Review: Dooby's Grill Cafe - Mesa, AZ (w/ photos!)
One of the places I want to get to before I head to that great culinary feast in the sky is Israel. I want to do all the sites and visit the landmarks as well as check out Haifa and Tel Aviv, take a swim in the Dead Sea and hike to Masada.
My interest in Israel piqued that much more when I recently saw some travelogue on PBS or Discovery addressing the various cuisines and dining options in Jerusalem. Some of it was new to me and some of it looked delicious, but it all looked very interesting.
I didn’t really know much about Israeli cuisine except that it had – not surprisingly – a Mediterranean and Middle Easter foundation. I had also heard there were a couple of Israeli restaurants in the Valley. I decided to take a test drive of one of the places and ended up at Dooby’s Grill Café in Mesa. I invited Madge and Boris along for company. Dad also expressed an interest, so we decided to make an evening of it.
Dooby’s turned out to be another restaurant in a strip mall, but that often is a good thing for us in the Valley of the Sun. We entered into the small eatery and I was a bit surprised when the hostess asked if we had a reservation. We did not, and she seemed troubled. Then, she quickly grabbed some menus and led us to a round-top table. We were handed menus and told that our server would be with us shortly.
A few minutes passed and a young man brought us water and said he would take our drink order. Madge had a Diet Pepsi ($1.75) while Dad, Boris and I had Iced Tea (1.75 each). Our server left to head into the kitchen giving us time to make our decisions.
Upon his return, he brought our drinks along with a basket of pita bread and a small bowl full of peppers, olives and pickles. The pita was hot and fresh, but the texture seemed somewhat off to me. Perhaps there was a different preparation for pita in Israeli cuisine. The texture wasn’t bad, just different and that surprised me. The various items in the small bowl were good and added a strong tanginess to our palates.
We then decided to place our order. To begin our meal, we decided to try the Hummus ($4.35) and an order of the Falafel ($4.35). Dad decided to get the Kebab Mixed Plate ($17.80). Madge loves Gyros, so she insisted on getting the Gyro Platter ($11.80), while Boris got the Chicken Kebob ($11.80). I decided to be a little adventurous and went for the Chicken Schnitzel with French Fries ($12.80). Our waiter informed us that our meals came with soup or salad. While I chose the House Salad, the other three ordered the Lentil Soup.
We sat and finished the pita bread while we chatted. I noticed that in the back room patrons could sit on the floor or on small pillows. The restaurant itself was decorated with various art pieces from the Middle East and Israel. It all worked quite well together and hid the fact that we were sitting in a strip mall in Mesa, Arizona.
There was some concern, however, about our service. We were beginning to notice that our server would disappear for long periods of time and we would have to flag him down for refills on water.
After a moderate wait, we were presented with our appetizers. The hummus was in a medium-sized plate and was decorated with parsley, paprika, olive oil and olives. We each grabbed some of the pita and too a taste. Sadly, we were all disappointed with the hummus. Besides the gritty texture, the dip was devoid of flavor. We all were trying to figure out what would have made it better, but it certainly lacked the complexity of a good hummus. I wish there had been something more to it, but it was below par.
The Falafel, on the other hand, was excellent. Hot, crunchy on the outside with a soft, mellow interior, we all liked these little nuggets. They were a stark contrast to the hummus in that they were bursting with flavor. The seasoning and cooking were done right and these disappeared quickly.
After another substantial wait, the Lentil soup arrived for Dad, Madge and Boris. The sizable bowls were served steaming. Boris and Madge thought the soup was above average but they both said they would have preferred it a bit creamier through a pureeing of the soup. Dad said he thought the soup was okay, but found it somewhat bland.
My salad was a simple preparation of some lettuce mixed with bits of tomato and tossed with a light vinaigrette. I thought it was quite good. The lettuce was fresh, crisp and cold. The tomatoes were good as well. The standout was the dressing. It was a refreshing vinaigrette with a bit of lemon for tartness and a reduction in the oil so it wasn’t so heavy. I thought it was a better choice than the soup for taste.
While we waited for our entrees, we were treated to some belly dancing. The dancer made her way around the room to the delight of the patrons. I convinced Dad to tuck a dollar bill into her waistband and he did so. I then told him that for $20.00 Mom would never have to know about the belly dancer.
After another substantial wait, our server brought out our entrees. Boris’ Chicken Kebab was on a large, oval platter and featured nine large chunks of grilled chicken hugging a mound of rice in the center. On either end of the platter were small dollops of hummus and tabbouleh. Boris said the chicken was hot and tender and like the char that was on the exterior of the pieces. He said the rice was fluffly and light. He also like the tabbouleh, which he found tangy and fresh.
Madge’s Gyro Plate was a hefty serving of gyro meat topped with a substantial amount of tzatziki sauce, all served next to a bed of rice and a small serving of hummus. Madge said the gyro meat was quite good, noting that it had excellent seasoning. She found the rice to be well prepared and liked the addition of some sliced almonds on top. She also like the tzatziki but said she would have preferred to have it served on the side instead of piled on top of the meat. Considering how much of the sauce there was, I thought that was a reasonable suggestion.
Dad’s Kebab Platter came with a choice of kebabs. He decided to go with the lamb, the kafta and the chicken kebabs. He was surprised that his platter came with fries instead of rice. I had also forgotten that fries can often be an Israeli side dish. I did mention that the fries were fresh because from my vantage point, I could see into the kitchen and saw someone running large spuds through a cutter. Dad tried each of the kebabs and the fries. Right off the bat, he said he thought the best of the bunch was the lamb. He liked the chicken second while the kafta came in last. “It’s a texture thing,” he said about the kafta. He said they were all good, but the lamb was a standout. He also liked the fries a lot, noting that they were clearly fresh and not frozen.
When I saw the Chicken Schnitzel on the menu, I was curious and drawn to it because I hadn’t had schnitzel in ages. But would it be good at an Israeli restaurant? My platter arrived and it hosted a large chicken schnitzel, a serving of the fresh fries, small servings of tabbouleh and hummus and two lemon wedges. I squeezed every last drop of liquid from the lemons onto my schnitzel. My first bite was outstanding. The breading was crisp and the chicken hot and tender. The lemon juice was perfect for it and I was raving about it. It truly was an excellent preparation. Oddly, some of the lemon juice had made its way onto the hummus and it made all the difference in the world. The fries were excellent. The fact that they were fresh gave them a rich texture and a dusting of the salt was all they needed.
After we finished our meals, we decided to split some desserts. Madge ordered the Bavarian Creme ($3.95) and we ordered two orders of the Baklava ($1.75 per order) for the table. Dad also ordered a Turkish Coffee ($1.50) for himself.
Oddly, our desserts came out of the kitchen fairly quickly. Madge’s Bavarian Creme was interesting in that it was a molded custard-like dessert that had been drizzled with chocolate syrup. Madge thought it would be served in a cup like pudding or custard, but it was on a cold plate. Madge indicated it was quite good, finding the texture very creamy and very subtle in flavor.
The Baklava was served two pieces per serving. The puff pastry had a walnut filling and was lightly dipped in honey and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. It was not overly sweet and that scored points. We all thought it was a winner.
As we waited for our bill, the owner arrived and was making the rounds at the table offering apologies for the slow service. We thought this gesture went a long way to making up for the long stretches between courses and also having our drink glasses topped off.
When we did get the bill, the total was $80.15 which included tax. We felt this was a decent value. The service was slow, as mentioned before, but the apology from the owner was greatly appreciated.
Overall, we liked the food at Dooby’s, save the hummus which just didn’t do anything for us. Still, the food was fresh, hot and well prepared.
If this is anything like the food in Israel, I am sure my stomach won’t mind.
Dooby’s Grill Cafe
2909 South Dobson Road
Mesa, AZ 85202
Hours: Sunday and Monday - 11 AM to 3 PM; Tuesday through Thursday - 11 AM to 9 PM; Friday and Saturday - 11 AM until closing.
Notes: Belly dancer on weekends; grill closes at 9 PM, but rest of menu is available; BYOB (beer and wine only).
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com
We went to Dooby's a few months ago for a late lunch. Service was awful, when it was there. The lone waitress told the people sitting on the patio she was too busy inside to serve them. The food was pretty bland too, so we were very unimpressed with the whole deal. The hummus was terrible. I was tempted to look up the Pita Jungle that's down there because we've had much better food and service there.
I had the gyro platter when we went, and it was horrible. All the slices I got seemed to come from the dried-out edges of the meat. It was crunchy of all things and not very much flavor. Seth's team may of had better luck, but this was almost the worst gyro I've had in Phoenix. I had it the one time we got dragged to Matador downtown, and I'm not sure which was worse.
re: Seth Chadwick
No prob. I asked because my first, and the majority of the gyros I've had were in greece, where it's steaks on a spit rotisserie roasted, like tacos al pastor. When i got back here I was shocked to find that typical gyro meat was like an enormous sausage, even in otherwise very good restaurants. I never saw these in greece, though they are common in other parts of europe. I'm always interested to see how different restaurants do their gyros.
I fully agree with your review. I am not sure what is worse, the hummus or the service.
The hummus is quite tasteless and has a horrible texture. All of the hummus that I have ever had before was quite creamy and smooth, and bursting with flavor, but this seems as though they mashed it with a fork.
I have been twice at lunch time. The first time I was alone and the service was only moderately slow. However, on my second visit with a friend, we waited so long that we were on the verge of leaving the place two times and were talked into staying by the server both times with empty promises that the food was on its way.
When we finally received our meals we were shocked when the cook came outside and set at the table next to us and lit up a cigarrette. He said that he was sorry it took so long for the food, but they got a rush and weren't prepared. I would note that there were probably three tables with patrons inside and no one else on the patio with us.
I did enjoy the falafel here but was appalled by the price. I am used to paying $0.50 for a falafel, but here it is about three times that for one falafel ball.
We like Dooby's., Giado's next store is a frequent shopping location for me for staples at home so we'll pop in for lunch or dinner at Dooby's sometimes when we run up there. Dooby himself is such a great guy...and the food is good so I guess we overlook the service. If we go for dinner we usually go early before 5 so that may also be why it hasn't bothered us as much...they aren't so busy yet maybe that it's really bad.
I'm glad you liked most of your dinner...but sorry to hear that service is becoming a factor there based on yours and others experience...
I really enjoy Dooby's. It's not often that you get the chance to sit Indian-style on a little pillow with your sandals off in a restaurant, lol. I really appreciate that part of it. The service can be slow, but people go there for a social experience. They want you to come in and stay for two or three hours if you like. They are very laid back, obviously, and now that the place is getting popular, people are coming in wanting a quick dining experience and that's just not what Dooby's is about.
I do think the food is quite good. I have had the Chicken Schwarma there, and I loved it. I also love their lentil soup.