Note: Prices in the review below are from the dinner menu, which is in effect after 4 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. Prices for many of the same items are lower on the weekday lunch menu.
6949 E Shea Boulevard, #10
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
For years, the corner of University and Hardy in Tempe has been a favorite location for lunch. Four restaurants – Cafe Lalibela, Cornish Pasty Company, Rosita’s, and Sabuddy -- offered economical meals from around the world. Last fall I arrived one day at University and Hardy to meet a friend for lunch at Sabuddy, the Israeli component of the global foursome mentioned above. Unfortunately, we found Sabuddy closed with a note on the door explaining that it had relocated to Scottsdale.
The new Scottsdale location was not a surprise. In fact, it had been rumored for months. Still, I had expected the Scottsdale location to supplement, rather than replace, the original site in Tempe. It turned out that the owner decided that he would maintain only one location, and the newer site near Scottsdale and Shea would be Sabuddy’s home from now on. That decision knocked Sabuddy off my lunch list since Scottsdale is too far from my office. It did, however, create a new opportunity to visit Sabuddy nights and weekends since Scottsdale and Shea is closer to my home than the Tempe site.
It took longer than I expected to make it to Sabuddy’s new location. My first attempt was on Yom Kippur, a day when an Israeli restaurant would understandably be closed – even if I was clumsily unaware of the holiday. After a few false starts, the falafel cravings got the best of us, and my wife and I finally reconnected with our old friend in its new home.
The new space occupied by Sabuddy is in a modern, non-descript strip mall on the south side of Shea, a few blocks west of Scottsdale Road. There is a sign visible from Shea, but customers need to park behind the strip mall and enter from the back of the building. Although the new Sabuddy is a little tricky to find, the new space is a definite improvement over Tempe. The room is bigger than at the old site with larger tables and a more spacious feel.
Sabuddy is an Israeli restaurant. This does not mean a kosher restaurant, but instead a restaurant that serves food that is popular in contemporary Israel. Many of the dishes are the same as one would find at Middle Eastern restaurants under Lebanese or other Arabic ownership. Falafel, tabouleh, hummus, baba ghanoush, and lentil soup are all familiar items from dozens of Middle Eastern restaurants around town. Sabuddy executes all of these favorites well and throws in some Eastern European touches for good measure, reflecting the melting pot of modern Israel.
During a recent lunch outing, we began with cups of lentil soup ($3.50). Lentil soup is a food that a thousand restaurants can prepare a thousand ways, and Sabuddy’s version has its own nice touches. The soup is made from green lentils and is pureed. It is extra thick and dappled with chunks of potato. The result is a soup hardy enough to be a meal in itself if ordered by the bowl ($5) with some pita bread.
Our shared entrée was a falafel dinner ($10), consisting of four falafel balls, hummus, an Israeli salad, and pita bread. The falafel dinner is only one of many ways to enjoy falafel at Sabuddy. Other options include the falafel sandwich ($8) or the combination dinner ($12), which augments the falafel dinner with the choice of one additional appetizer such as baba ghanoush or tabouleh. Customers can even order individual falafel balls ($.70) to accessorize anything else they order.
Regardless of how it is presented, the falafel is among the best I’ve ever had. The balls are moist and fresh but not at all greasy. The flavors are distinctive with a touch of cumin. I would say that the falafel at Sabuddy is the best I’ve had in the Phoenix area and ranks alongside that served at the legendary Mamoun’s in New York, where I first learned to love falafel many years ago.
Although my interests lie primarily in the meatless items at Sabuddy, meat-loving dining companions have been pleased during recent visits. During one evening visit at the new location, a member of our party raved about the lamb stew ($17), which is served over rice with vegetables and pita bread. Another friend swears by the shawarma plate ($12), which features rotisserie chicken with hummus, Israeli salad, and pita.
If there is anything about Sabuddy that disappoints me, it is the baklava ($2.50). It is elegantly plated but has been dry and crumbly each time I have sampled it. I have learned to satisfy my baklava craving elsewhere. A better dessert option is the chocolate mousse ($5), which, although not particularly exotic, is well executed.
The beverage selection includes sodas, bottled juices such as mango and guava, coffee, and tea. There is also a small, but generally high-quality, selection of wine and beer. On a recent visit, I tried a Lithuanian beer that seemed to go well with the cumin flavors in the falafel.
Service is friendly and efficient. Not surprisingly, the new location seems to be drawing a lot more families with children, who are generally welcomed by the staff.
Thinking about the four restaurants mentioned earlier at University and Hardy, I’m pleased that the other three continue to thrive in Tempe, offering me good lunch options close to my office on the Phoenix / Tempe border. As for Sabuddy, I’m now enjoying it for leisurely meals on weekends.