With its mix of schools, single-family homes and luxury apartments, strip malls and small business complexes, and parks, the southern reaches of Tempe serve a sizable and diverse community. And you'd be surprised how different it is from ASU country. Here are some of our picks for lunches, dinners, and happy hours in the area.
Steve's Espresso1801 East Baseline Road, #102, Tempe
The smell of roasted coffee beans greets early risers at local java haven Steve's Espresso. Lattes are artful, with perfect little floating leaf designs in cream and sometimes even cool geometric designs done in chocolate. Cold brews and French press coffees are less physically attractive but pack the potent caffeine kick needed to get in gear for the day.
24 Carrots1701 East Guadalupe Road, Tempe
The “botanically inspired cuisine” at 24 Carrots encompasses an all-day menu, but the restaurant’s breakfast items are among its heartiest dishes. Think biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos bursting with tofu and veggies, and hefty carrot cake pancakes, washed down with one of 24 Carrots’ many juice and coffee options, including a spritely beet goji latte and iced strawberry matcha crème.
Sweet Desert Café715 West Baseline Road, #2, Tempe
At Sweet Desert Café, waffles, pancakes, and French toast all get their own, lengthy menus. There are five kinds of waffles, most notably a mango and coconut waffle. French toast and pancakes can be topped with just about any fruit you can imagine. The breakfast “classics” menu includes all manner of egg-based dishes including chilaquiles and three varieties of Benedicts. The coffee menu is also broad, offering everything from Americanos to macchiatos.
The Porch1128 East Baseline Road, Tempe
If thumping music and an airy front patio off Baseline Road is your thing mid-morning, do brunch here. The Porch crew had some fun putting together the brunch menu. Start with the Waffle Tenders, try the Mexico City Breakfast Bowl, or try the “adult version” of the Strawberry Cake Stack — a vanilla pound cake loaded with vodka-soaked strawberries and topped with Baileys Irish Cream.
Sweetest Season Artisan Eatery1835 East Guadalupe Road, Tempe
Only open for breakfast and lunch on weekends, Sweetest Season Artisan Eatery keeps it simple but savory. There are only two sandwiches and two salads on the lunch menu, but breakfast and brunch are focal points, with a changing, lengthier list of day-starters that could include French toast, hash browns, stuffed pastries, waffles, steak and eggs, or scrambles. When you need to be wide awake fast, go for something on the espresso menu, which might be the most extensive in Tempe, with nine iterations that can be enhanced with one of the eatery’s sweet house-made syrups.
YC’s Mongolian Grill752 West Elliot Road, Tempe
Build your own stir fry bowls at YC’s Mongolian Grill, which has two Valley outposts (the other is in Gilbert). You probably know the routine: pick your protein (beef, white or dark chicken, Alaskan cod, pork, shrimp, or tofu), then pile on fresh veggies (they have too many to list here, but suffice to say they have all the stir fry faves), and then choose noodles (rice, udon, or wheat) or brown or white rice. Get saucy with a wide selection of condiments, from black bean sauce and orange sauce to Thai red curry peanut and oyster-based spicy black pepper sauce.
Clockwork Pizza7520 South Rural Road, Tempe
When it comes to a good pizza foundation, there’s nothing like hand-tossed dough. Clockwork Pizza does dough right, hand-tossed with perfect textural consistency for an eminently snackable crust. Its New York-style pizzas can be topped with myriad ingredients, and the menu includes specialty pies like a Greek gyro pizza topped with gyro meat, feta cheese, onions, green peppers, and olives with a side of tzatziki sauce; and the barbecue chicken pizza with a barbecue sauce base. There are also wings (boneless and bone-in), calzones, hoagies, salads, breadsticks, and even fries.
Santa Madre Taco Shop1320 West Elliot Road, #102, Tempe
Every day is taco day at Santa Madre Taco Shop. The modest-size restaurant serves tacos in the Sonoran tradition, and prides itself on its meats, from authentic carne asada and Mexican Baja-style shrimp to battered chicken and slow-cooked barbacoa beef. For those who prefer their food flat, quesadillas come in cheese, shrimp, and grilled steak iterations. Everyone can top off their plates with a variety of made-fresh-daily sauces at the massive salsa bar.
Viet Shack7510 South Priest Drive, #104, Tempe
Looking for Vietnamese fast food? Check out family-owned Viet Shack, a quick-serve restaurant with an extensive menu of Asian favorites, from egg rolls and wontons to fried noodles and rice plates. But the best thing on the menu might be the banh mi, Vietnamese sub sandwiches of pork, chicken, or tofu studded with pickled carrots, green onions, and jalapeño, with a squirt of Sriracha sauce for an exclamation point.
Vine Tavern & Eatery801 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
In addition to its daily food specials, neighborhood favorite Vine Tavern & Eatery has a robust happy hour menu (valid from 3 to 7 p.m. every day) that includes discounts on a slew of appetizers like Buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, pizza, and quesadillas, and $3.99 domestic pints and well cocktails (including margaritas and Long Island iced tea), and house wines for $5.29. Hump Days bring Vine Wednesdays, with $1 drinks from 9 p.m. to close.
Anaya’s Fresh Mexican Restaurant7520 South Rural Road, #A-14, Tempe
From 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Anaya’s Fresh Mexican Restaurant serves house margaritas and draft beers for $3.25 and well drinks for $3. There’s nothing necessarily epicurean about the drinks here, but the price is right if you’re looking to spend some time catching up with friends or chipping away at a chimichanga or gooey enchilada. Actually, just about everything on the lengthy menu of Mexican favorites here is worth time, and can be washed down without hiking the bill up.
Zipps Sports Grill1860 East Warner Road, Tempe
The south Tempe outpost of Valley-based chain Zipps Sports Grill has one of the most extensive happy hour menus in town. From 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Fridays, guests who drop by to cheer on their favorite sports teams can nab $3 well drinks and house wines, $4 Zipps Blonde pints and hard seltzers, $5 Jack Daniels and premium pints, $4 Zipparita margaritas, various $5 liquor pours, and $6 premium wines and 32-ounce domestic drafts.
Postino South8749 South Rural Road, Tempe
Phoenix-based regional chain Postino is a favorite in just about every neighborhood, but the Postino in south Tempe has a distinct design. During dinner, it's all about the boards, with the restaurant's assortment of sharable spreads of cheeses, meats, vegetables, breads, and bruschetta. Also notable are the panini, available in seven varieties including Tuscan tuna and vegetarian. To start the week off right, Postino also offers a bottle of wine and a bruschetta board for $25 every Monday and Tuesday after 8 p.m.
Ghost Ranch1006 East Warner Road, #102-103, Tempe
Come to Ghost Ranch for the taco platters and enchiladas, stay for the most spirited alcohol menu in south Tempe. The 13 cocktails served are as artful as they are tasty, and invoke flavors of the Southwest beyond prickly pear margaritas (but those are here, too). For example, the Tumbleweed is made with local Thumb Butte Rodeo Rye Whisky, and the Bees Knees is made with mezcal gin, evoking smoky desert agave. The all-day food menu encompasses dinner dishes like green chile burgers made with prime beef, grilled trout, and Cowboy Steak (14-ounce prime rib-eye). House specialties like chile relleno and a massive vegetable plate with chipotle coconut sauce are also popular nosh options.
RigaTony's Authentic Italian Restaurant1850 East Warner Road, Tempe
Family-owned RigaTony's Authentic Italian Restaurant has a dinner menu fitting for even the biggest group. Any kind of pasta you can think of is served steaming in hefty portions, and there are even numerous pasta alternatives to choose from, like quinoa pasta and zucchini noodles. There are four chicken dishes, four seafood dishes, Italian sandwiches, and even Chianti-braised short ribs. And what would an Italian restaurant be without pizza? RigaTony's has all the usual pies, plus unique iterations like a white clam pizza and a shrimp and pesto version.
Bogeys Sports Bar & Grill6463 South Rural Road, Tempe
Looking for a neighborhood bar in south Tempe? The golf-themed Bogeys Sports Bar & Grill is "above par," or so says the unofficial motto. Expect mixed drinks, wine by the glass, and domestic and imported beer in addition to a menu of comfort foods like mac and cheese, pork tacos, and fish-fry Fridays. And for those painful Sundays, drink specials include $3 Mimosas, $4 Surly Coffee Bender brown ales, and $5 Cajun bloody marys.
Boston's Bar & Grille1730 East Elliot Road, Tempe
Boston's Bar & Grille is a comfortable strip-mall bar packed with regulars and activities like karaoke, off-track betting, and sports on one of 60 TVs. Expect your favorite mixed drinks on the covered patio, or maybe just a cold beer at the bar.
Marauders6430 South McClintock Drive, Tempe
Sure, there's live music and street tacos at Marauders neighboring the Tempe location of Changing Hands Bookstore. But there is also an assortment of tiki-leaning cocktails, local craft beer by the pint, wine by the glass, and a damn good extra-dirty martini.