Cafe Istanbul Hookah Lounge serves up authentic Middle Eastern on-the-go

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Before you even enter Cafe Istanbul Hookah Lounge, you can smell the wonderfulness wafting out from inside. A local business and a staple within the Middle Eastern community, their menu is expansive, homemade and delicious.

Located next to the Apache and Dorsey Light Rail stop, it’s an ideal place to grab authentic Middle Eastern food before getting on the train.

The Apache Boulevard location is actually their second location in Tempe. Their original spot was on Rural Road and University Drive, but the Apache location has now been open for over a decade. Owner Randa Ayashe says they still get customers who thought they were long gone, but simply didn’t know they changed locations.

“A lot of people we know from over there we have known since they use to go to school, but now they are married and have kids. It’s really nice to see,” she says.

The business is run within the family and Ayashe says she plans on leaving it to her son, Ali, who already manages the shop and takes care of the business side. But Ayashe is always at the restaurant and everyone that steps in is happy to see her.

“It’s my second home,” she says. “We are here from morning to evening.”

Café Istanbul is the kind of place where everyone knows your name and being a loyal customer makes for a warm dining experience. Patrons come in and greet the staff by their names and it’s clear that they are comfortable in the space.

A hot-spot for lunch in Tempe, the café no long has a lunch buffet. Instead, they have four specials daily for lunch that are in the $7 to $8 range and change daily. They have lamb, chicken and fish on the menu but their items range widely. This is also the best spot to take anyone with dietary restrictions. They have menu items to satisfy Kosher, and Halal and vegetarian diets.

Ayashe recommends the Shawrma, grilled lemon chicken, fish served in garlic lemon and basil sauce, and their chicken curry, which she acknowledges is Indian cuisine but still very tasty.

Café Istanbul has a great atmosphere for getting homework done with free Wi-Fi and ample room for study groups to sprawl out.

There is a hookah lounge upstairs separate from the dining area as well as a patio outside not to disturb those eating. So if you are a hookah aficionado or simply like to dabble in it as a hobby, Café Istanbul has a massive selection of anything and everything you might need.

You can sample a variety of shisha as they carry Middle Eastern and Turkish tobacco and stock Al Fakhar, Splash & Sultan brands of tobacco. They are also your one-stop for any personal hookahs you might have. They not only sell full hookahs but have replacement pieces if you happened to be too clumsy with your own.

Cafe Istanbul Hookah Lounge, 1310 E. Apache Boulevard, Suite101, Tempe, 480.731.9499, cafeistanbulandhookah.com

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