Every town has a handful of sketchy restaurants. Often it's the joints that look the most questionable that hold the secrets of culinary enlightenment. Then again, they might hold nothing more than a one-way ticket to whatever you stuffed down your gob firing back out from both ends. It's the most adventurous of eaters who are willing to risk back alley slop houses and decaying lunch counters to find out if the scariest of local eateries lead to Heaven or Hell.
Last time 'round, Web Editor Jonathan McNamara dared Chow Bella contributor Carol Blonder to dine at the hidden lunch counter at Paldo Market in Tempe. This week, Blonder dares fellow Chow Bella-ite Erica O'Neil to step food in Sinbad, a dusty-looking joint on the west side.
Sometimes we think the West Valley is populated by nothing but chain restaurants and run down strip malls, but every once and a while those strip malls hold a gem. Consider one near at 35th Avenue and Glendale. Look past the Dollar Tree, Little Caesar's, and alternative high school, and make a bee line for Sinbad's, a Middle Eastern joint with a turban-clad mascot advertising an all-halal menu. It might need to be dusted off and polished a bit, but the west side cleans up nice.
As it was our first time at Sinbad's, we opted for the Sinbad Combo ($17.99) and an order of stuffed grape leaves ($3.99). Little did we know that an entire array of starters come complimentary so you can nosh while your kebabs are grilled. The hummus was super smooth and sprinkled with sumac, the baba ghanouj was smoky, and the array of Arabic pickled bites were crisp and tart palate pleasers. Plus the grape leaves came with a pile of tabouleh, so we were noshing on a serious sampler platter before our Sinbad Combo even arrived. Thankfully, we had plenty of nibbles, pita and a denser, fluffier bread for the main course.
Thankfully, we left plenty of room for the main event, the Sinbad Combo. Two huge lamb kebabs, two ground chicken kebabs, a mound of chicken tikka, and a pile of fluffy rice topped with crispy, pan-fried schwarma meat. Wrap that succulent mass of meat in pita, top with pickled cabbage or sumac-sprinkled onions, and indulge. We ended up with bellies stuffed with delicious Middle Eastern food, and for a song compared to the massive feast we just scarfed.
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You don't need to dare us a second time to check out Sinbad's. We're well aware that we shouldn't judge a strip mall by its (slightly ghetto) surroundings. Stay tuned for the next dare -- and leave us suggestions in the comments.