People have funny ways of communicating deliciousness. Our friend Rachael’s eyes bulge as she stares at you in silence, thoughtfully liquidating her food like a cow chewing its cud. My mom slaps her hand on the table so hard that the silverware clanks and jumps, and then she says, “Y’all gotta try this” in a way that suggests your very life depends on it. My wife Erin’s reaction, however, is the scariest, as I remembered during our last trip to the always delicious Aromas Café in Barracks. More about her reaction below.
Aromas participates in the tradition of “strip mall chic” that restaurants like Lime Leaf and Copacabana – not to mention every restaurant in Phoenix AZ – have made the most of. Barracks Road is not the first place that comes to mind when you’re looking for a meal on the town, but Aromas is a worthwhile destination restaurant and more than worthy of lunch when you have to be in Barracks for other reasons. Avoid the interior café if you can, as the sidewalk tables are much nicer. In any event, the engaging and hospitable owner will do his best to make you comfortable.
Of course, the only thing that needs mentioning is the quality of food. Every meal I’ve had there has been above average, and the last was our best yet. The extremely knowledgeable and friendly waiter directed us to the gazpacho to start – a summer menu special – and the lamb tagine to follow. It was upon tasting this silkily delicious, explosively flavorful gazpacho that Erin showed the face that I like to call hyena-stalks-gazelle. She leans in, brandishes her fork, and fixes her gaze on the dish with such grave intensity that the food practically retreats off the plate. Innocent enough when it’s her own dish. When it’s yours she’s hunting, you have to protect it. Fortunately for me, she is not as big a fan of lamb as I am, so my tagine – a rich savory tomato-lentil base with lamb sausage, drizzled with a bright citric yogurt sauce – was mine all mine.
For dessert, there are different varieties of baklava on offer, but we went with the classic and were not disappointed. Not too sweet, not too big, not too small, the perfect few bites to smooth over the saltiness of your entrée.
I’ve heard people try to argue that one or the other Mediterranean restaurant is the best in town. For me, Aroma wins hands-down. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me. Or just take a gander at all the crazy-delicious expressions on diners’ faces as you walk by.
Erin says: “This hyena has never had a bad dish at Aromas, but the summer gazpacho is one of the best things I’ve eaten this year.”
Rating: Erin: Jed:
Pros: Delicious food with quality ingredients, friendly staff, outdoor seating.
Cons: Strip mall location
Price: Appetizers $6-11, Sandwiches $7-8, Entrees $12-14
Parking: Plenty in Barracks
Website and menus: aromascafecville.com