Our Canadian friend, Richard, who is staying in our casita for the winter, wanted Mediterranean food for our lunch in mid-February 2023. So I picked Sinbad’s by the University in Tucson. As it turned out, this place had mixed reviews. First, it was cold outside and still colder inside. Second, they don’t serve alcohol, not even beer and wine. Third, the service was fine, when we occasionally got some. In between these three negatives, the food was excellent.
First, there was a pot of hot tea to be shared by my dining companions, Neighbors Roy, Richard, and his wife Wendy. they all pronounced it exquisite. I ordered a Coke. It was just a Coke, OK but nothing special. Then Neighbor Roy ordered a cup of Yellow Lentil Soup ($5.00). As it was nearly freezing indoors, we all understood why he ordered something hot. Richard and Wendy both ordered the same Mediterranean plate: Lamb Shish Kabob ($17.00). Wendy gave me a bite of hers and it was tender and delicious. Excellent sauce. Neighbor Roy ordered their Arabic Shawarma Wrap ($9.00). I ordered the Arabic Shawarma Plate ($15.00). This was bits of beef steak on a bed of rice, with a Greek Salad and a couple of cucumber slices. It came with a basket of Pita bread and hummus. A very fine and filling meal.
I let Roy tell you about his experience.
“This weekend at the request of our Canadian friends for a visit to a Middle Eastern restaurant, we visited the Sinbad’s Restaurant just outside the main gate of the U of A. We were the only clients inside–there may have been diners outside. The restaurant was empty and rather plain in decor but very clean. Our waitress gave us extensive menus and provided water, and when some of our party requested alcohol she told us that she was Muslim and could not touch the bottles. She also told us that she had lost her husband to COVID and was still in mourning. We expressed our condolences and proceeded to order. As the restaurant was cold, I ordered a bowl of soup and a lamb roll. I also ordered tea. Their tea choices were extensive. In my case, the three of us ordered tea in a pot. My soup arrived shortly and it was hot, quite good for a cold and windy outside weather.”
“Our pot of tea arrived with its own warmer, individual glass tea cups, and a warmer to keep the tea hot. Three of us shared the tea and we all thought it was quite good. Now began a l-o-n-g wait for our main courses. There seemed to be a problem with the kitchen staff, the restaurant was not crowded–in any event, my lunch arrived–it was a wrap composed of a lot of meat and veggies–quite good with new tastes for my palette.”
“Rating this restaurant presents some problems. It is clean, good location near the U of A with its cosmopolitan population, and given it was lunchtime–it should have been packed as were the other restaurants in the area.
The serving problem could be easily solved, given that its location to appropriate staff is near, the religious problem could be solved in the same manner. There is always a pool of staff in a college area, and serving alcohol is no problem for non-Muslims. While the food and tea were quite good, the l-o-n-g waits are a problem for potential customers. So, I could only give Sinbad a 3-Saguaros rating–might put it on a list of “review again” restaurants.”
Richard also has his say here.
“Host Jim, Friend Roy and Wendy and I went for lunch to Sinbad’s, a Mediterranean food restaurant on University Avenue. The menu was primarily Arabic (more specifically Iraqi), with some Turkish offerings.”
“Sinbad’s does not serve alcohol, so we tried a pot of Iraqi tea spiced with cardamom. The pot was presented on a burner to keep the tea warm. This was the first time we had tried anything with cardamom. It was delicious and turned out to be a great compliment to our meals.”
“Wendy and I had the lamb shish kebab prepared with onions and parsley, served with rice, hummus and salad. The lamb was tender and tasty; the hummus delicious (so much so that Wendy ordered a serving to take home); the salad fresh and crispy. And it came with a tasty tzatziki sauce (yoghurt, garlic and cucumber). One of the best we’ve had.” -kr: Richard knows tzatziki.
“Roy started with a lentil soup – he practically picked up and licked the bowl clean. He followed this with an Arabic Shawarma; sirloin steak, marinated in shawarma spices, sauteed with onions, wrapped in pita bread and served with rice and salad. Roy thoroughly enjoyed it and was taken by how much beef they were able to stuff into that pita pocket.”
Jim had the larger Shawarma plate and enjoyed every mouthful.
It all came with a generously filled basket of tasty pita bread.
For dessert, we had 4 pieces of tasty, warmed baklava, dripping with honey – mmmmm.
The food was great and reasonably priced. The service was slow, especially given that the restaurant was not terribly busy.
But man, it was worth the wait.”
So, how do I rate Sinbad’s? Certainly service was a big problem. But the food was delicious and plentiful. And the Baklava was excellent. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Baklava. Consequently, I award Sinbad’s with three and a half Saguaros. If the service and the room temperature had been just fine, I’d give it at least four.
Miss Karen’s Two Cents
Miss Karen here: I did not go to this restaurant. I was doing the taxes. Cold, I am not a fan of, but I would like to go there in warmer days. I conclude from this review that there are several customs being observed here. It is possible that as well as not serving liquor, whose licensing would be expensive, the heat may be a conservation effort as well as the lack of staff in an underappreciated restaurant. “Chicken or egg?”
And the service? Well, I recall years ago, going to an “Authentic” Moroccan restaurant in San Francisco where we sat on pillows on the floor, the tea was poured from 3 feet away without spilling a drop, and the food was eaten with one’s fingers. The dinner was leisurely, as it should have been given the expense. Perhaps in some cultures, meals are meant to be savored. We “Americans are used to prompt service. We give points for that. Even us retired folks who have nothing better to do than enjoy a leisurely lunch. Just sayin.
Oh, and PS, those items on the fireplace are Hookahs. From the reviews, apparently, this is a hookah bar as well. I guess that does not have to be regulated like booze. Perhaps that is why there is outside “dining”.
810 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85719
Hours: 11 AM to 9:30 PM daily except Sunday 4 PM to 10 PM.