When people think of food options near college campuses, often images of crummy fast-casual joints or college bars with mediocre greasy food come to mind. Arizona State University enjoys the advantage of being located in one of the most culturally diverse cities in Arizona, and the food scene reflects this diversity. From arepas to a maroon and gold-themed Sichuan dish, a wide variety of offerings can be found within steps of ASU’s campus. If you ever need to take a break from subpar dining hall food, these 10 spots have got you covered.Read More
Where to Eat Around Arizona State University
More than just a college town, Tempe offers up bold and diverse flavors.
Cafe Lalibela Ethiopian Cuisine
Cafe Lalibela is a well-established Tempe institution. Run by the husband-and-wife duo Anibal and Salem Abayneh, Cafe Lalibela has introduced countless Valley residents to the wonders of Ethiopian cuisine for over two decades. While all of the Ethiopian staples, such as injera (a thin sourdough-tasting bread) and wat (a vegetable, meat, or broth-based stew), are available here, it is best to leave it up to the experts and opt for the chef’s favorite combination, which provides a selection of meat or vegetable-based dishes, atop a layer of injera and served on a massive platter. Cafe Lalibela has become such a staple that their dishes can be found pre-prepared at some grocery stores around the Valley.
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Little Szechuan has been an essential destination for ASU students and Tempe residents alike since 1976. Tucked away in a tiny white bungalow off of University Drive, Little Szechuan offers an array of classic pan-Asian comfort food. With moo shoo for under $14, spicy noodle soup, and even an ASU-themed maroon and gold-hued dish—aptly named the Sun Devil—consisting of your choice of protein, chili, and bamboo shoots (don’t forget to ask for the student discount at checkout).
Desert Roots Kitchen
Tucked away in a small courtyard on bustling Mill Ave, Desert Roots is the perfect vegan lunch spot. At just over 400 square feet, most of which is dedicated to kitchen space, Desert Roots is a charming counter-service spot—perfect for the many Mill Ave wanderers. They feature a very seasonal menu that rotates daily, so be sure to check their Instagram for the most up-to-date daily menu before visiting. The offerings are usually focused on items like wraps, fun hummus flavors, local greens, fresh-baked goods, and smoothies.
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Cocina Chiwas is quickly becoming one of the best restaurants in Tempe, and it’s no secret why. As a joint venture between Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin of the Tacos Chiwas empire, and Rene Andrade and Roberto Centeno of the Bacanora and Espiritu Stardom, Cocina Chiwas has some serious heavy-hitters pulling its strings. This stylish restaurant, attached to the new car-free neighborhood called Cul-de-Sac, is the perfect fit for the Valley’s resident college town. Breaking the culinary mold from other Valley restaurants, Cocina Chiwas is helping define the Tempe culinary scene. With some minor riffs on some of the classics—like a sweet salsa macha diverging from the traditional salty and toasted taste of the sauce, and a chile relleno that features an Anaheim pepper and is topped with requesón, which is like a Mexican ricotta.
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This Middle Eastern grocer and no-frills counter-service joint is a mainstay of the ASU community. Founded by the late Zuhier Mahmoud Khatib after moving to the US from Syria and attending ASU, Haji-Baba features a menu with the classic array of very reasonably priced kebabs, shawarma and gyros. Some of their standouts include their hummus and baba ganoush, a superb lamb tongue sandwich, and baklava made with Arizona pecans.
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Cafetal is conveniently located directly in the middle of ASU’s campus. This Colombian cafe is joining the ever-growing list of “crop-to-cup” cafes, in this case offering coffee imported directly from the owner’s third-generation family farm in Colombia, as well as offering top-notch brews from other micro-lot farms around the world. All of their pastries are baked in-house, and the small menu of Colombian provisions includes constantly rotating arepas and empanadas. The ideal spot to get some homework done or finally go on that friend coffee date, Cafetal is a definite spot to try.
An invaluable addition to the diverse Tempe food scene, Mandi House is a Yemeni-focused restaurant that draws inspiration from the entire Arabian Peninsula. The menu at Mandi House is largely centered around Yemeni rice dishes, along with a few Levantine (the eastern Mediterranean region) dishes like maqlooba—a rice dish layered with vegetables and meat that’s flipped from a bowl and served as a heaping dome. Over the years, Mandi House has incorporated other Middle Eastern and North African dishes like hummus and falafel as well. In true Yemeni style, they offer both floor seating and traditional booths and tables, and the food always comes with a cup of complimentary tea.
Cheba Hut "Toasted" Subs (Multiple Locations)
The Arizona gourmet sub shop that has now gone national actually started at this Cheba Hut location on University & Hardy. The chain — founded in 1998 by Scott Jennings — has been a favorite for ASU students ever since, and everyone else must have liked what he was doing, as there are now 45 locations throughout the country. The self-proclaimed hippie sub shop has a wide array of fun subs, like the Panama Red (a take on the chicken marinara) and Acapulco Gold (Cheba Hut’s take on barbecue chicken). It’s rare to find homemade rice crispy treats, so be sure to grab some of the ones by the register.
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Society by EVO
Ever craved a pound of mussels after that late-night study session? Society, which opened in 2022, is here to fill the niche that is upscale late-night dining. Open every day of the week until 2 a.m. and serving food until 1:30 a.m., Society is perfectly suited for the high-energy atmosphere surrounding ASU. With menu items like arancini, butter cake, chula salmon ceviche (a classic ceviche but with salmon belly and mango), and yes—a Pound O’ Mussels. Located in the heart of the city, this lively yet approachable local is the epitome of Tempe dining.
Postino Annex (Multiple Locations)
For lowkey vibes where the food and service is always good, Postino is the kind of place to take the parents when they are in town visiting. This popular Phoenix-based Italian spot has locations throughout the Valley, and its Tempe digs are directly in the middle of ASU’s campus. Perfect for post-class drinks, post-club meeting drinks, post-exam drinks — really post-anything drinks. With an impressive wine and beer list and a wide selection of bruschetta and paninis, Postino is an easy crowd-pleaser.