Tempe, AZ Mini-reviews: Med Fresh Grill and Phoenicia Cafe
Med Fresh Grill
The same block of Mill Avenue that houses Rula Bula and Restaurant Mexico is also home to a quick-service Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurant called Med Fresh Grill. A sign outside Med Fresh's entrance identifies it as a Turkish restaurant, and the Turkish overheard among staff and some of the customers reinforces that identity.
Still, much of the menu is similar to other Middle Eastern restaurants. Hummus, tabouleh, baba ghanoush, dolmas, and falafel are all available, either in pita sandwiches or as the featured ingredients in platters. There is also a vegetarian combination for those who want to have it all. The signature Turkish dish is the doner, available in chicken and beef varieties. Doner is similar to shawarma, with seasoned meat on a rotisserie ready to be sliced for sandwiches or served as part of a platter. Several types of kabobs are also available.
Fountains sodas are available, along with tangy house-made lemonade. No alcohol is served. The signature dessert is baklava, and Med Fresh's version manages to be moist, buttery, and sweet in all the right proportions. Service at the counter is friendly and efficient, but the food may take a little longer than in some quick-service environments simply because it is prepared to order. Med Fresh keeps late hours, staying open until 3:00 AM on Friday and Saturday to serve the Tempe nightlife crowd.
Note: On my first visit to Med Fresh, I was disappointed with the falafel. It had good flavor, but was dry and lukewarm. After reading Michele Laudig's recent review in the New Times, which included praise for the falafel, I decided to give Med Fresh a second chance. The falafel was much better the second time. It was still a bit crumbly, but was warm, moist, and fresh as falafel should be.
414 S Mill Ave., Suite 117, Tempe, AZ, 85281
Phoenicia Cafe is a Middle Eastern restaurant located just north of the main campus of Arizona State University. The restaurant occupies a storefront in a blue and white complex of buildings also housing a Middle Eastern grocery and the Islamic Community Center.
Phoenicia serves the full range of Middle Eastern favorites, including gyros, falafel, hummus, and tabouleh. A variety of pita sandwiches are available, many of them less than $5. Most entrees are between $5 and $10. Some specialties are the hummus deluxe, which combines hummus with chicken or lamb, and the couscous, available in chicken, lamb, and vegetarian versions with a zesty red sauce. No alcohol is served, but a variety of fruit juices and sodas are available. There are two lemonades served. For best results, make sure to ask for the house lemonade instead of the pink lemonade, which comes from the soda fountain.
Before or after eating, the adjacent market is an interesting place to browse. If features a variety of Middle Eastern ingredients, sweets, frozen foods, and even a halal butcher counter. Note: the Phoenicia Web site appears to be more reflective of the Gilbert location than the Tempe location. The menu at the Tempe restaurant varies slightly from the version posted on the Web site.
616 S Forest Ave., Tempe, AZ 85281
Map showing locations of restaurants: http://tinyurl.com/2vk4cn
More mini-reviews and photos at PHX Rail Food: http://phxrailfood.blogspot.com
I like Phoenicia Cafe. I especially like dining on the patio of the Tempe location--it's not all that comfortable, but it's got character. The Gilbert location is more modern looking, but the food is the same quality. I believe the owner actually works out of the Gilbert location more often than Tempe.
I enjoyed one terrific lunch at Phoenicia Cafe. The experience was tempered slightly by my work colleague's squeamish response to what he apparently viewed as a too-anatomically-correct lamb shank on my plate, which, uh, just kind of looked like an animal's leg and ankle. It was yummy ...