Veggie Boy: Haji Baba

By Benjamin Leatherman

The best falafel I've ever tasted. No seriously, this time I mean it...really.

Last month I sang the praises of Phoenicia Cafe in Tempe, particularly about the joint’s falafel. After supping on its version of the Middle Eastern favorite of gound chickpeas and eggplant fashioned into silver dollar-sized medallions and deep fried, I foolishly declared it to be the best I’d ever tasted.

Man, was I ever wrong.

At the urging of one of my readers, I recently visited the renowned Haji Baba (2131 East Apache Boulevard in Tempe, 480-894-2442) which has long been a favorite of vegetarians at ASU and throughout the Valley, and sampled their version of falafel in the form of a pita wrap. After my first bite, all I had to say was “wow.”

It was very tender and practically melted in my mouth, with nary a piece dried out or overcooked. The chickpeas and fava beans are mixed together with some really exotic spices and sang with flavor. The just-grilled pita was also quite outstanding. The usual assortment of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and tahini sauce accompanied the wrap. What even more stellar is Haji Baba’s dirt-cheap prices. For instance, the wrap was only $2.69 and was quite filling.

Haji Baba's babaghanooj: Hard on your dictionary, but easy on your taste buds.

Equally inexpensive was the plate of babaghanooj I also ordered, costing a mere $2.99. As you can see from the above photo you get a rather ample-size serving of the tasty dip made from ground roasted eggplant, sesame seed paste, lemon juice, and diced garlic. (Heck, I wouldn’t be surpised if my co-worker Jay “Budget Beat” Bennett visited Haji Baba sometime in the future).

Like I said before, I freely take back what I’d declared before. Because frankly, eating crow has never tasted so good.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.