Each year, Tempe welcomes thousands of college students back into the fold. And though we're sure the studious lot will be spending the majority of their time hitting the books at Hayden Library, it's inevitable that they'll also need to eat. The Memorial Union and the dining halls are perfectly viable options, but we just want to make sure Arizona State University's students know their surrounding neighborhood, including downtown Tempe, has lots of other dining options to offer.
Here we round up 10 of our favorites.
El Pollo Supremo221 West University Drive, Tempe
When it comes to bargain pricing and good eats, El Pollo Supremo (located just west of Mill Avenue) definitely delivers. There are only two options at this neighborhood staple: chicken or beef, and if you're asking our advice, we'll point you toward the chicken. You can pick up a quarter chicken, tortillas, beans, and salsa for under $5, which is quite a deal.
Curry Corner1212 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
Located on Apache Boulevard a few blocks west of campus, this popular, family-owned eatery offers flavorful Indian and Pakistani food. Students love visiting with owner and chef Farah Khalid, who makes pretty much everything herself. Many of the dishes at Curry Corner are vegetarian, but she still delivers on meatier options like garlic goat served with tomatoes and onions, kebabs, and wings. Everything is affordable, and all of it's delicious.
The Chuckbox202 East University Drive, Tempe
The Chuckbox is older than nearly anything else in Tempe and does one thing quite well: charcoal-grilled burgers. For decades, students have been able to step off campus (but just barely) and into this rustic little cabin for an affordable burger unlike any you'll find elsewhere in the Valley. There's no flat-top here, just the open flames of a mesquite charcoal grill that, when combined with the special secret spices, makes for one great lunch. Be sure to bring some hand money, as this place is cash only.
Pita Jungle4 East University Drive, Tempe
You'll want to drive to this Mediterranean eatery, but you can still feel good about your diet and exercise regime after dining here. That's because Pita Jungle is known for their healthy-minded and vegetarian-friendly eats, including favorites like their garlic dip, baba ganoush, and tabouleh. Meat-eaters have options too, including their epic shawarma pita. The fun and funky atmosphere are totally enjoyable, but if you're in a rush to get back to your studies, know that they're more than happy to make your order to go.
Cornish Pasty Co.960 West University Drive, Tempe
425 South Mill Avenue, #111, Tempe
In a strip mall on University Drive, just east of Hardy Road, you'll find Cornish Pasty Co., a dark hipster hangout with some pretty unique eats. If you've never had or heard of a pasty, know the English dish is basically a giant turnover stuffed with the kinds of things you might expect to find in a pot pie. They have traditional versions with pork, steak, and the like, as well as some crazy varieties filled with pesto chicken, pastrami, corned beef, and even red chile. The eatery also expanded to Mill Avenue, offering an East Coast-style dining room as narrow as a New York City apartment, along with some patio seating.
Thai Basil1111 South Rural Road, Tempe
403 West University Drive, #101, Tempe
There are two Thai Basil locations around the Tempe campus, the closer of which can be found on Rural Road, across the street from the Barrett, the Honors College complex. It may not be the most authentic Thai eats you've ever had, or even the very best, but for students looking for a convenient, affordable, and enjoyable dining experience, this place delivers. They have all the standard Thai dishes from curries to pad thai, drunken noodles to fried rice. The second location is in the Tops Liquor plaza at University Drive and Farmer Avenue, and you're more than welcome to bring your to-go order into Taste of Tops next door to pair your curry with a cold craft beer (if you're of age, of course).
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Original ChopShop222 East University Drive, Tempe
From kale to quinoa, Original ChopShop has it all. This eatery specializes in "healthy craft cuisine," including sandwiches, salads, breakfast eats, and pressed juices. Located on University Drive between Forest and College avenues, this place definitely falls within walking distance from even the opposite end of campus. And if you're looking for something filling, but of the liquid variety, they also serve up a selection of protein shakes.
Cafe Lalibela849 West University Drive, Tempe
If you've never had Ethiopian food, get your fingers ready for a pretty fun dining experience. At Cafe Lalibela, on University Drive east of Hardy Road, diners dig into traditional Ethiopian stews with their fingers, because that's the custom. Scoop up mouthfuls of beef, lamb, or veggies with spongy injera bread, and wash it all down with Ethiopian coffees, teas, wines, and beers. Don't forget to bring a friend or two; it makes the whole experience that much more fun.
Little Szechuan524 West University Drive, Tempe
The petite, glowing sign in front of Little Szechuan is hard to miss off University Drive as you near Roosevelt Street. This classic Chinese restaurant has been in Tempe since 1976, and the menu even has ASU-themed signature dishes, including the Sun Devil — a maroon and gold dish made with homemade chili, bamboo shoots, and your choice of protein. There's also the $5 sake bomb for those so inclined. Students even receive a discount; just let your server know.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 16, 2013. It was updated on August 21, 2019. Lauren Saria contributed to this article.