Daphe's Greek Cafe
Locations in Arizona and California
Review based on a visit to the following location:
3510 Baseline Rd
NW corner of Baseline & Val Vista
Mesa AZ 85204
A hike in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix this morning took me farther into the reaches of suburbia than I usually travel. Coming back after a pretty intensive five-and-a-half miles, I was looking for a good lunch in an area of Mesa that is dominated by chains. I remembered seeing a Greek restaurant called Daphne's a few months ago and decided that today was the day to try it.
Daphne's is the type of restaurant known as "fast casual." Customers order at the counter, receive cards with the order numbers, and then take a seat. Shortly afterward, the food is delivered to the table. I was impressed upon entering Daphne's with three things: the colorful decor, the cleanliness of the dining room, and the friendly greeting that was proferred before I even reached the counter.
I reviewed the laminated menu and decided on the veggie combo plate ($8.50) as a quick and efficient means to sample several appealing items. Wanting to continue the healthful vibe of my morning of hiking, I ordered a bottle of orange juice ($1.75) to wash it all down. As I claimed a table, I was impressed that the tables were already set with high-quality paper napkins and steel utensils. This was a nice step up from napkins dispensers and plastic utensils.
The combo plate arrived promptly and featured a nicely arranged mixture of falafel, spanokopita, dolmas, salad, rice, hummus, tzatziki, and pita bread. The falafel was a little unusual in that it was disc-shaped rather than spherical. The taste and texture were reasonably good, but not as compelling as at my favorite Israeli and Lebanese restaurants. There was nothing wrong with the falafel, but it did not have the pronounced cumin flavor and the fresh-out-of-the-fryer feeling I crave. It was adequate as part of a combo plate but probably not worth ordering on its own.
The spanokopita seemed a little oily. The spinach and cheese inside were tasty, but the pastry was only average. Dolmas were also adequate but could have used a bit more lemony zing. The Greek salad was like any other: crisp lettuce with bits of feta, tomato, cucumber, and a few olives for good measure.
The two spreads on the platter, hummus and tzatziki, both had excellent texture. They were smooth and creamy without being too viscous. As with the dolmas and falafel, both could have benefited from more pronounced flavors, especially garlic and lemon. The pitas used to scoop these dips were a good renditions of what I would consider "food-court-Greek" pitas. They were thick and had no pocket for stuffing, but were quite tasty on their own terms.
The one item at Daphne's that most impressed me was the rice. It was served in a yellow pilaf with a slight lemony pilaf. I was pleased that the pilaf was not overloaded with salt like so many I've tried.
I finished most of the combo plate and ended up full but not stuffed. Portion size was not as excessive as at many restaurants in this category. For the most part, I liked, but did not love, the food at Daphne's. Nothing I tried was poorly prepared, but several of the items needed more assertive flavors. Daphne's may be deliberating underplaying strong flavors in order to succeed in suburban locations in which chain restaurants are the norm. I am not likely to make a special trip for Daphne's, especially since the Phoenix area locations are all far from both my house and my office, but I would eat there again if in the neighborhood.
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