Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants are typically safe bets for vegans. When in doubt, you can usually get some hummus. Unfortunately, really good casual dining Mediterranean food is hard to come by. Only two or three places rank as “awesome” to me in Phoenix. At the top of the list is Spices Mediterranean Kitchen in Chandler, Ariz. They were voted Best Mediterranean Restaurant in the “Best of Phoenix 2009” New Times reader’s poll, and named “best falafel” so it’s not just me that thinks they’ve got it nailed.
We don’t live or work anywhere close to Chandler, so we’re always happy when an errand or event takes us to the Ray Rd. / 101 area around meal time. Spices’ menu is pretty straight forward in terms of the vegan options: hummus, falafel, salad, fries, etc. What propels Spices past the rest is the consistent quality and freshness of their food. I’ve never had a bad meal there.
I think just about everything at Spices is fresh-made. No freezer-burned falafels here! Spices’ falafel balls are perfectly crispy on the outside without being too greasy, and soft and green on the inside. They are my hands-down favorite falafels in town. You can get “spice” added to a falafel sandwich (a jalapeno mix) which reminded me of the falafels I had in Munich once where the toppings were the main feature. The salad that complements the falafels in a sandwich is a good mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
The hummus at Spices is just to my liking – freshly-made, not too bitter, a little heavy on the tahini and pureed so that it’s smooth. It’s served with a pool of decent quality olive oil, a few pine nuts and a dash of paprika. The serving sizes are decent (half a sandwich shown above). I usually run out of pita bread for the hummus though – so you might want to order an extra pita.
One of our guilty vegan pleasures at most Mediterranean places is to sample their French fries. For some reason, fries are usually great at any casual Mediterranean place. At Spices, “usually great” doesn’t even come close to describing their fries. They are actually made of fresh cut potatoes and taste like real food – not processed pieces of styrofoam! Unlike most fresh-cut fries that are wedges or thick slices, Spices’ fries are cut thin and fried perfectly.
The only thing at Spices that I don’t rave about is the pita. There’s nothing wrong with it at all — it’s just average.
Beyond the great food at Spices, another reason to go is the service. Regardless of who is behind the register, they are always friendly and engaging in a sincere way. They usually prepare the food pretty quickly, but I’ve never been there when they’ve been slammed. It’s a counter serve, delivery to the table type of place (very casual), but they do serve beer and wine.
Spices is open for lunch and dinner Monday – Saturday, closed on Sundays. They’re at 4040 W. Ray Rd. (NW corner) in Chandler in the Albertson’s plaza.