After the crazy busy week I just had, the last thing I wanted to do this weekend was cook. At all. And instead of eating cereal and rice cakes for every meal, I opted for going out to eat at one of my favorites, Haji-Baba. My husband Zach is the one who introduced me to this Middle Eastern restaurant months ago, knowing I was going to love it. The place inside is half restaurant, half Middle Eastern imported goods store, which is easily one of my favorite things.
I think it’s so fun walking through the aisles of the store side looking at all of the different cookies, candies, cheeses, and spices. It almost made me want to buy some of it and go home and cook! Key word: almost. Interesting fact: the place has been around for years, and is right down the street from my family’s favorite Pho restaurant that we went to a lot growing up. What are the odds! All these years and I had no idea it was just around the corner until now.
The food here is the best! I feel like it’s like a healthier version of classic comfort food, so you don’t have to feel so guilty about eating a day’s worth of calories in a slice of pizza or a bowl of pasta. I’ve tried a few different plates here, but I usually get the Chicken Shawarma plate. Because you know what they say, when something ain’t broke don’t fix it. Plus it’s everything I love that would come in their gyros but it’s all laid out for me on a plate to mix and match how I want to.
The plate comes with chicken shawarma, tabouli, basmati rice, hummus, pita bread, and the most amazing garlic sauce. In my opinion, there’s such a great range of flavors on this plate and they pair very well together. They cook their chicken on a spit rotisserie-style, so it’s slow roasted and seasoned very evenly. I love mixing it with different combinations of the other foods on the plate. Their tabouli is so dang fresh and the parsley and lemon in it is a great palette cleanser for that intense garlic sauce. The hummus is so creamy, and topped with a hefty drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika.
I decided to spring for some of their homemade baklava as well, because why the heck not. They’ve got cashew, almond, walnut, pistachio, and pecan baklavas and I went with the classic pistachio. Their baklava is flaky, not too sweet, and has a good amount of honey to make it light but chewy.
This will always be one of my go-to places, one of those places in my repertoire that I can depend on and recommend to others without hesitation. It’s casual and convenient, but fresh and filling. I also always leave with leftovers for another meal, which is nice for those weekends like this one where you don’t want to make a fuss in the kitchen.
Zach and I joke because each time we come here, we both only finish half of our meals and leave with collectively one full meal, so it really would make the most sense to share one plate. And we’re fully aware of that. But we just can’t manage to share a meal because we’re both apparently greedy and want the leftovers. The more, the merrier! Haji-Baba happens to be close to Arizona State University too so if you’re ever visiting or just in the area, give it a try! Tell them Michelle sent you, although they won’t know who that is.
Haji-Baba (1513 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ //480.894.1905)