The Best Local Restaurants in Tempe, Arizona

Downtown is home to some of the best restaurants in Tempe, Arizona
Downtown is home to some of the best restaurants in Tempe, Arizona | Plus One Pix / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor28 April 2021

Whatever brings you to Tempe, Arizona, be it the large student community at Arizona State University, the adventures of LEGOLAND® Discovery Center or the nearby Grand Canyon, a great eating experience awaits. With a dynamic mix of well-established and up-and-coming restaurants, Tempe surprises many visitors with the quality of its cuisine. Here are the best local places to eat in Tempe, Arizona.

Word of Mouth Grill

Restaurant, American
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This place gets praise but doesn’t need it – their flavors speak for themselves. What was once a catering business is now a full-service dining establishment – those drumsticks, pork belly and chili were just too popular to disappear under the radar. The menu is loaded with turkey, chicken and beef cuts, as well as gluten-free and vegan options including jackfruit, ribs and wings. Pile your plate with all the trimmings including creamy mac n cheese, soft cornbread muffins and a heap of baked beans. Be sure to leave room for dessert, those triple berry tarts and sweet potato pies aren’t going to eat themselves.

Cafe Lalibela

Cafe, Restaurant, Ethiopian, $$$
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Injera served with Chicken and egg Doro Wat, berbere, vegetables and lentils. Injera, the national dish of Ethiopia, is a sourdough flatbread made
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Café Lalibela specializes in Ethiopian meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious. As a rule, this will include a chicken, beef, fish or lamb stew served beside vegetables like lentils, collard greens and spiced potatoes. Each dish will feature injera (a crêpe-style bread made from an Ethiopian grain called ‘teff’) and wat (a hearty sauce either made from meat and vegetables or completely vegetarian). Forget cutlery – eat the traditional way, tearing off a piece of injera and using it to scoop up a portion of wat.

Crêpe Bar

Bakery, Bar, Food Truck, Restaurant, American, French, $$$
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What began life as a food truck found such wild success with local customers – and attention from the national media – that it opened as a sit-down restaurant serving breakfast and lunch in 2012. Expect more than just classic versions of crêpes, the menu here is all about innovation as well as preservation. Spice lovers should try the Jamaican Jerk containing pork sausage and Fontina cheese; or how about a heavenly Second Time, featuring Nutella, banana brulee and strawberries? The sweet life indeed.

Essence Bakery Café

Bakery, Cafe, Tea , American
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Chef Eugenia Theodosopoulos is the brains behind the confectionery perfection that has become a hallmark of Essence Bakery. Locals turn up for her extensive variety of vivid French-style macaroons, a specialty varying from pumpkin spice and hazelnut to pink grapefruit and key lime. If you’re rumbling for breakfast you’re in luck, the individual quiche lorraine with bacon, spinach, green onions and gruyere is a delight that comes served with fresh fruit. For lunch, try out the fragrant lemon and basil chicken salad on brioche with cucumber and spinach has, a winning combination.

House of Tricks

Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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This place gets its snappy name from the founding owners, husband and wife team Robin and Robert Trick. The relaxed setting reflects the classic nature of the menu, with the Caesar salad with garlicky dressing is a local favorite. Crispy seared ahi tuna is a dream choice among the main courses and nobody should leave before consuming the chocolate pot de creme with peanut brittle and Madagascar bourbon vanilla whipped cream. If you do, then you’ve missed a trick.

Rúla Búla Irish Pub and Restaurant

Pub, Restaurant, Irish, $$$
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Painet iv1730 rula bula irish pub tempe az area buildings burghal center central city civic civil clearance communal complex
Phillip Augustavo / Alamy Stock Photo
The popular Rúla Búla Irish Pub and Restaurant is located in a historic Victorian-era building in downtown Tempe. Taking its name from an Irish Gaelic saying that translates into ‘uproar and commotion’, this welcoming and wonderfully upbeat joint turns dinner and drinks into a life-affirming event. At Rúla Búla, the beer and whiskey flow, along with live music, well into the night.

Salut Kitchen Bar

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
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Serving up over 100 varieties, Salut Kitchen Bar deserves its reputation as one of Arizona’s top wine bars. Whites, reds and rosés from Germany, Chile, Provence, NZ and more feature on the extensive lists here, whilst the decor is rural meets urban. The food is just as classy, a riot of modern Mediterranean flavors carried off with American confidence. Brunch showcases include the likes of eggs and quinoa pancakes, best washed down with mimosas and Bellinis. Dinner offerings include diverse tapas designed to be eaten communally, or a selection of bruschetta including an herbaceous chicken pesto number.

The Chuckbox

Restaurant, American, $$$
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The Chuckbox Hamburgers in downtown Tempe, Arizona
© Lonnie Paulson / Alamy Stock Photo
Scaled back and cash only, The Chuckbox burger joint, founded in 1972, is an Arizona State icon at the corner spot on University and Forest. Offering great American food at great prices, be ready to yell your order from the queue. The burgers, including a veggie option, are sizzled over flames in an open kitchen surrounded by a simple wooden dining area that’s casual yet fun, with a subtle, old-west charm.

The Dhaba

Restaurant, Indian, $$$
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Travel in India and Pakistan and you’ll soon become familiar with dhabas: unfussy restaurants peppered along highways, beloved by locals and passing truckers. Delicious food is always the pull, which brings us to The Dhaba in Tempe, where tasty Indian dishes and quality service come together amid a comfortable atmosphere. The interior is brightly colored, with hanging lamps, tiled mirrors and other accents bringing the sub-continent to the American southwest. This place really pulls out the stops for vegetarians, with a range of appetizing dishes featuring paneer cheese, lentils and chickpeas.

Vincitorio’s Restaurant

Restaurant, Italian, $$$
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A tried and tested Italian classic, Vincitorio’s Restaurant boasts an epic menu that includes classics like mozzarella-stuffed meatballs, pasta Alfredo and bubbling cheese pizzas. The desserts are just as good, with the excellent cannoli – crispy pastry shells filled with ricotta and chocolate chips – always a winner.

Nick Dauk contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on April 28, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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