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Mar 29, 2008 01:20 PM

Any recommendations for Tempe, Arizona?

I am attending a conference with some co-workers at the end of April in Tempe, we will be staying at the Mission Palms Hotel on 60 E 5th Street. Are there any must do restaurants while we are there? Within walking distance or short cab ride preferable.

I have heard of Mucho Gusto, but not much else...

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  1. Very good and very near your hotel is House of Tricks (a.k.a. "Tricks" among the locals). Try to score a table outside for dinner.

    A little less upscale, but also good, is Caffe Boa, which is a leisurely 10-minute walk from your hotel.

    Even less upscale, but one of my sentimental Tempe favorites, is Restaurant Mexico, a homey place serving DF-style Mexican food.

    Other nearby options include Urban Campfire and Cornish Pasty Company. I've yet to try either, but others have given them favorable reviews here.

    I've yet to visit Mucho Gusto, but I had a chance to sample their green chile posole at a recent culinary festival. Definitely one the best things I tasted at the event, which featured some of the top restaurants in the area.

    I don't know that any of these qualify as "must-do" restaurants, but they are all good and within easy walking distance of your hotel.

    House of Tricks
    114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

    Caffe Boa
    398 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

    Restaurant Mexico
    423 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

    Urban Campfire
    921 E University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

    Mucho Gusto
    603 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

    7 Replies
    1. re: hohokam

      More good restaurants within walking distance: Dragonfly Vietnamese, which is on 3rd and Mill (and some of the best Vietnamese food in the Phoenix area, in my opinion), and Rula Bula for Irish pub food, which is also at 3rd and Mill. Neither are really classified as "must do" but both are very good.

      1. re: hohokam

        Since you are looking for a place to take co-workers, I'll say that I have gone with a group of my co-workers to four of hohokam's six picks. The other two are on my short list.

        First of all, some of my co-workers are on a very tight budget, but, House of Tricks is not a problem for them - just not an everyday thing. We all love it, and have never been disappointed, to my knowledge.

        I love Restuarant Mexico. My co-workers, on the other hand, may have been taken by surprise by this place. Some will go back, some won't. I think of it as more family oriented. It isn't big on atmosphere or alcoholic beverages.

        Urban Campfire is bigger on the alcohol, but, I'm comfortable eating there, as a non-drinker. Again, I like Urban Campfire, but, some of my co-workers did not. Perhaps part of the problem is the slow service at lunch, but, some did not have a taste for the food.

        Cornish Pasty is another big hit. I have grown a little tired of the very small space. I would rather get take-out, but, nobody I know has complained about the food. It's NOT a good place to take a group, especially when they're busy.

        There are some mixed reviews of Mucho Gusto, but, I really need to get there, someday. I tried to go, about a week ago, but, I was out-voted by those who wanted to go to Oregano's, next door. Oregano's is a local chain, and not a bad place to get a pizza and keep the crowd happy. However, I would rather go to Classic Italian Pizza (open for dinner, only).

        There are a lot of other choices. It's a great area for casual dining.

        Classic Italian Pizza
        1054 E Baseline Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283

        Cornish Pasty Co
        960 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

        Oregano's Pizza Bistro
        523 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

        1. re: hohokam

          I must strongly disagree with any recommendation for Restaurant Mexico. My husband and I went last night for dinner and it was worse than airline food. He had dark meat chicken in mole sauce and I had a combo with a beef taco, cheese enchilada and chorizo tostada. His chicken was all skin and cartilidge and he only had about 4 small bits of meat. My cheese enchilada had probably been made early in the morning and they had not even bothered to reheat it. The taco was boring and the only thing we really found edible was the tostada. I was so hoping for an old school type Mexican meal but this was so horrible. I'm still angry about it this morning!

          1. re: melcarr

            My recommendation is based on 17 years of great meals, friendly service, and fair prices at Restaurant Mexico.

            I'm sorry you had a bad experience. Did you and your husband bring these issues to the attention of your server?

            As I don't know what you mean by "old school Mexican", I can't say how Restaurant Mexico might have deviated from your expectations. I know that when I took my parents there, my father rejected his meal because it wasn't the Tex-Mex style food he was accustomed to. I, however, see Restaurant Mexico's dedication to serving DF-style food as one of its defining and endearing virtues.

            1. re: melcarr

              I go to Restaurant Mexico about once a week for lunch, and have been for many years. My lunch buddies and I love the Clare burro (or Clare enchiladas), meat burro, and the Friday special cheese chile rellenos (with white cheese, much less heavy than many you'll find in the valley).

              I do have a couple of friends who don't like it. They prefer yellow cheese (preferably very hot, melted and oily) and Sonoran style food in general, which RM does not specialize in. A few times (out of zillions) there has been a problem with something, but the servers have always been happy to replace it. Sorry you had a bad experience and it wasn't to your taste. Peronally, I'm headed out to lunch there in an hour!

              1. re: bortukan

                It's so perplexing because the reason I ordered the combo was to try a variety of their dishes but we our picks were all wrong with the exception of the tostada. I'll take a good relleno or burrito anyday but I seriously doubt I will go back. Maybe it's better at lunch - my spouse used to work at ASU and only went there for lunch a few times in the old location. We both just kept shaking our heads. I think I'll try Dragonfly next time.

                1. re: melcarr

                  I had a great bowl of Pho at Dragonfly on Wednesday. It was the "Brian Special" ( ??? ). Beef and chicken together was all it really amounted to but the flavor was great.

                  I asked if they ever got really busy and the bartender just kind of chuckled and said no. He insisted that they really only have 5 or 6 tables going at once for the most part. He mentioned that the space is supposedly "cursed", as I guess there have been more than a couple unsuccessful restaurants in the space prior.

          2. House of Tricks is a block from the Tempe Mission Palms..its excellent and all around on food and wine..
            Durant's downtown Phoenix is a classic if you are up for a 20 minute cab of the best old school dining..
            Long Wong's for wings and beer..
            Monte's is ok..haven't been in a long time..there is a pretty good Greek restaurant on Mill too but forgot the name..
            Fat Tuesday on Mill is always fun for frozen drinks... and the best cheeseburger on earth is at the ChuckBox on University next to ASU..

            3 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              Long Wong's closed down quite some time ago. In fact, even the building is long gone...just a sad empty lot remains. Unless you were talking about a different location, although there wouldn't be much point in making a special trip to any other Long Wong location.

              1. re: boingo2000

                I knew they got rid of the one on Mill but don't they have one on Baseline in Tempe?
                Agree that there is no place like the original..

                1. re: boingo2000

                  I'm pretty sure that Long Wong's relocated to the other side of University, but I've heard that something was lost in translation.

              2. Agree with all of the above.

                Here are some additional choices:

                Stockyards -- classic steakhouse; actually in Phoenix but very close to DT Tempe
                Tasty Kabob -- delicious Persian food
                Cafe LaLibela -- Ethiopian
                Dragonfly -- Vietnamese
                Four Peaks -- Craft brewer and restaurant

                Four Peaks Brewing Co
                1340 E 8th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

                Lalibela Cafe Ethiopian
                849 W University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

                Tasty Kabob
                1250 E Apache Blvd Ste 116, Tempe, AZ 85281

                Stockyards Restaurant
                5009 E Washington St Ste 115, Phoenix, AZ 85034

                Dragonfly Vietnamese Kitchen (Closed)
                414 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ

                1. Tricks is good. I'm more into casual places. Cornish Pasty is awesome for takeout or no more than 4 people, but could be tricky for a group. The restaurant is *very* small. Pita Jungle is a great casual place if you like Mediterranean/Vegetarian food and it's right next door to Tasty Kabob. Take a cab there. The road/light rail construction right now is awful near there. They have excellent rice pudding for desert.

                  We used to love Caffe Boa, but haven't been there in ages. I used to adore the portabello ravioli. Yum. Casey Moore's Oyster House is a great Irish Pub/Seafood joint. The atmosphere is unbeatable. Great place to go for beers, wings, oysters, and chowder. And, if you like cheap but great pizza, you can't beat Slices. Chuckbox is indeed an excellent burger place. Ted's Hot Dogs also has good burgers in addition to their yummy footlong dog. We love Sakana's for sushi, too. But only the one in Ahwatukee (Elliott Rd). John Henry's and Riazzi's are supposed to be fabulous, though I cannot speak from personal experience. We love Byblos, too. Great Middle Eastern food. Try the tomato soup. It's to die for. Islands is great for lunch, too. I know it's a chain, but I still like it. You can walk there. Next door to the movie theater. :) I'd go to Gordon Bierch just to sit on the patio. Great view.

                  Whatever you do, skip Uno's right on Mill. Awful pizza, IMHO, and awful service. Perhaps it's improved in the several years since I've been there, but I will never go back after the experience I had there.

                  Ted's Charcoal Broiled Hot Dogs
                  1755 E Broadway Rd, Tempe, AZ 85282

                  Sakana Restaurant
                  5061 E Elliot Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85044

                  3332 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85282

                  Casey Moore's Oyster House
                  850 S Ash Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

                  11 E 6th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

                  Chuck Box
                  202 E University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281

                  John Henry's
                  909 E Elliot Rd, Tempe, AZ 85284

                  Riazzi's Italian Gardens
                  2700 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85282

                  730 S Mill Ave # H104, Tempe, AZ

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Jen76

                    Love that you recommend Casey Moore's..I was just there a couple of weeks ago with friends from Tempe..we live in SD and they have really expanded that place..
                    What a good time we all had..they make one hell of a drink and did you know that upstairs in the dining room, is so haunted..that's another story..
                    Years ago, it used to be called 9th and Ash..this is easy to walk to from your hotel..
                    Love that you love the Chuckbox and Pita Jungle too!

                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      Pita Jungle has to be one of my all time most favorite places. There's just something about it. There was another thread on one of these boards that I was reading about restaurants that you love because of the atmosphere. Pita Jungle is that place for me. The original Tempe one is still my favorite (it's a local chain now - the owners have recently expanded to new locations). But the Chandler one is nice with it's patio on the lake. Helps that I love the food, too. ;)

                      Casey Moore's being haunted is a long time legend.

                      1. re: Jen76

                        Pita Jungle is definitely a winner. And now a few doors down is a terrific frozen yogurt/gelato place called Chill. I'm hooked on their one flavor of yogurt: Plain, tangy, not-too-sweet regular frozen yogurt. Top it with a little fruit and you have quite possibly the ultimate summer sweet.

                        1250 E Apache Blvd 104, Tempe, AZ 85281

                        1. re: Jen76

                's no husband and I had the experience of our life and my husband lived in a haunted house in college and I've seen ghosts but my experience at Casey Moore's was out of this world..
                          Drinks were free all night because of it! ;)

                      2. re: Jen76

                        I think light rail contruction is pretty much over, now. I haven't had any problems driving around that area.

                        1. re: Jen76

                          Islands has been closed for a year or so; in fact, the Harkins theaters are gone as well.

                          Agree about Uno, especially the service. I think they stopped caring at that location a long time ago.

                          1. re: boingo2000

                            Oops. Shows you how often I make it to CenterPoint. We just ate at Chuckbox tonight. Yummy. Got the last two burgers before they closed 1/2 hour early. Busy night and they ran out of everything.

                          2. re: Jen76

                            I lived right around the corner from Riazzi's for 5 years. I ate there exactly one time. The food was mostly adequate, but I remember some things just being outright bad. I suppose it could have improved since then, but Seth's review from a couple of years ago makes me think that is unlikely.

                            If the OP and his colleagues are interested in Italian-influenced food/pasta, I think Caffe Boa would be a much better choice.

                          3. A lovely budget lunch only spot you can walk to is In Season Deli. It's tiny and tucked in back courtyard of a brick building on Mill. The mainstay is the split single, two large scoops from your choice of a variety of yummy vegetarian pastas, chicken or tuna salad optionally topped with cheese and sprouts. The vegan tamales are very good too. Drinks are canned sodas or lemonade. All the seating is outdoors on the shaded patio, but in late April it may be too warm. It's just great and for being open 28 years, it's a Mill Avenue survivor.

                            In Season Deli
                            414 S Mill Ave Ste 111, Tempe, AZ 85281

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: AguasFrescas

                              In Season is a great choice. That patio is covered, so I eat outside there even in July. Then again, I'm a Phoenician with 20 years experience in brutal heat.

                              The lemonad is quite good and there are often two or more varieties available.

                              1. re: AguasFrescas

                                I forgot about In Season Deli! I used to love that place when I was in college. Their tamales were to die for. The courtyard is charming, too.