First Taste

Tempe's Hummus Xpress Does Tasty Mediterranean, Subway-Style

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Hummus Xpress Location: 930 West Broadway, Tempe Open: Over a month Eats: Fast Mediterranean Price: $8 to $15 per person

Eddie Hantas' concept behind his new restaurant is a simple one: Mediterranean eats served up Subway-style.

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A good start for a fast-casual eatery. But the chef-owner of the defunct Eddie's Bistro, a pizzeria and Mediterranean restaurant in Tempe, backs up the idea behind his newest venture with quality ingredients, a selection of housemade hummus offerings and sauces, and quite possibly the best falafels in the Valley.

And bang for your buck? Yeah, there's that, too.

It's a good idea not to take the menu literally. Listing five wordy steps, the Subway-style process, on paper, feels far too overwhelming for a simple pita.

Better to take a more freestyle approach: pick your vehicle (bowl, plate, or pita) and protein, eyeball the array of selections before you, point, and shoot. Chances are Hantas is behind the counter and will guide you through the process anyway. Better yet, give him the reins and let him work some Mediterranean magic. You'll be glad you did.

Hantas gets his pita bread from Baiz Market, an indication that quality ingredients are important. His hummus flavors and sauces, most of which are stellar, don't hold back on flavor. There is very good char-grilled chicken, cubed and marinated in herbs; a creamy and spicy chipotle hummus; and lightly sweet fried eggplant.

If you like your tabouli salad more moist than dry, you'll find it satisfying here, the finely chopped parsley kissed with lemon. And the falafels, deep-fried patties made of ground chickpeas, are pretty much perfect. Made from a recipe Hantas says he's been working on for months, they are thin, crunchy on the outside, and feature a well-seasoned and garlick-y filling.

Depending on your order, you'll end up with a loaded plate, bowl, or pita of satisfying Mediterranean eats all at around seven bucks. It's a flavorful, healthy-tasting prospect that, if you're in the neighborhood, could easily be habit-forming.

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