These are the 10 best restaurants in Tempe (2024)

Lists

Some have been open for decades, others just a few months. But these spots are serving the best food in Tempe.

By New Times Staff

September 27, 2023

These are the 10 best restaurants in Tempe (1)

Old Town Taste's Chongqing-style chicken is packed with mouth-numbing peppercorns.Jackie Mercandetti Photo

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Tempe is perhaps most widely known as the home of Arizona State University. But the wonderful thing about students winding up here from all over the world is the diversity of the restaurants it inspires. Tempe is home to exceptional Ethiopian food, Punjabi andSichuanrestaurants, Italian joints and more. Of course, you've also got your steakhouses and brewpubs, and Tempe happens to have some of the best versions in the Valley. Here are the top 10 best restaurants in Tempe right now.

Cafe Lalibela

849 W. University Drive, Tempe

There is a strong argument to be made that Cafe Lalibela, open for nearly three decades, cooks the best African food in all of metro Phoenix. An injera, or flatbread with a moonlike landscape has measured tang that doesn't blot out the fragrance of the teff; it also features a pleasant sponge that's ideal for sopping up stews and vegetables. Whether it's tender lamb fragrant with turmeric or beef deepened with berbere, the beauty of Ethiopian food is on full display here — no more so than in the vegetable dishes. It's marvelous what Cafe Lalibela can do with lentils and split peas.

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Pair a sophisticated pasta dish with a glass of wine or a co*cktail at Caffe Boa.

Tirion Boan

Caffe Boa

398 S. Mill Ave., Tempe

On any given day at Tempe staple Caffe Boa, you’ll see a wide variety of customers. Young couples looking to impress on first dates fill tables in the cozy dining room next to ASU students celebrating milestones, groups of friends grabbing a sophisticated bite before heading to Gammage for a show or professors showing off the best of Tempe to new faculty members. The restaurant serves Italian classics with a modern twist, such as lasagna with hint of cream in the rich tomato sauce, ravioli filled with butternut squash swimming in sage and garlic butter, flatbreads, salads and customizable charcuterie boards. co*cktails are served in cut-glass coupes, the wine list is extensive and there’s a selection of rakijas, which the menu describes as a Serbo-Croatian alcoholic drink made from distilled fermented fruit. Brunch is served on the weekends until it’s time for candles to cast light on the brick walls of this romantic setting.

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Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin are the force behind Tempe's Cocina Chiwas.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Cocina Chiwas

2001 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe

Cocina Chiwas builds on the familial traditions of Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin, while also bringing new flavors and dishes inspired by what the couple have learned while eating and working around the Valley. They may be better known fortheir Tacos Chiwas taquerias, but this restaurant, which opened earlier in 2023 in a slick contemporary building as part of Culdesac Tempe, starts a new chapter in their culinary journey. New Times’ food critic Dominic Armato praised their riffs on quesadillas and Caesar salad, as well as the restaurant’s asado de puerco, blue heirloom corn empanadas and the sweet salsa macha that shows up across dishes as “one of the menu’s secret weapons,” he writes. The desserts are equally impressive. The sweet corn panna cotta is a rich and surprising treat. Fruit compote adds a tartness that cuts through the sweetness from the corn. It adds up to an experience that differs from a traditional Mexican restaurant but is true to Hernandez and Holguin.

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If you can't choose just one dish at The Dhaba, order one of the Thali options.

Tirion Boan

The Dhaba

1872 Apache Blvd., Tempe

It’s easy to know when you’ve reached The Dhaba, or even when you’ve arrived in the restaurant’s general neighborhood. The warm, enticing aroma of cooking spices forms a fragrant bubble around this Tempe classic. The restaurant serves a selection of Punjabi food ranging from snackable appetizers to hearty stews and curries. Specialties come straight from the tandoor, and each dish has an accompanying wine recommendation on the menu. For an excellent cross-section of the restaurant’s offerings, order one of the three Thali options. These sampler platters offer a veggie of the day and multiple varieties of chicken or lamb, as well as yellow veggie-studded rice, cool yogurt raita and fluffy naan. They also include a warming mug of chai plus a small sweet to end the meal. The Dhaba also serves imported soft drinks, beers and lassis in flavors including mango, rose, sweet, salty and plain.

Haji-Baba

1513 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe

ASU students, Tempe residents and really anyone who has spent time eating in Tempe over the past nearly 40 years will tell you Haji-Baba is an essential and iconic spot. Open since 1984, the restaurant has served Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare to generations of customers. Stop in at the small market for takeout, or grab a table in the connected dining room. Not sure what to order? Try the combination plate, a sampler that lets you taste a little of everything. The hummus is creamy and rich with tahini. The Tabooli is fresh and bright, the chicken shawarma is seasoned to perfection, and the lamb Shish Kabab is juicy, savory and satisfying. The falafel and stuffed grape leaves make for excellent meat-free options, and fresh baklava finishes everything on a superb sweet note.

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Hundred Mile Brewing Co. is about so much more than beer.

Hundred Mile Brewing Co.

Hundred Mile Brewing Co.

690 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe

Hundred Mile Brewing Co., as the name suggests, is first and foremost a brewery. But aside from in-house crafted beer, the Tempe spot also serves an exceptional food menu with dishes that go way beyond what one might expect of a classic brewpub. Yes, there are burgers and sandwiches to pair with a pint. But they’re massive, juicy, balanced in flavor and endlessly filling. There are fresh salads studded with golden beets and sesame-crusted ahi tuna. At dinnertime, there are short ribs with stout demi-glace and a salmon bowl with green tea jasmine rice. The space itself is open and bright with a breezy patio and indoor-outdoor bar. Pair a fresh and hearty meal with a co*cktail or one of the rotating beers on tap. We’re partial to the Solar Flower Kolsch, a crisp and refreshing sip.

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At Mandi House, the entrees are served on large platters with rice and multiple sauces.

Sara Crocker

Mandi House

1639 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe

It’s hard to miss Mandi House. The bright blue stuccoed building beckons from the street. Inside, the halal restaurant serves comforting Middle Eastern cuisine – highlighting specifically Yemeni recipes. Warm spices offer depth to the meat and rice dishes among its entrees, which come on massive platters, often accompanied by garlicky yogurt and a chile sauce made with tomatoes and jalapenos that has bite. Both add acidity and brightness to these stick-to-your-ribs meals. The restaurant offers takeout and dine-in service, with options to sit inside the dining room or on comfortable floor seating areas.

Old Town Taste

1845 E. Broadway Road, Tempe

Though this strip mall Chinese restaurant offers food from a few regions of the country, most of its greatest hits are Sichuan. These include twice-cooked pork spotlighting strips of belly that melt in delicate puffs of meat and carried into fragrant, beautiful territory by ample leeks. Another absolute instant classic is the Chongqing-style chicken, a pile of crisp-fried chicken charged with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. At Old Town Taste, you'll find standout fried fish, thoughtfully prepared soups and top-notch Ma Po tofu brimming with soul and spice. Bring a group of friends and grab a table with a Lazy Susan, perfect for spinning as you taste your way across the menu.

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Although the Peppermill is a steakhouse, don't skip over the exceptional poultry options.

Tirion Boan

Peppermill

7660 S. McClintock Drive #104, Tempe

The Peppermill is a perfect example of how metro Phoenix gems can be hidden in unsuspecting strip malls. From the outside, this joint looks like the rest of its neighbors, including a dry cleaner and a UPS store. But inside, the chefs are doing some seriously outstanding work. The narrow space includes a high-top bar, one row of tables and a row of booths. An open kitchen spans the length of the space, giving customers a first-row seat to the action.Flames periodically shoot up to kiss giant steaks and grilled veggies. The Peppermill technically is a steakhouse, but it surely isn’t the crusty kind. The steak frites and a massive, juicy burger come with thick-cut, piping hot crispy potato wedges. A grilled half-chicken is served with a rich, velvety lemon butter sauce. Mussels steamed in a red curry coconut broth are amped up with a hearty portion of ground pork. Duck confit is folded, along with sweet corn and goat cheese, into a puff pastry pop-tart. Wash it all down with a top-notch co*cktail, a local or imported draft beer or a strong pour of wine. The plates are huge, and there is a $10 charge to split an entree, so bring a big appetite and prepare to leave stuffed and happy.

Tampopo Ramen

3223 S. McClintock Dr., Tempe

Tampopo Ramen continues to be one of our favorite spots in the Valley for ramen. The restaurant hails itself as Arizona’s original joint for Hakata ramen — the dish often made with pork bone broth, wheat noodles, thin slices of pork, scallions, mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg. Tampopo’s Tonkotsu stays true to tradition with a rich broth, wild mushrooms and housemade noodles. Additional ramen offerings include spicy miso, seafood and curry versions, which you can further customize with additional toppings, including fried chicken, seaweed and roe. While ramen is the star at Tampopo, its menu also includes rice dishes and standout starters ranging from cucumber and seaweed salads to braised pork belly and takoyaki.

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