In the last few years, the Tempe dining scene has changed a lot. These days, you'll find outposts of popular Valley spots including Postino, Snooze, and later this year, a new location of Matt's Big Breakfast. All the newcomers mean there's really no shortage of excellent places to eat and drink in this part of town — though we're still loyal to some of the neighborhood's longstanding haunts.
From a tried and true spot for Cantonese cuisine, to a restaurant that proves breakfast can be not only the most important, but also the most fun meal of day, here are our five favorite places to eat in Tempe right now.
Hong Kong Asian Diner
Hong Kong Asian Diner's dated decor and quiet strip mall location don't make it look like much of a dining destination. But the truth is, this family-owned and -operated restaurant is a sanctuary for those who seek excellent Cantonese cuisine in Tempe. Order a whole steamed fish, and it arrives at your table just minutes after being extracted from the tank in the back of the dining room. And whatever you do, don't skip the Peking duck. The order comes with a plate of crisp duck skin served with fluffy, white buns and pungent hoisin sauce.
When it comes to breakfast in Tempe, Nocawich, located at 777 South College Avenue, simply can't be beat. Local restaurateur Eliot Wexler opened this casual spot on the edge of the Arizona State University campus last year, importing New York's Russ & Daughters lox and H&H Bagels to the Valley of the Sun. Wexler combines these classic offerings with house-made pastrami, bechamel, Benton's bacon, and more to create sinful dishes such as a breakfast burrito stuffed with eggs, cheese, chimichurri, and crispy French fries. For lunch, Nocawich offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and more, all of which we promise are well worth the extra calories they undoubtedly include.
El Pollo Supremo
Located in the strip mall at University Drive and Ash Avenue, El Pollo Supremo is quite possibly the most under-rated restaurant in Tempe. The menu is simple: Choose from either mesquite charcoal-broiled chicken or tri-tip beef. We'll recommend you order the former, which comes in either whole, half, or quarter chicken portions. A whole chicken costs just $11.49 and can satisfy two to three diners easily. The order also includes corn or flour tortillas, beans, salsa, and marinated onions — in other words, all the fixings you need to build chicken tacos loaded with the restaurant's fiery red chicken meat and smothered in house-made salsa. Be warned, however, this restaurant is cash-only, so you'll want to swing by the ATM before your meal.
At Crepe Bar, you'll find playful dishes such as crepes made with coffee-infused batter and candied bacon on a menu that's as energetic and creative as the restaurant's chef, Jeff Kraus. Kraus prioritizes using local ingredients, and even dedicates a whole dish to locally sourced produce. A menu of small plates often features locally made products such as Noble Bread and in-season vegetables from the nearby Steadfast Farm in Gilbert. The restaurant has also become a coffee destination of sorts, serving Heart Roasters coffee and offering seasonal drinks and infused cold brews.
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House of Tricks
Is there any better place for an al fresco lunch or a romantic dinner than House of Tricks? We don't think so. Housed in a converted 1920s cottage, this longstanding restaurant continues to offer inventive New American cuisine and a wine list that never fails to satisfy. For a classy lunch that doesn't take you far from ASU's campus, hit the patio and order from a menu that includes dishes such as a toasted green chili corn bread BLT and house-made meatloaf. Dinner includes heavier options such as sumac-crusted rack of lamb, brick-roasted one-half Cornish game hen, and panko-crusted ahi tuna.
Originally published January 6, 2015. Updated April 5, 2016.