Exploding Asian scene transforming west Mesa

Not everyone can afford to go to Vietnam, China or Thailand. But an exploding multicultural Asian scene in the city of Mesa offers the next best thing.

An area encompassing a few square miles of west Mesa has mushroomed in the past two years with dozens of new Asian bistros, mega grocery stores, boba and shaved snow cafes, and other businesses.

Expect the boom to continue. New places are popping up fast, business owners are talking to city officials about designating the area as an Asian cultural district, and Valley Metro and the city are studying a proposal for light rail or bus rapid transit here.  

“West Mesa is fast emerging as the quintessential destination for the Asian dining and shopping experience in the greater Phoenix metro area,” Mesa Economic Development Director Bill Jabjiniak said. “It has become a destination that is drawing clientele from across the Valley and from all sectors of the community to shop and dine in West Mesa.”

This multicultural experience is transforming an area once known for its lackluster mix of industrial lots, vacant stores, and eyesore properties.

Today, there are 40 Asian restaurants, shops and service businesses in the area near Dobson Road between Main Street and Broadway Road, Jabjiniak said. One, the Korean Asiana Market recently expanded and moved into a larger location in the area. Others are coming in like the mega Korean grocery store chain, H Mart, that is planning its first Arizona store here.   

Attribute a growing Asian population and two entrepreneurs for the activity. Peter Quach and Jim Lai co-own two of the most successful multicultural destinations in the Valley, Mekong Plaza at 66 S. Dobson Road and the AZ International Marketplace at 1920 W. Broadway Road. Huge supermarkets at each location act as anchors for ethnic restaurants and shops.

The two men have a knack for taking undesirable properties and turning them into gold. Other businesses follow. Quach opened his first supermarket in California in 1991. He and Lai became partners and started opening international markets together.

In Mesa, the multicultural influx started a decade ago with the Mekong Plaza moving into a vacant Target encompassing 100,000 square feet. Named after the Mekong River that runs through several countries including China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand, the mall houses the large Mekong Market and Mekong Palace restaurant, a food court, small restaurants, boba and shaved snow cafes, and other shops and businesses.

For the first few years, the plaza struggled. Today, there’s a waiting list of businesses wanting to lease, said Steven Diep, the property manager.

Diep also leases the nearby 180,000 square-foot AZ International Marketplace mall. It opened two years ago to take in the overflow from Mekong Plaza. More than half of the space is consumed by a huge supermarket that carries groceries and household items from almost every continent. The accompanying mall is about to be filled to capacity and has a waiting list as well, Diep said.

The appeal is simple and comes down to the taste of home.

“There aren’t any chain restaurants,” Diep explains. “They are all family-owned. A lot of these restaurants have their family recipes they brought from their country. That’s probably the biggest reason why we are doing so well, the authenticity of the food.”

Victoria Harker


  • Very interesting article about Mesa. I never knew all these things existed there.
    Makes me want to visit the area.

  • This spot is home to my favorite Asian restaurant, Asian Cafe Express. Love the food, love the people there, love the prices. If you haven’t been, go!

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