ate a vegetable plate at a Daphne's in Lake Forest, CA. The falafel had the taste and consistency of tater tots. The saffron rice had the flavor and consistency of Uncle Ben's perverted rice. The "Greek" salad was a green salad with one crumble of feta and one kalamata olive. The grape leaves didn't suck. The hummus tasted like something you would buy at a grocery store - big kitchen and not homemade.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Loren3
                    AGENT FOODIE RE: Loren3 Aug 29, 2007 10:27 AM

                    food is ok, but portions are tiny for the prices they charge.

                    1. re: Loren3
                      burntcream RE: Loren3 Sep 5, 2007 09:16 PM

                      You summed it up perfectly! The grape leaves probably don't suck cause they are out of a can. Yes, uncle bens, I've been trying to figure out what that taste was. I tried it once cause I had a coupon. Otherwise, it's nearly $10 for a plate of yellow rice and iceberg, if you order the vegetarian plate.

                    2. brekkie_fan RE: silverbear Sep 30, 2007 11:40 PM

                      for take-out Greek, it works for me. I know there is better out there, but it's not like anyone's opening much competition anytime soon.

                      1. f
                        Fuser RE: silverbear Oct 1, 2007 12:03 AM

                        I really love the vegetarian pita. I have a thing for veggie gyros-style sandwiches and when I first ordered this it wasn't very good. But they've added some tapenade and more feta and veggies and it's quite tasty. Their regular gyros are average IMO.

                        1. c
                          Cathy RE: silverbear Oct 1, 2007 12:56 PM

                          I signed up for the online "Pita Club" and get an email coupon every month (usu a discount/lunch price or a buy one get one) and for my birthday I got a coupon for a free combo- any combo- no purchase necessary. The Mister only ordered a gyros salad (lower in cost) and mine was free. Very nice.

                          1. yamalam RE: silverbear Oct 16, 2007 03:08 PM

                            If we're talkin' chain Greek, I prefer the gyro or chicken pita lunch special at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant - it's like $7.95 and comes with the pita and a pretty good greek salad. Overall, it's moister, the salad is dressed better and the tzatiziki is better. I agree though, and Daphne's is on the rotation.

                            1. b
                              Big N Fat RE: silverbear Oct 18, 2007 03:08 AM

                              Do they have burgers on the menu? -BnF

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