- 3502 E. Grant Road, Tucson, AZ, 85716
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. restaurant closed but the market is open
What we ordered: one lamb shawarma plate ($10.95) and one falafel plate ($8.25) for a total of $19.20, just short of our Cheap Eats goal of $20 for two people. (Soft drinks come free with the plates.)
Comments: Nothing makes vegetarianism more appealing than a big ball of falafel. If done right, the heavenly mixture of fried fava or garbanzo beans can make meat seem almost irrelevant. Unfortunately, Tork’s Café’s lamb is just as good.
Owner Khalifa Turki, a native of Libya, is an excellent cook. He’s been preparing his falafel and other dishes from scratch since the mid-‘80s, when he graduated from the University of Arizona.
Atmosphere: Tork’s sits in a quaint little building in a relatively forgettable shopping center on Grant Road. Unless you know about it already, you’re probably not going to just walk in here by chance. The décor, with bold sky blue walls and little ethnic knick-knacks all over, is simple but bare. On our visit, there was absolutely no music and nobody in the restaurant, creating an uncomfortable silence that forces you to whisper (even though nobody can hear you).
Food: If you get past this, the food is amazing. The hummus, which came with both plates, was some of the best I’ve ever had: It had a slight “tangy” taste that was quite unique. On my falafel plate, it was paired with a similar-looking eggplant dip, which was a bit mushier and saltier, but very flavorful as well. I also had the option of getting rice. Both of our plates came with pita bread and a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes and a homemade dressing of lemon, garlic and oregano. For under $10 a person, it was quite a bit of food.
As for the main event, both of the entrees were spectacular. I love eating lamb at restaurants, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it so juicy and tender as it was here. It was almost like a different kind of meat: gently shredded, generously seasoned and so light it could be cut with a fork. The meat had been tossed with grilled onions and plopped on a bed of yellow rice. It tasted great with the pita and hummus.
The falafel was also some of the best I’ve ever had. It seems so simple to make, but there really are a lot of ways to screw falafel up. If it isn't seasoned enough, or is rolled too densely, the ball will end up tasting like a big bland hunk of breading. This garbanzo bean falafel was phenomenal: crispy, light and extremely flavorful, with shreds of green parsley giving it a punch.
Service: On our visit, we were served by the owner, but paid at the counter.
Extras: Tork’s also has a Middle Eastern market, where they sell lentils, pastas, nuts and more.
Bottom line: In a small city overflowing with foodies, Tork’s really is one of the last undiscovered gems. There’s no reason to keep it a secret, though—this place deserves all the business it can handle.