Tempe is a lively college town in the middle of a big city, so it makes sense that you’ll find a lot of cheap eats for hungry college students here. But if you don’t fall into that category, don’t worry. Tempe restaurants cater to more than just the ASU Sun Devils.
While Tempe isn’t a mecca for fine or local dining (for that, check out our best restaurants in Phoenix post), you’re still going to be able to find a great meal without straying too far. Tempe has some incredible hidden gems, and we can’t wait to introduce you to them!
12. Khải Hoàn
There’s nothing better than a warm bowl of pho on a cold day, and while there aren’t many cold days in Tempe, we have no problem finding excuses to go for pho at Khai Hoan. Khai Hoan is the most authentic Tempe restaurant for fresh Vietnamese food. Start with crispy egg rolls or fresh spring rolls before diving into a steaming bowl of pho. Top it with fresh bean sprouts, mint leaves, jalapeno, hoisin sauce, chili paste, and a squeeze of lime juice to get the full, delicious experience.
Khải Hoàn Restaurant
11. Forefathers Cheesesteaks
Head to Forefathers Cheesesteaks for a gooey, messy, hearty, and delicious meal. The menu here is simple: choose from chicken or steak (but the choice is obvious, you’re here for the cheesesteak) and build a sandwich with all the fixings. Choose your favorite cheese (traditional “cheez whiz”, white American, provolone, or mozzarella), and add grilled mushrooms, peppers, and onions. The cashier is quick to recommend the cheez whiz, which is more like a nacho cheese, and will gladly offer a side for you to try if you’re hesitant to commit. Top it with one of their housemade sauces—we love the creamy jalapeno ranch—and enjoy it with a side of their stellar fries.
$$ Sandwiches, Cheesesteaks, Desserts
10. Perfect Pear Bistro
Looking for something fresh and healthy? Perfect Pear Bistro offers nourishing sandwiches, salads, and quinoa bowls, plus a few other specialties (like a section of the menu dedicated to their upgraded grilled cheese sandwiches) from two Tempe locations. With regards to the grilled cheese, we love the Quad City Melt with thin cuts of sirloin, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, melted cheese, and chipotle aioli on toasted marble rye bread. Or, try a heaping salad, like their upgraded cobb with a creamy, pesto vinaigrette and diced, fresh pears for a bit of added crunch!
Perfect Pear Bistro
$$ American (New), Sandwiches, American (Traditional)
9. Tampopo Ramen
Located in a strip mall in South Tempe, this tiny, understated spot offers some of the best ramen in Arizona. The restaurant is small with limited seating, but they serve quickly and clear tables fast. Choose from six ramens: tonkotsu, miso, spicy miso, ultra spicy, seafood, and soymilk. The broth in each option is rich, delicious, and is poured over a generous portion of noodles, a soft-boiled egg, and topped with a slice of roasted pork, plus a few extras depending on what flavor you order. If you want to beef up your ramen, choose from a variety of additional toppings like fried chicken, braised pork belly, or seaweed. Not sure where to start? Check out their ramen cheat sheet with recommended pairings for each ramen.
$$ Ramen, Desserts, Salad
8. Cornish Pasty Co.
Cornish Pasty Co. has created a bit of a cult following and we are all about it. What started as a small hole-in-the-wall Tempe restaurant off of University has now grown to eight locations across the state of Arizona. If you’re new to pasties, picture a savory, handheld pie, made in a puff pastry crust, and stuffed with a wide variety of different combinations of meats, veggies, and cheeses (or hold the meat and cheese and order from their large selection of vegan and vegetarian pasties!). The classic English version is known as the Oggie and is stuffed with steak, potatoes, onion, and rutabaga served with a flavorful red wine gravy. Or, try something more adventurous like the cajun chicken pasty with creamy chipotle sauce. But here’s a secret from a local: the best thing on the menu is the cream of leek, potato, and Stilton soup, a rich, warm, comforting soup made in the traditional English style with an imported wheel of Stilton cheese and served with thick, fresh-baked bread.
Cornish Pasty Co
$$ British, Pubs
7. Tempe City Tacos
Tempe City Tacos is another excellent Mexican spot with quick, authentic Mexican food and a delicious variety of housemade salsas. While tacos are in the name, the burritos reign supreme here. Try the California burrito—overly stuffed with carne asada, fried potatoes, pico de gallo, cheese, and guacamole, you can’t go wrong. Or, try the chorizo breakfast burrito (good news: they’re served all day). Whatever you order, top it copiously with generous amounts of tomatillo or avocado jalapeno salsa.
Tempe City Tacos
6. Detroit Coney Grill
Coney Grill serves up sizzling, greasy burgers stacked high with anywhere from two to four patties and a variety of toppings. There are two restaurants in Tempe, the original near Broadway, and one near ASU on Mill Avenue. If you’re not a local, we’re going to let you in on a Southwest secret: green chiles belong on hamburgers. While we wait for the rest of the country to catch up, you can get your fix here with their signature burger with a triple stack of patties, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, and, of course, plenty of green chiles. Order with a side of thick-cut, crispy fries.
Detroit Coney Grill
$$ Burgers, Sports Bars, Hot Dogs
While you might have seen Postino in a few other states (like California, Colorado, and Texas) we’re proud to call Postino an Arizona original. With two restaurants in Tempe, and a large portion of the menu dedicated to shareable plates, it’s the perfect spot to meet for a light lunch or dinner. The bruschetta board is an absolute necessity—choose from 11 options, but our favorites are the brie, apple, and fig; the smoked salmon and pesto; and the sweet and spicy pepper jam and goat cheese. If you’re a fan of goat cheese, don’t miss the meatball and goat cheese appetizer! For your main (if you still have room after filling up on the shareables), try a fresh salad or grilled panini.
$$ Italian, Wine Bars, Breakfast & Brunch
Postino South Tempe
$$ Italian, Wine Bars, Breakfast & Brunch
4. Crepe Bar
What started as a food truck has grown into the go-to Tempe restaurant for breakfast or brunch. The Crepe Bar serves up sweet and savory crepes, plus a few other (delicious) specialties like avocado toast and ricotta toast. Their crepes are filled with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients in clever combinations, but our favorite is a fun twist on the beloved Arizona classic, the breakfast burrito adobo crepe, a paper-thin crepe stuffed with pork chorizo, cheesy scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa, avocado, and cotija cheese, then rolled up like a burrito and served with a chipotle sauce to add a mild kick. For something sweet, we love the vanilla bean with marinated strawberries, vanilla bean custard, candied peanuts, and a drizzle of salted caramel.
$$ Creperies, Coffee & Tea, Breakfast & Brunch
Sun Devil foodies will be happy to learn that one of the best restaurants in Tempe is just a block away from the ASU campus. Grab a seat on the patio and order at the window from Nocawich’s small but mighty menu. The hero on the menu is the What the Cluck chicken sandwich consisting of a crispy, fried chicken breast topped with fresh coleslaw, crisp bread, butter pickles, and siracha mayo on a toasted sweet Hawaiian bun. It’s easily the best meal you can get on or off campus!
$$ Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches
2. Paradise Valley Burger
East Valley foodies rejoice: you no longer have to make a 40-minute trek for one of the best burgers in Phoenix! Paradise Valley Burger just opened its second restaurant right here in Tempe. Their creative burgers have had a loyal fan base for years, and have even gotten them noticed by Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Man vs. Food, and the Travel Channel, and these burgers are worth all the hype. First-time visitor? Try the gooey Brûleè Burger with fried egg, bacon, pickled onion, and a burnt sugar bun. Or, try the Beach House Burger with green chilis, pico de gallo, and jalapeno ranch. Don’t forget to order a side of fries or sweet potato tots!
Paradise Valley Burger- Tempe
$ Burgers, Sandwiches, American (Traditional)
1. Southwest: Ghost Ranch
Fine dining in Tempe is hard to come by, but Ghost Ranch, the very best restaurant in Tempe, is worthy of hosting any celebratory dinner. The food is described as modern Southwest cuisine, matching the restaurant’s inviting desert-inspired interior. Start your meal with the bold queso fundido, a blend of thick melted cheeses, spicy chorizo, and fresh pico de gallo, served with warm housemade corn tortillas. For your main course, the rainbow trout is nothing short of exquisite. Sourced from our favorite seafood vendor, Chula, topped with braised leeks, crispy confit potatoes, roasted poblanos, a generous amount of capers, and drizzled with a savory brown butter, lemon emulsion, this is simply a brilliant dish. If you’re feeling indecisive, they offer an entree sampler platter with three enchiladas (the sweet potato vegetarian is our current favorite), a skirt steak, and a cheesy chile relleno. Run, don’t walk, to Ghost Ranch!
Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine
$$ American (New), Mexican