Dining Guides

Tempe Streetcar Eats: Try These 10 Restaurants and Bars Right off the Rail

The Tempe Streetcar debuted in May and travels through downtown and around ASU. It is free for the first year.
The Tempe Streetcar debuted in May and travels through downtown and around ASU. It is free for the first year. City of Tempe
After more than a decade of envisioning and five years of traffic-inducing construction, the Tempe Streetcar finally made its debut in May, rolling through downtown and encircling ASU.

The streetcar line spans three miles and includes 14 stops on an L-shaped route that travels along Tempe Town Lake, University Drive, and Mill Avenue before it funnels east toward ASU Gammage auditorium and ends on Apache Boulevard, just west of McClintock Drive.

This route conveniently breezes by a plethora of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. Accessing the establishments on Mill is a given. But the streetcar makes it easy to grab a bite or drink away from the buzz of downtown, so you can explore without worrying about a rideshare or the comfort level of your shoes.

Here's a collection of 10 great places that will take you from breakfast to last call. All of these joints are less than a 10-minute walk from the closest streetcar stop. Streetcars arrive every 15-20 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.

Our guide starts at the north end near Tempe Town Lake and winds south and then east to the final stop. Riding the streetcar is free for the first year so hop on and enjoy the ride.

Romancing the Bean
80 East Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe
Streetcar stop: Hayden Ferry/Rio Salado
Estimated walking time and distance: 3 minutes or .1 miles

Tucked amid corporate offices and steps from Tempe Town Lake, this beloved cafe serves up coffees and freshly baked treats. At Romancing the Bean, a deli-length menu features breakfast sandwiches on English muffins, croissants, or bagels, and lunch sandwiches on rye, croissants, or low-carb tortillas. Salads come with your choice of homemade dressing, and the dessert case is filled with an array of cookies, brownies, and cheesecakes. Classic coffee beverages are available in addition to fun twists like the Mexican Mocha laced with cinnamon and cocoa. This cafe is open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays only.

Culinary Dropout
149 South Farmer Avenue, Tempe
Streetcar stop: Ash & 3rd, or Tempe Beach Park/Rio Salado
Estimated walking time and distance: 5 minutes or .3 miles

Play lawn games, cheer on ASU sports, and spread out at this popular dining and lounging hub. At Culinary Dropout, snack on gochujang brussels sprouts and Marcona almonds or split the platter of BBQ pork nachos with pals. The made-to-order lasagna and fried chicken with a buttermilk biscuit, gravy, and potatoes take extra time so place those orders first, but the slight wait is worth it. Wines are served by the glass in 6 or 9-ounce pours, and draft beer comes in 16 or 20-ounce servings. Options abound.

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Bite into a burger at Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen.
Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen
Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen
26 South Farmer Avenue, Tempe
Streetcar stop: Ash & 3rd, or Tempe Beach Park/Rio Salado
Estimated walking time and distance: 5 minutes or .3 miles

Get the outdoorsy cabin feel without the bugs at this stick-to-your-ribs bar favorites joint. Bacon-wrapped jalapenos, nachos, and soft pretzels served with Lodge beer cheese and spicy mustard are solid openers at Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen. Various chicken sandwiches and salads aim to please, but the burgers are king. The Triple D Burger that got the spotlight on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives boasts a habanero-infused patty topped with parmesan, bigfoot dip, and tons of bacon. The Sasquatch burger is downright dare-worthy and Instagrammable with a huge patty buried under bacon, fried onion strings, cheese and smothered between two Texas toast grilled cheese sandwiches.

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Fresh Maine lobster on a New England-style roll is brought to the dessert by Cousins Maine Lobster.
Courtesy of Cousins Maine Lobster
Cousins Maine Lobster, Vib Best Western
511 South Farmer Avenue, Tempe
Streetcar stop: Ash & 5th Street
Estimated walking time and distance: 1 minute or 351 feet

Just one of three Vib hotels in the country, Best Western’s international boutique brand opened earlier this year and is quietly rolling out its amenities. A rooftop bar, Artemis Lounge, is slated to open in the fall. In the meantime, a cozy yet sleek lobby bar does its job with the reliable trio of beer, wine, and cocktails. Shellfish fans can get their fix at Cousins Maine Lobster, one of a handful fast-casual versions of the popular food truck empire and the only one in Arizona. Lobster is shipped fresh from Maine and served in friendly portables like grilled cheese, tacos, quesadilla, and a BLT with tots or fries. Those searching for a classic can stick to the traditional New England roll.

First Watch
111 West University Drive, Tempe
Streetcar stop: University & Ash
Estimated walking time and distance: 1 minute or 272 feet

Fuel up for the day or recover from a late night of studying or extracurriculars at this sit-down breakfast and lunch eatery. Hearty brunch signature dishes at First Watch include the BLT Benedict with poached eggs atop ciabatta, bacon, and tomato drizzled in hollandaise, and the Chickichanga comprised of whipped eggs, spicy chicken, chorizo, green chiles, lots of cheese, and avocado rolled in a tortilla and doused with Veracruz sauce and sour cream. Replenish with kale tonic juice.

Cartel's original location is in Tempe.
Ty Dahlstrom
Cartel Roasting Co.
810 South Ash Avenue, Tempe
Streetcar stop: University & Ash
Estimated walking time and distance: 1 minute or 322 feet

Cartel Roasting Co. has locations around the Valley. But the original location that started it all from a humble cart in a nondescript business plaza continues to draw java fans.  A succinct menu of mostly traditional espresso beverages showcases the coffee and a few signature items flaunt collaborations with local purveyors. Iconic Cocktail Company’s lime leaf tonic mixer combines with grapefruit juice, sparkling water, salt, and a quad shot of espresso in the Iconic Tonic. And caramel from the vegan coffee and ice cream shop Nami gives a gently sweet note alongside coconut almond creamer and cold brew in the CCL. Pair your coffee selection with a bite from the in-house bakeshop.

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Casey Moore's Oyster House may be famous for its oysters, but the french onion soup is no slouch.
Benjamin Leatherman
Casey Moore's Oyster House
850 South Ash Avenue, Tempe
Streetcar stop: University & Ash
Estimated walking time and distance: 1 minute or 338 feet

This neighborhood pub and perennial ASU haunt needs little, if any, introduction. The front, back, and side patios at Casey Moore's Oyster House are always hopping and the inside flaunts all the dark dankness of a treasured dive bar where everyone knows your name, or at least your drink. The bar holds a few fancy spirits in bottles with a good amount of dust on them, but it’s really all about the draft, bottled, and canned beer. The expected fried pickles, mozzarella sticks, and wings are on the menu. But as the name indicates, the seafood is nothing to sleep on. Get oysters raw on the half shell, fried in light cornmeal, as a shooter with pepper vodka, or splurge and go with the Rockefeller, topped with the whole shebang of spinach and bacon baked in mornay sauce. The place is known to be haunted, too.

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This yellowtail taco in a crispy gyoza shell is one of the items served at The Graduate Hotel Tempe Food Hall, which offers a variety of cuisines spanning Mediterranean, American, and Asian.
Georgann Yara
Graduate Hotel Tempe Food Hall
225 East Apache Blvd., Tempe
Streetcar stop: College & Apache
Estimated walking time and distance: 2 minutes or .1 miles
Graduate Hotel Tempe's Food Hall makes it easy to globe-hop. Coffee, pastries, and no-fuss breakfast items are served 6-11 a.m. Swing by after 4 p.m. and, while sipping on a beer or cocktail, use your smartphone to peruse a half-dozen menus offering a dizzying lineup of American classics, Mediterranean fare, Tuscan-inspired deli eats, sushi, and tacos with Asian flare. A smashed double patty truffle burger with dashi onions, truffle cheddar, and Truff Mayo is right at home alongside falafel and chicken shawarma wraps, panini, and gyoza shell tacos filled with yellowtail, crispy shrimp or truffle avocado. There are vegan options and desserts as well.

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The Pollack Pasta is made with squid ink.
Tirion Morris
Zu & Pocha
1212 East Apache Blvd., Tempe
Streetcar stop: Dorsey & Apache
Estimated walking time and distance: 4 minutes or .2 miles

The name Zu & Pocha comes from a Korean reference to a pub that serves food and booze. But with a seafood bar and craft cocktail selection that gives tried-and-true concoctions a thoughtful twist, this spot is far from your typical college town pub. Smoked seafood mandu in a soju ginger broth with salmon roe and a whole roasted trout adorned with corn salsa and gochujang sauce grace the starter list. On the dinner menu, the handmade squid ink pasta tossed in a creamy fish roe sauce, perilla and parm is a must. Signature cocktails include a spin on the Old Fashioned made with sesame-infused Toki Japanese whiskey and ginger cordial. The Soju Fruit Bar with lemongrass ginger soju, yuja juice, and sparkling water comes with a frozen mango pop that slowly melts into the concoction as you linger.

Hudson Eatery & Bar
1601 East Apache Blvd., Tempe
Streetcar stop: Dorsey & Apache
Estimated walking time and distance: 7 minutes or .3 miles

It’s a bit of a stroll from the end of the line, but this craft cocktail bar with an impressive spirits collection is worth the steps. Sharing the name of the neighborhood behind it, the Hudson plays like a dive bar but the pub grub gets a boost of sophistication in dishes like vegan tahini pasta and loaded fries topped with steak, black beans, and cheese sauce. There’s creme brulee on the dessert menu and the rotating draft list is heavy on local, with brews from Helton Brewing Co., Wren House, Mother Road, and Tombstone. The bourbon, whiskey, and Scotch collection will grab the attention of connoisseurs as will the signature drinks. If you’re unsure, the bartender will happily customize a cocktail just for you.
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Georgann Yara is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who's also a proud equal opportunity eater. She loves all things Arizona, including the professional sports teams that continue to break her heart. Food, cocktails and cats dominate her IG.
Contact: Georgann Yara