12 Best Restaurants in Tempe, Arizona

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Robert Wilson


Tempe is home to a vibrant food scene with an array of cuisines and restaurants to choose from. From casual spots to upscale dining, Tempe has something for every palate. The city’s close proximity to Arizona State University lends an energetic, youthful vibe and ensures an influx of new and creative concepts. Farm-to-table fare, craft cocktails and local brews abound.

With so many excellent options to pick from, narrowing it down to the 12 best restaurants can be tough. This list encompasses a diverse selection of cuisines and atmospheres, from relaxed to refined. The restaurants highlighted here are popular local favorites which offer exceptional food, drinks and service – making them well worth a visit for both residents and visitors alike.

Best Breakfast: Snooze, An A.M. Eatery


As the name implies, Snooze focuses on serving high-quality breakfast and brunch favorites all day long in a cheerful, retro-inspired setting. This popular Denver-based chain opened its first Arizona outpost in Tempe several years ago, instantly drawing crowds for its scratch-made food and creative twists on breakfast classics.

Snooze’s pancake flight allows customers to choose three mini pancakes from a selection of flavors like sweet potato, blueberry Danish and pineapple upside-down cake. Eggs can be ordered in many different Benedict varieties along with several signature omelets and scrambles.

Go savory with dishes like BBQ pulled pork hash or the Sicilian baked eggs, or opt for something sweeter like fruity waffles and French toast. No matter what you order, it will be made from high-quality ingredients and full of flavor. With reasonable prices and an energetic vibe, Snooze is a great place to start the day.

Best Lunch: Cornish Pasty Co.


This small Arizona-based chain specializes in traditional English pasties – hearty handheld pies filled with meat, vegetables and gravy. Made from scratch using family recipes, Cornish Pasty Co.’s pasties make a satisfying lunch or dinner. Diners can choose from an array of fillings, like steak and stilton, chicken curry and traditional Cornish pasties brimming with ground beef, rutabaga and potatoes. The flaky, golden pastry is the perfect transport system for the flavorful, sauce-laden fillings.

In addition to pasties, the menu also includes soups, salads and British desserts to round out your meal. Wash it all down with one of 14 beers on tap, emphasizing Arizona breweries. With fast counter service and meals under $10, Cornish Pasty Co. is a favorite for Tempe college students and locals wanting no-frills, stick-to-your-ribs grub. The restaurant’s laidback, pub-like atmosphere encourages diners to settle right in and stay a while.

Best Pizza: Barro’s Pizza


This beloved Arizona pizza chain dates back over 40 years and is still family-owned and operated. In a city full of trendy pizza joints, Barro’s stands out by perfecting the basics. The New York-style pizzas have thin, foldable crusts with just the right amount of chewiness. Generous layers of cheese and toppings like pepperoni, sausage, onions and peppers top pies that are always fresh and full of flavor. Barro’s uses only high-quality ingredients, including house-made pizza sauce and dough made fresh daily.

Beyond pizza, Barro’s serves wings, salads, subs, pasta and more to satisfy any appetite. My personal favorites are the Mediterranean and BLT salads topped with grilled chicken. Of course, no meal at Barro’s would be complete without saving room for a slice of their popular ooey-gooey Butter Toffee Torte for dessert.

With free order online ordering, quick takeout and delivery, and affordable prices across an extensive menu, it’s easy to see why Barro’s has been an Arizona go-to for pizza for over four decades.

Best Italian: The Wild Thyme Restaurant


Don’t let the strip mall location of The Wild Thyme Restaurant fool you – the interior is a refined space with white tablecloths and antique light fixtures more befitting of the exceptional Italian cuisine served here. Husband and wife owners David and Paola Toti attended culinary school together in Italy, taking that education to heart when opening The Wild Thyme in 2000. The menu focuses on regional dishes from across Italy, with the rotating monthly specials inspired by the season and David’s Italian roots.

Start your meal with creamy burrata cheese served alongside sweet Parma prosciutto or opt for a charcuterie board brimming with specialty cured meats and cheeses. The made-to-order pastas and gnocchi are not to be missed – try the pappardelle with a rich wild boar ragu or delicate gnocchi Gorgonzola dolce tossed in brown sage butter sauce.

Mouthwatering veal chops, tender filet mignon and perfect pizzas round out the offerings at this polished neighborhood gem. Extensive wine and cocktail lists emphasize small Italian producers to perfectly pair with the Totis’ exceptional cooking.

Best Mexican: Barrio Queen


Barrio Queen first opened in Phoenix, bringing a modern twist to classic Sonoran-style Mexican food. The popular restaurant has now expanded to multiple locations across the Valley, including Tempe near ASU’s campus. No matter which location you visit, you’ll find vibrant, artsy decor along with scratch-made food, refreshing agave cocktails and excellent service.

Although most menu items stick to tradition, some creative liberties are taken with Mexican standards. Appetizers like the creamy corn truffle dip with house-made potato chips and bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed jalapeños will tempt your taste buds.

Moving on to entrees, you can’t go wrong with shareable options like sizzling fajitas served on a steaming cast iron plate or a towering crispy chimichanga loaded with machaca beef.

Barrio Queen adds regional twists to tacos with fillings like shredded beef bathed in a rich red chile sauce and plump shrimp sautéed with smoky chipotle. Rice and beans are far from afterthoughts here, with the Mexican rice pilaf and whole pinto beans both bursting with flavor.

One of my personal favorite parts of dining at Barrio Queen is finishing the meal with something sweet. Their churros are fried to crispy, golden perfection and rolled in cinnamon-sugar, served alongside a rich cajeta dipping sauce. The flan is impossibly smooth and creamy too. With its laidback atmosphere and emphasis on authentic flavors, Barrio Queen is undoubtedly one of the best spots for Mexican food in Tempe.

Best Indian: India Palace Cuisine of India


India Palace Cuisine of India is widely considered the top Indian restaurant in the entire Phoenix metro area, winning multiple awards and consistent rave reviews for nearly 30 years now. Highly trained chefs expertly prepare specialties from across India, like aromatic curries, fluffy naan breads hot from the tandoor oven and rich lamb dishes. Despite the upscale cuisine, the restaurant maintains a relaxed atmosphere perfect for both fine dining and casual meals.

Begin your meal with a selection of appetizers like crunchy samosas stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas or chili chicken featuring succulent chicken nuggets coated in a spicy, garlicky sauce.

Move onto one of India Palace’s fantastic curries, with countless vegetarian and meat options crafted from complex fragrant spice blends. Signature dishes like shrimp vindaloo and spicy goat curry exemplify what Indian food should taste like, with incredible depth of flavor in every bite. Fresh homemade chutneys and cooling raita dip complement each dish perfectly.

The menu has pages and pages of options, so feel free to accept recommendations from your exceptionally knowledgeable server if you’re feeling overwhelmed with choices. Pro tip: be sure to order some piping hot garlic naan or another type of Indian bread to sop up the last bit of your flavorful curry sauces. Exceptional food and top-notch service make India Palace the definitive Indian dining destination in all of metro Phoenix.

Best Vegan & Vegetarian: Green New American Vegetarian


Green New American Vegetarian pioneered high-quality plant-based cuisine in Phoenix decades ago. The cozy Tempe location near Mill Avenue and ASU exudes an artsy, laidback vibe. Nearly everything on the completely vegetarian menu can be made vegan as well. Produce-driven dishes feature creative flavors from across the globe, keeping the menu interesting for all diners.

Small plates like the rainbow carrot tapas with chermoula showcase produce at its peak ripeness and flavor. Grilled broccolini bundled up in phyllo dough makes for the ultimate crispy veggie appetizer.

Heartier mains include the butternut squash enchiladas made with housemade corn tortillas, mole sauce and cashew cheese. Bowls are very customizable, with your choice of base, main protein and lots of mix-in toppings. Go for different grains, spicy tofu or savory seitan paired with everything from Thai peanut sauce to chimichurri.

Green doesn’t just excel at dinner – their brunch and lunch menus are equally drool-worthy. Lemon ricotta pancakes, five-spice chickpea scramble loaded up with veggies or the club made with bacon seitan all make excellent options any time of day.

The restaurant’s values also shine through the menu with numerous vegan, gluten-free and allergy-friendly choices clearly labeled. Clearly, creativity and scratch cooking makes Green stand out as Tempe’s top spot for plant-based cuisine.

Best Seafood: The House Brasserie


Located inside a stylish hotel along Tempe Town Lake, The House Brasserie serves sustainably-sourced seafood alongside other elevated American classics. Soaring ceilings, contemporary light fixtures and windows overlooking palm trees set the scene for a special meal out. The cuisine matches the upscale ambiance, with a dinner menu focused on high-quality ingredients prepared meticulously under the expert eye of Executive Chef Brian Archibald.

Raw seafood takes center stage in dishes like tuna tartare and citrus ahi poke, both served with crispy garnishes for added texture. Seared scallops turn supple and sweet paired with corn puree and pancetta bacon.

For heartier entrees, the miso Scottish salmon sits atop a flavorful forbidden rice blend to beautifully complement the tender fish. Seaside cocktails made with things like habanero-infused tequila and yuzu sake provide more temptation as you pore over the extensive menu.

In addition to stellar seafood, The House also turns out incredible steaks, like the dry-aged bone-in ribeye seared perfectly to your preferred doneness. Don’t skip dessert here either – the chefs take classics up a notch, like the dense chocolate terrine reinvigorated with an olive oil cake. The House Brasserie sets a high standard for fine dining in Tempe, excelling in both food and ambiance.

Best Sushi: Sushi Brokers


Sushi Brokers stands out in the competitive Tempe sushi scene by emphasizing high-quality fish sold at the most reasonable prices possible. This local mini-chain operates several Valley locations, but the Tempe restaurant on University Drive is especially beloved. The extensive menu features every variety of sushi you can imagine, from simple tuna or salmon nigiri to elaborate special rolls crammed with ingredients.

Serious sushi aficionados can choose from chef’s selections of pristine cuts of tuna, yellowtail, seabass and more. Novices are also well taken care of here, with the menu thoughtfully explaining what you’re ordering if the vast amount of options gets overwhelming.

Signature rolls like the Monkey Brain with tempura shrimp, spicy mayo and eel sauce are sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Beyond sushi, the kitchen also turns out teriyaki bowls, udon noodles and specials like miso seabass for a well-rounded Japanese meal.

Sushi Brokers’ casual counter-service set up keeps operating costs low, allowing top-notch fish to be sold affordably, usually under $15 per specialty roll. Quick and consistent service makes this a go-to for tempting takeout or a low-key dinner out when you don’t want to deal with lengthy dining room waits. The simplicity of the restaurant allows the fresh, creative sushi itself to shine.

Best Thai: Malee’s on Main


Ask any Tempe local for their top Thai restaurant pick, and Malee’s on Main will inevitably come up within the first few suggestions. This cozy mom-and-pop shop has been serving from-scratch authentic Thai food for over two decades now in a tiny strip mall space adjacent to ASU’s campus. The humble surroundings belie the incredible Thai food that emerges from Malee’s tiny kitchen, crafted carefully by chef-owners Malee and Montri Tulyathan using family recipes.

A meal here traverses all of the classic Thai flavor profiles, like sour, salty, sweet and spicy. Start off with crispy spring rolls or chicken satay skewers with tangy peanut dipping sauce.

Malee’s complex Thai curries, bursting with herbs and spices like lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, are some of the best you’ll try outside of Thailand itself. Standard options include green, red, yellow and panang curries, but daily specials often highlight lesser-seen regional curry varieties only a seasoned Thai cook like Malee could properly execute.

Beyond curry, order Thai basil chicken sizzling in a wok or pad kee mao “drunken noodles” suffused with pungent aromatics. Each dish comes loaded with Thai chilies and spice level options range on a scale from 1 to 10, meaning even the most heat-averse or spice-loving diner leaves satisfied.

Reasonable prices make trying numerous items easy, as does the BYOB policy – just bring your favorite beer or wine to accompany the meal. Small in size but hugely impressive in flavor, Malee’s remains many locals’ top spot for authentic Thai food after over 20 years in business.

Best Steakhouse: Dominick’s Steakhouse


Dominick’s Steakhouse receives consistent praise as one of the best overall restaurants in all of Tempe, not just for steaks but for the exceptional service and sophisticated atmosphere too. Third generation owner Dominick Sorenson upholds his family’s tradition of hospitality and premium quality beef in this polished dining room filled with vintage photos, dark wood and white linens. Most of the staff has worked here for years, their depth of knowledge and attention to detail apparent in how smoothly everything runs.

Of course, flawlessly cooked steaks take center stage at Dominick’s. Regulars rave about the bone-in ribeye cooked expertly to your preferred temperature and thickness.

The petite filet proves incredibly tender even when ordered medium or more. Creative starters like ahi tuna crispy rice and classic sides like creamed corn and truffle mac & cheese perfectly complement the exceptional steaks. Dominick’s housemade desserts like salted caramel pot de crème provide sweet endings to special occasion meals.

Extensive wine and cocktail lists give ample reason to linger in the low-lit dining room and white-jacketed servers make the overall fine dining experience feel truly special. While pricey compared to more casual Tempe establishments, Dominick’s time-tested dedication to hospitality and quality make it the pinnacle special occasion restaurant in the city.

Best Tapas: Bevvy


Bevvy brings a trendy, sophisticated vibe to downtown Tempe with stellar craft cocktails and globally-inspired small plates. The buzzy atmosphere indoors and streetside patio seating both appeal, depending what sort of night you seek.

Creative tapas take you on a journey around the world in just a few bites, from burrata bruschetta drizzled with basil pesto back to beef tenderloin sliders topped with gorgonzola. Pair your food with equally inventive cocktails like the hibiscus paloma or matcha mule – the bar program here is top-notch.

In addition to excellent food and drink, Bevvy also hosts events like live music, open mic comedy nights and trivia to keep locals coming back again and again.

Full weekend brunches with bottomless drink packages prove excellent opportunities to sample Bevvy’s menu if you’re looking for daytime fun. Happy hour deals run daily too. Whether meeting friends for a casual beer or celebrating a birthday in style, Bevvy’s versatile offerings make it one of Tempe’s best destinations to wine, dine and pass the time.

Best Brunch: Scramble, a Breakfast & Lunch Joint


Scramble first launched as a food truck back in 2010, serving crowds of hungry college students and locals with creative breakfast sandwiches, burritos and skillets. Their popularity led Scramble to eventually open up a permanent brick and mortar location in Tempe. Despite the new digs, the restaurant maintains a laidback, casual atmosphere where you order at the counter then find a seat inside or on the dog-friendly patio.

Weekend brunch draws big crowds with specialties like red velvet pancakes, fried chicken & waffles and the brazilian omelette filled with ground beef, ham, onions, cheese and hash browns. Of course, Scramble’s signature overstuffed breakfast sandwiches also star, like the Caprese with pesto mayo, bacon, fried eggs and fresh mozzarella.

Lunch options range from burgers to salads to mac & cheese skillets – perfect fuel for ASU students. No matter what you order, you can trust it will be fresh, flavorful and nicely priced.

The family-owned Scramble fills up fast so arrive early, especially on weekends. But the wait is well rewarded by the scratchmade brunch foods coming out of the tiny open kitchen.

Best Dessert: Sweet Republic


Gelato and sorbetto take center stage at Sweet Republic, the beloved local ice cream shop rapidly expanding to multiple Valley locations. Husband and wife chefs Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung bring their Le Cordon Bleu training to the shop’s constantly rotating flavor list.

Seasonal ingredients shine in combinations like honey thyme ice cream or cherry moscato sorbet. Some flavors even change daily, like the “Flavor of the Day” series highlighting more experimental options to keep things interesting for repeat customers.

In addition to tempting gelato and sorbet, Sweet Republic also crafts homemade ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cakes, milkshakes, floats and affogatos.

The shop’s pastry chef ensures the cookies and other vessel components perfectly complement the ice cream’s flavors and textures. Crowd favorites include the salty sweet brown butter double chocolate chunk cookies and airy, almondy Mexican wedding cookies. Gluten-free cookies and vegan sorbet mean most dietary restrictions can partake as well.

Sweet Republic’s original location sits amongst the bustling shops and restaurants of downtown Tempe, guaranteeing a constant crowds eager to sample seasonal scoops. No matter when you visit, you’re nearly guaranteed to walk out enjoying something completely unique – Sweet Republic’s uniqueness and incredibly high quality easily cement its reputation as Tempe’s premier ice cream destination.

Best Late Night: Slices Pizza Joint


As a college town filled with students keeping odd hours, Tempe requires plenty of dining options for late night meals. Slices Pizza Joint caters best to night owls looking for a cheap, satisfying bite in a casual setting. The pizzeria stays open until 3 a.m. every night, much later than most Tempe eateries near Arizona State University’s campus.

Slices sells pizza by the slice or whole pies, with an array of toppings and styles to choose from. Go classic with pepperoni or cheese, opt for something more adventurous like Hawaiian or pesto chicken pizza, or order the “Garbage Pizza” piled high with six different toppings. If pizza isn’t your thing, Slices also sells subs, salads, wings and cheesy breadsticks.

While certainly not fine dining, Slices Pizza draws devotees for its quick service, late hours, relaxed digs and wallet-friendly deals. College students swarm here late on weekends but you’ll see just about every type patron munching on gooey slices or grabbing a pie to-go on their way home from Tempe’s bars. No frills, piping hot pizza prepared well past midnight makes Slices Pizza Joint an indispensable part of Tempe’s food scene.

Best Family-Friendly: The Chuckbox


This Tempe institution has been firing up juicy burgers on outdoor grills since it first opened back in 1956. Today, the restaurant has expanded to two locations but the original spot near ASU’s campus still thrives thanks to consistent quality and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. No matter your age, you’re bound to find something tempting on the menu at The Chuckbox.

Their signature CBX burger comes loaded with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and special sauce – a perfect messily delicious meal to enjoy while people watching on the dog-friendly patio. Crispy onion rings, chili fries and cheesy quesadillas also get ordered frequently. Over 21 diners can enjoy beer towers to share along with their hearty portions. If the kids get fussy, there’s a Popcorn Chicken Plate or simple grilled cheese sandwich to quickly satiate their hunger too. Gluten-free buns and veggie patties also appear for those avoiding meat or wheat.

Value-driven prices keep multi-generational families coming back again and again, no matter the time of day or size of group. The Chuckbox maintains its founder’s original vision – serving unfussy American comfort food in a relaxed setting with sincere hospitality. Kids feel welcome to roam while adults sip local draft beers. Groups find room to spread out comfortably across wooden picnic tables. And most importantly, everyone leaves satisfied with a full belly.

Best Outdoor Dining: Postino WineCafe


Postino started out with a humble wine bar anchoring a small Phoenix shopping plaza. Since that first location’s opening in 2001, the concept has taken off across Arizona and beyond thanks to the chill atmosphere and approachable menu.

The Tempe Postino sits right on Farmer Avenue, perfect for optimal people watching thanks to nearly all outdoor seating spread across a sprawling front patio dotted with olive trees. String lights dangling overhead make the space inviting day and night.

Postino specializes in bruschetta-style boards with toasted bread topped creatively, like with smoked salmon, goat cheese and dill or the summery heirloom tomato option.

Shareable salads and sandwich presentations also encourage gathering together over wine, cocktails or local Arizona beers. Weekly special events like yoga classes, live music sets and wine tastings turn Postino into a neighborhood hangout spot, not just somewhere to grab a quick bite.

The Tempe Postino location is especially lively given its proximity to ASU campus and the residential neighborhoods nearby. Students cram over textbooks and friends gossip over glasses of wine well into the evening hours. Postino gives patrons little reason to leave once they’re settled under the string lights out on the spacious patio.

Conclusion


The restaurant scene in Tempe continues expanding and improving each year, thanks largely to the steady influx of residents and Arizona State University students looking for quality cuisine in relaxed settings. Food halls, fast casual establishments and elevated neighborhood eateries crop up frequently, offering both visitors and locals ever more choice when dining out.

Whether you seek family-friendly fare, late-night pizza by the slice or internationally-inspired dishes and craft cocktails, this list showcases some of the most exceptional and enduring dining destinations that Tempe has to offer. From casual lunches between classes to celebrating special events, you’re guaranteed an exceptional meal at any of the restaurants mentioned here – just come hungry and ready to savour Southwestern food at its finest.

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