Our restaurant critic, Patricia Escárcega, has been on something of a hot streak. In the past few weeks, standouts have included a Turkish restaurant, an Indian deli, a Cuban bakery, and a vegan Mexican spot. How's that for great flavor and variety?
Here are four restaurants that recently wowed Escárcega.
Lotus Deli in Mesa
Are we moving into a golden period of Indian cooking in metro Phoenix? With the exception of some parts — the far west Valley, for one — there’s never been this much first-rate Indian food around town. Casual Indian street food, in particular, is making inroads in the Valley. That’s what you’ll find at Lotus Deli, a small restaurant located inside the Lotus Market in Mesa. The specialty at Lotus Deli is boldly flavored, addictive dishes like chaats and kathi rolls. The menu is entirely vegetarian, a fact that’s fairly easy to miss at first, thanks to the omnipresence of hearty, meaty ingredients like potatoes, beans, chickpeas, and rice.
TurkDish in Chandler
Fresh-baked kunefe served with hot Turkish tea is one of the distinct pleasures of dining at TurkDish, but it’s not the only one. Since opening in early 2015, the restaurant has quietly amassed a neighborhood following, thanks to a satisfying menu of traditional Turkish specialties, including popular staples like döner kebab. Often described as the Turkish analog to gyro, both beef and lamb varieties of döner at TurkDish are made in-house. The slow-roasted meat is highly seasoned and sliced into thin, delectable scraps. Scratch-made falafel, meanwhile, are available as both a starter or an entree, and they’re some of the best you’ll find anywhere in town.
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Edward’s Cuban Bakery in West Phoenix
Cuban-style pizza at Edward’s Cuban Bakery in west Phoenix leans more Chicago deep-dish than Neapolitan in spirit, with a thick, doughy crust and crisp, caramelized edges. Light on tomato sauce, and nicely shellacked with a lightly toasted mantle of melted Swiss cheese, the Cuban pies are buoyed by toppings like thick, fatty half-moons of Spanish chorizo and jamón. The small, casual counter-service restaurant opened a little more than a year ago in a sprawling strip shopping plaza near 43rd Avenue and Indian School Road. You’ll find an enticing drink menu featuring Cuban malt and fruit sodas, including the king of the pineapple-flavored sodas, Jupiña.
Mi Vegana Madre in Phoenix
José Gamiz, who operates Phoenix food trailer and pop-up kitchen Mi Vegana Madre with his wife, Leticia, says the concept of vegan Mexican food still confuses some people. "Mexican food is really plant-based, from nopales to verdolagas, to all kinds of stuff that grows wild," Gamiz says. The “carne” in their vegan carne asada is grilled vegetable protein, a popular soy meat substitute, highly seasoned and bathed in a savory red salsa, then topped with cilantro and chopped white onions. "As meat has become more accessible, it’s become more prominent," Gamiz says. "When you think of Mexican flavors, though, what really gives food its flavor are the spices.”