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10 Best Restaurants in Tempe: From College Hangouts to Global Eats



Part college town, part urban destination, Tempe is conveniently situated at the crossroads of Phoenix and Scottsdale. The city is one of the top foodie destinations in metropolitan Phoenix, home of eclectic student-centric hang outs, authentic ethnic eateries, bar and grills, and chic sidewalk cafes.

One of our top picks in Tempe is the venerable House of Tricks. Located on a quiet street on the outskirts of busy Mill Avenue, Tricks (as the locals call it) serves gourmet New American fare in beautifully restored historic home and outdoor patio.

Tempe is also home to one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the Phoenix metro area, Cafe Lalibela. The casually elegant dining room at Cafe Lalibela is the perfect place to experience a savory and authentic communal meal.

For a power lunch that doesn't skimp on fresh ingredients and flavors, or a romantic night out, La Bocca Urban Pizzeria & Wine delivers great hand-tossed pizzas and an eclectic wine list.

You'll find one of the best Thai restaurants in the Phoenix Metro region in Tempe: Yupha's Thai Kitchen, our top pick. The restaurant combines exotic, impeccably clean decor and design with a menu full of mouth-watering Thai classics. 

 

Finally, fresh local flavors come alive at Desert Roots Kitchen, a vegetarian cafe that even diehard carnivores will love. 


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Phoenicia Cafe is Tempe's favorite Middle Eastern restaurant. Located next door to a temple at the perimeter of Tempe's busy Mill Avenue district, this is a busy lunch spot with the college crowd and local workers. All appetizers are top-notch, including the hummus, baba ganoush, dolmas, spinach pie, and tabouli salad. Popular entrees include schwarmas, gyros and the falafal deluxe plate, a pita stuffed with falafel, tahini and hummus, and garnished with a salad. Guests seeking lighter fare will enjoy the greek salad, fattoush salad and garden salad. There are also various vegetable and fruit juices on the drink menu.




If you're looking for a fast casual spot to enjoy healthy yet tasty fare, don't miss Hummus Express when you're in Tempe. This small, stylish spot offers a huge selection of fresh ingredients and authentic flavors. Ordering is simple enough: choose from a pita, bowl, salad or plate, then customize it with your choice of white or wheat pita, one or two proteins, toppings and sauce. Protein options include Lebanese falafel, marinated cubed chicken, gyro, Aleppo beef, and a vegetarian or vegan protein. Once all the ingredients have been added, what's left is a hearty selection made fresh from start to finish.




Desert Roots Kitchen is a vegan and vegetarian cafe tucked away in a colorful alley in downtown Tempe. Chef and owner Leslie Robin, a vegan for more than a decade, dishes out hearty and delicious vegetarian and vegan cuisine featuring fresh ingredients sourced from local farms. The menu changes frequently but often features pasta salads, rice and bean dishes, vegetarian tamales, vegetarian chili, soups, mixed greens, hummus, and an array of vegetarian deli items. Deli meals are prepared and ready for voracious diners. Only covered outdoor seating available, but there's plenty of shade to be had for an enjoyable, healthy and delicious lunch.


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Cafe Lalibela


Cafe Lalibela is an award-winning Tempe Ethiopian restaurant. Casual yet elegant, the cafe elevates the standard lunch and dinner meal into an exotic culinary experience. The menu features a large selection of authentic Ethiopian cuisine with many vegetarian and non-vegetarian selections. You'll find excellent takes on staples like injera and wat. Injerah (pronounced in-jeer-ah), is a spongy, crepe-like bread with a flavor profile akin to sourdough bread. Another Ethiopian staple is wate, a sauce made from meat, vegetables or a combination of both. Meals are eaten by tearing a piece of injera and scooping up the wat. Communal in nature, most meals are served on a large platter, with several types of wat placed on top of a large piece of injera.




The Dhaba is Tempe's destination for authentic Punjabi Indian food. The menu specializes in food from the state of Punjab and the rich culinary influences from the regions of Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan. The restaurant's menu echoes the traditional "dhabas," traditional local restaurants located along the highways in India and Pakistan. The menu is bursting with rich, robust flavors. Popular items on the dinner menu include the Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) and Chicken Tikka Masala. Food is cooked to your spice specifications, and the expansive menu should have something to suit every preference.




This casually upscale Italian neighborhood restaurant has the kind of cozy, intimate atmosphere that can be hard to find among more popular chain eateries. Hand-crafted wood furnishings, exposed brick and framed family photos throughout the restaurant contribute to the overall sense of warmth and tradition that you'll find at VinciTorio's. Stop by the sleek Enoteca Wine Bar for a pre-dinner drink. With over one hundred wines on the menu, there is no shortage of choices. The restaurant's menu features handmade pastas and daily specials. All sauces are made fresh in-house. If that wasn't enough, there is free live music on most weekends.




La Bocca Urban Pizzeria & Wine is located in the heart of downtown Tempe, a short stroll away from the metro light rail station. The Mediterranean-inspired menu specializes in creative hand-tossed pizzas, specialty salads, bruschetta planks, house-made sangrias, hand-crafted cocktails and, of course, an impressive wine list. What helps this chic bistro stand out is its emphasis on local ingredients and made to order freshness. Perfect for a business lunch, date night, or late night dining, La Bocca Urban Pizzeria & Wine offers indoor dining as well as an attractive outdoor patio for al fresco dining. Large parties are welcome.




Savor the joys of an authentic Cornish pasty (pronounced pass-tee) without even having to jet off across the pond. The Cornish pasty is a traditional English comfort food featuring a variety of meats, veggies and cheeses, all stuffed into a pastry pocket. The pasty gets a twist at the Cornish Pasty Company, where diners can choose from an extensive menu of signature, premium, and vegetarian pasties. Try the Oggie, the traditional Cornish pasty made with steak, potatoes, onion, rutabaga, and served with a side of red wine gravy or ketchup. Pasty lovers will enjoy exploring the diverse menu, which also features Mexican, Italian, Greek, and Indian variations on this English classic. The large veggie pasty menu has made this a favorite stopping point for vegetarian foodies.




Two fireplaces, antique furnishings, and tables positioned to offer the utmost privacy adorn various rooms at House of Tricks, evoking an inviting, home-like ambiance. Dining on the terrace is a delightful experience, thanks to tables set under a trellised garden, just a few steps from a bar built around two trees. The menu capitalizes on Asian, French, and Mediterranean flavors and ingredients, combining them in dishes like peach butter-stuffed chicken, grilled Scottish salmon with couscous salad, tamarind-glazed seared duck breast, and seared ahi with baby bok choy. Perfect for a special evening with friends, special occasions, and of course, date night.




Yupha's Thai Kitchen has quickly earned a reputation for being the best Thai restaurant in Tempe. It's easy to see why. Traditional Thai dishes are served here with modern flair and fresh ingredients. The ambiance is sophisticated yet not stuffy, and the decor is exotic and modern. Some menu favorites include drunken noodles, flat noodles served with chicken, onions, bell peppers, Napa cabbage and tomato. It's sweet, savory and simply delicious. The panang curry offers medium heat, coconut milk, red bell peppers and a bowl of rice on the side. For lunch, enjoy great lunch specials that include a salad.


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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.

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