Monday, March 15, 2010

Three Inexpensive Restaurants for Sushi, Greek, and Dim Sum

One thing I love about living in a fairly large city is that there is usually a wide variety of restaurants for each cuisine. So if you feel like eating on the cheap, but have a craving for something that's usually somewhat expensive, you can usually find a good compromise between cheap and food poisoning. Here are three of my/our go-to favorites when it comes to great, cheap ethic (is Chinese really ethnic nowadays?).

Teharu Sushi
9845 South Priest Drive, Tempe, AZ 85284-3606

(480) 705-9865

My love of sushi is well-known. Along with Thai and Vietnamese, I could eat sushi everyday. Generally if you want good sushi, you'll be paying upwards of $30 per person. For me, that's on the low end, as our infrequent trips to Hana Japanese Eatery on 7th Ave/Missouri generally run over $70 before tax and tip. Their food is always amazing, though, and even going once a quarter or so, they always remember us. I'd read about TeHaru Sushi in Tempe and after our good friend The Cosmic Jester mentioned what a great deal it was, I decided to give it a try. I now go at least once every couple of weeks. They have a huge sushi bar, with booths as well, through which a conveyor belt winds it's way. The conveyor belt carries plates with nigiri, maki, desserts, fruits, drinks, and random other items. The price of each item is denoted by the color of the plate it is on. Costs are $1, $1.50, and $2.00. Maki comes in essentially half-rolls with four pieces. The nigiri is generally $1 ($1.50 for more exotic pieces) and comes with two pieces to a plate. You don't get the super-sized pieces of fish some places serve, but I find the fish to rice ratio is pretty good. If I want huge hunks of fish with tiny pieces of rice, I just opt for sashimi instead. The variety is also quite large and the selection varies. On my visit this weekend, they had tuna, yellowtail, red snapper, salmon, surf clam, tamago, krab stick, and some other type of nigiri. The rolls included Hawaiian, Philly, California, Dragon, Caterpillar, tuna, spicy tuna, I Love Salmon, Rainbow, and a few others. The quality isn't what you get at a top sushi joint, but it's still pretty good, especially for the money. I've never spent more than $20 on my solo visits and I've never left hungry.

Z's Greek
4026 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
(602) 955-7600

Z's Greek is our place for Greek-ish food. Tara usually gets a chicken schwarma sandwich combo and I get the gyro sandwich combo. Z's also has our favorite hummus, so we get an order of that as well. The combos come with either fries or salad and a drink. The fries are average, but the salad is great. It's loaded with feta, which Tara loves, and is big for a side salad. The sandwiches, the meat, tomatoes (which we skip), lettuce, onions, and sauce wrapped in a pita, are quite large. For our standard order, it is about $21 or so. Given the large amount of really good food, it's quite a steal.

China Chan
10227 North Metro Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85051-1515
(602) 331-1313

I've loved a good Chinese dim sum ever since my college friends introduced it to me in Boston's Chinatown. The hustle and bustle of the old Imperial Tea House with carts rolling everywhere, various Chinese dialects being shouted, and long waits fill my memory. My friend Trang would do the ordering, as she was more familiar and knew what would be good for me and what innocuous looking item would send me running to the bathroom. Pot stickers, shumai, bbq pork buns, and the others soon seduced me to the wonders of dim sum. I've since had dim sum in Montreal, NYC's Chinatown, and Oakland, among others. The dim sum fortunes of various Phoenix restaurants have waxed and waned over the past few years. Our former favorite Golden Buddha suffered a massive decline and our last visits a couple years ago ended in cold food, pitiful selection, and a trip to El Nopalito since we were still hungry. And that visit was a noon on a Saturday. Last year we heard from our friends Jan and Helen of a great dim sum near MetroCenter mall. It was a small place but the dim sum was fresh, hot, and cheap. China Chan is located next to an Olive Garden on MetroCenter Drive just south of Peoria Ave. They don't have cart service and you order your selections off of a menu (they even offer a picture menu). The up side of this is everything arrives hot from the kitchen. The spring rolls are notorious for needing to sit for 15 minutes to cool down before you can eat them. They don't have the huge selection of a Phoenix Palace or Great Wall, but we accept the trade-off for fresh, hot food. Plus they are cheap. $1.88, $2.88, and up for the larger items. That's a lot less than most places and the savings adds up when you stick to the lower cost items. We can stuff ourselves and have leftovers for $20. Even our group outings with 4 or 5 people are laughably cheap.

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