I have been taking this class on Muslim culture and I wanted to spend my week engaging with the people. I figured being a foodie, the best way to start is with Middle Eastern cuisine. Along Apache Blvd in Tempe are a ton of restaurants that represent different cultures. You see little pockets of communities of people all over the place trying to make a living. It’s a wonderful thing and I loved eating the food and asking stories about how each place started.
The first place I went to was Haji-Baba. They are located in a little strip mall and have both a restaurant and a small marketplace. I went at lunchtime and it was packed. It was good to see a bunch of Americans enjoying their food and supporting the business. I had the gyro and hummus (with some Sriracha of course) plate. It was delicious and I enjoyed every bit of it. Very good price too!
Then I traveled to Cafe Istanbul. They too have a marketplace and have a bigger restaurant. They are known for their lunch buffet and their hookah lounge. I’ve done their buffet in the past and it is very good food for a good price. They also have live belly dancing on the weekends. The people who run the place are from Lebanon. I had the chicken shawarma and it was fantastic!
I decided to try a little Indian food and made my way to the Bay Leaf cafe. It definitely smelled like curry when I walked in. The restaurant was really nice and the food was authentic. I enjoyed talking to my waiter as he lives not too far from where I visited last year. I had the Chicken Tikka Masala – chicken barbecued and cooked in a tomato based curry with herbs and spices. I also had some chai. Wow – I forgot how much I love Indian food. I even ate with my hands like I did in India.
My last stop was for some desert and chai in a place in Tempe called the Phoenicia cafe. I had a pistachio baklava and the chai was awesome. This place is located next to a popular mosque. I really enjoyed coming here because I spent a lot of time talking with a gentleman named Hakim. We talked for a good hour about culture and our worldview of people. I appreciate how genuine he was and I know we as Americans can learn a lot from other cultures.