Pho Nhat

The unassuming Tempe Towne Plaza shopping center has long been home to restaurants serving foods from all over the globe. Indian, Somali, pizza — all those cuisines and more are crammed into this strip mall, which is just a block north of the University / Rural light rail station. The Vietnamese food niche here is filled by Pho Nhat, or maybe it’s just Nhat, given that the word “Pho” is part of the restaurant’s name on the menus but not on the outside sign. Let’s just call it (Pho) Nhat and acknowledge that its speciality is indeed pho, the rice noodle soup of Hanoi. Continue reading “Pho Nhat”

The Munchies Cafe

With medical marijuana dispensaries continuing to proliferate, a restaurant called “the Munchies” might sound like a place dedicated to a certain “herb.” Actually, the name is more a reference to a late closing time (3:00 AM every day) than any controlled substance, and the Munchies Cafe is a straightforward Middle Eastern and Greek quick service restaurant in the heart of Downtown Tempe. Look for the Munchies on the short cul-de-sac of Sixth Street that extends east from Mill Avenue, three blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “The Munchies Cafe”

Desert Roots Kitchen

Desert plants are often known for having shallow roots, which are better for quickly absorbing water during brief storms followed by quick evaporation. In Downtown Tempe, a restaurant aptly named Desert Roots Kitchen has displayed some unexpectedly deep roots, operating with essentially the same approach for over six years and building upon the traditions of an even longer lasting restaurant, In Season Deli, that came before it at the same location. These roots continue to grow just a block-and-a-half south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “Desert Roots Kitchen”

Mandi House

The news from Yemen hasn’t been very good in recent years. The country at the southwestern corner of the Arabian peninsula is most often portrayed in terms of terrorism, drone strikes, civil war, and Saudi intervention. Despite all the bad news, Yemen, like almost all war-torn lands, has a culture and a cuisine largely hidden by the strife but worth exploring. Apache Boulevard in Tempe is home to numerous restaurants serving Middle Eastern food of numerous nationalities, but one in particular, Mandi House, stands out with its distinctive focus on the food of Yemen. Continue reading “Mandi House”

Cartel Coffee Lab

If there’s one item thought to go with coffee (or tea), it’s pastry. Cartel Coffee Lab has long excelled with its beverages, but in its early years, the coffee house was so exclusively focused on the quality of its brew that it barely served any food at all. Since then, Cartel has gone through phases of relying on external providers and varying its food offering by location. Now, in the most recent development, Cartel has started offering its own baked goods at its various locations, including both the original shop in Tempe and its smaller site in downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Cartel Coffee Lab”

Matt’s Big Breakfast

It’s interesting how even the most adventurous eaters tend to be conservative about breakfast. People who gladly consume foods from outside their own family traditions in the afternoon and evening often revert to familiar dishes like eggs, bacon, pancakes, and waffles in the morning. Matt’s Big Breakfast, having recently expanded from its tiny original site to multiple locations, continues to embrace the familiar but takes the classics to an uncommon level by stressing high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients and a hand-crafted approach to their preparation. Continue reading “Matt’s Big Breakfast”

The Chuckbox

It seems every college campus has to have a burger joint. Ideally, this place should be inexpensive, unpretentious, independently owned, and decades old. The Chuckbox, which serves hamburgers in a location just across University Drive from the ASU Main Campus, meets all of these criteria. The restaurant, which is three blocks from the Veterans Way / College Avenue light rail station, stands nearly alone in a sea of new high-density construction as a throwback to another era when most Tempe restaurants occupied freestanding structures and Western kitsch was still fashionable decor.

Continue reading “The Chuckbox”

Rehab Burger Therapy

As the signs outside most McDonald’s franchises say, Americans have eaten billions and billions of hamburgers. A hot sandwich based on a ground beef patty has remained a staple for decades despite nutritional and environmental concerns, but after all those billions, there has to be room for innovation. At Rehab Burger Therapy, the departure from traditions occurs not so much with the patty, but instead in unexpected choices of toppings that fill the space between the bread and the meat, and, in some cases, extend well beyond the boundaries of the bun. Continue reading “Rehab Burger Therapy”

Khai Hoan

In diverse communities like Tempe, it’s not uncommon to have restaurants and grocers of entirely different geographic origins coexisting side-by-side in the same shopping center. Khai Hoan, a small Vietnamese restaurant, occupies a small retail plaza with a Mexican carniceria and a Middle Eastern restaurant as its neighbors. The location is on Apache Boulevard between the Dorsey / Apache and McClintock / Apache light rail stations. Although the restaurant is almost exactly halfway between both platforms, the walk is more pleasant from Dorsey. Continue reading “Khai Hoan”

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