Pita Jungle has been serving up healthy and fresh food since it’s first location opened in 1994 by three Arizona State University students. Their goal was to provide Tempe residents with a healthy alternative to other restaurants around campus. They serve up Mediterranean food with a touch of modern flair. Their wood-fired pizzas and pita sandwiches are some of the popular selections. I’ve been eating here since my days at ASU going to the Apache location for lunch. The Mediterranean Roasted Chicken (Shawarma) and Beef Gyro are probably my 2 favorite items along with some hummus and their amazing iced tea. I had a fun night here with my friend Sarah at the Phoenix location in the arts district.
Juba Red Sea & Mediterranean Cuisine specializes in Mediterranean & East African cuisine and has been serving the valley since 2005. This restaurant is located in a shopping plaza that is cultural hub in Phoenix. After teaching at the Somalia center, we headed here for lunch. Their samosas have been voted best samosas in Phoenix. I ordered the chicken shawarma, hummus, a samosa and Somalian tea. The food was excellent and I look forward to many lunches here.
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.