There’s one area of greater Phoenix that I still haven’t cracked in terms of finding a decent vegan meal: downtown Mesa. We visit the Mesa Arts Center frequently, in particular for the National Geographic Live! series. The Nat Geo events are on Wednesdays, so we’re always rushing from work to Mesa through traffic, and want to eat close to the venue. But there just aren’t that many places to eat at, especially for vegans!
We’ve tried George’s Gyros (generic falafels and hummus, but not horrible), Inside The Bungalow (has some vegan food, but when we’ve tried going there for dinner they haven’t been serving food – that may have changed though?), Mangos Mexican Café (okay in a pinch, but kind of iffy), and El Charro (classic Mexican food and such a cute place, but no doubt full of lard). There’s also a Subway and a Taco Bell, but that doesn’t count as vegan dining – that’s just emergency food.
During our last trip, we finally made it to a Thai restaurant we’ve had our eye on that looked promising – Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine. We arrived about an hour before our event, and every table was full. That was both a good and bad sign – good because a lot of people liked the restaurant. Bad because it seemed like a lot of people were waiting on service. The menu offered tofu as an option for almost every dish, so that also gave us hope.
We started with an order of Crispy Spring Rolls.
We would normally get the Fresh Rolls, but they had shrimp in them. That should have been a warning to us. The crispy rolls were fine and perfectly vegan, and ultimately the highlight of the meal.
Our next dish was a Papaya salad (Som Tom).
The menu described it as “Shredded green papaya and carrots, tomatoes, string beans and roasted peanuts tossed in spicy lime juice with chopped garlic and chili.” What the menu neglected to mention was that the dish also included fish sauce. I took one bite and wanted to wretch. I’ve never had a papaya salad with fish sauce in it before, so it was a total shock.
For our main entree, we ordered the Evil Jungle Princess (Pad Ka) with tofu.
The dish was tofu sautéed in coconut milk with galangal root, lemon grass, lime leaves, mushrooms (which we had them leave out), onions and spicy lime sauce. Despite being named “evil” it was actually quite bland. I had specifically ordered it with no fish sauce, knowing that most Thai restaurants use it by default in entrees (but not salads!). However, it still tasted slightly fishy to me. It could have been the lingering effects of the salad though. The tofu was either too soft or under-cooked, and there were hardly any veggies at all. I ate enough to quell the hunger, but was really bummed as I said “never again” to my husband.
So, scratch that one from the list of options in downtown Mesa as well. Please, someone, tell me where we can eat down there! We still have two National Geographic shows to go to in the next few months! The other place I’ve had my eye on is the Blue Adobe Grille, but the menu online doesn’t give me much hope for vegan options. Has anyone tried it?