It's the Weekend. Let's Eat. Tempe
At Expedition Foodie, we're all about giving you reasons to travel for a good meal. "It's the Weekend. Let's Eat." features itineraries for where to dine and what to order in cities throughout Arizona. This edition takes us to Tempe.
As the home of Arizona State University, Tempe doesn't disappoint those in search of college-town grub. But foodies will also be pleased to find a robust offering of elevated cuisine, from dishes featuring chef-foraged ingredients to plant-based meals at vegan cafés.
Friday: Happy Hour and Dinner
Begin the evening in downtown Tempe at Taste of Tops. It's a comfy taproom at which to sample craft beers on draft, in bottles or from the can—nearly 650 in all. Go for something rare, like the New York-based Original Sin Hard Cider, or keep it local with the Mother Road Tower Station IPA from Flagstaff.
Then it's dinner at Rúla Búla, an Irish pub housed in an 1888 saddlery with a sleek bar built in Ireland. The restaurant's name comes from a Gaelic expression that means "uproar and commotion" in the context of celebration. A good thing, of course. Request a table on the garden patio, then start with Galway Bay-style mussels, steamed and soaking in a white wine broth, before moving on to the Shepherd's Pie.
When you want a buzzy breakfast joint with big portions and piping hot coffee, head to Harlow's Café. Since 1980, Harlow's has been serving locals seven days a week as they crowd into this classic diner to indulge in three-egg omelets, French toast, biscuits and gravy, and full meals like the Gary Cooper: eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and juice. Be prepared to wait for a table, even during the week. But trust us, the wait is worth every savory bite.
The feel-good vibes at 24 Carrots go beyond the menu. This vegan, plant-based restaurant sustainably and ethically sources everything, from the food on your plate and the fruit in your smoothie to the compostable cups and packaging made from recyclable materials. For lunch, opt for something from the raw menu (the walnut meat tacos are to die for), or pick one of the handhelds, such as the Sonoran Dog with grilled seitan sausage.
Chef Tamara Stanger forages in the woods, along backcountry roads and around Arizona's deserts for the indigenous ingredients that appear on the menu at Cotton & Copper. Every dish here offers a true taste of the state. Chef Stanger makes a glaze from foraged mesquite to brush over the Two Wash Ranch Chicken, dresses the Rabbit & Spätzle in desert herbs and pickles vegetables for the O'odham Tepary Bean Spread. Pair any of her creations with the restaurant's roundup of creative cocktails.
See more of Chef Stanger's local-first approach, as well as her favorite places to eat around town, in our video series This is the Place I was Telling You About.
Sunday: Coffee and Brunch
Cartel Coffee Lab's expansion from a coffee truck in Tempe to stylish cafés located in hip places like Palm Springs and Austin speaks volumes about just how good these folks make a cup of joe. Cartel's filter drip nears perfection, but if you're feeling fancy, order the cortado, an elegant blend of espresso and steamed milk. Skip the pastries because you're headed to Nocawich for brunch. This casual spot feels like a fast-food restaurant only in that you order at a counter and meals arrive at the table quickly. But that's where the similarity ends. The pastrami is made in-house, the lox and bagels are imported from New York, and local Schreiner's sausage stars in the chimichurri-drizzled breakfast burrito.
Sunday: Sweet Treat
Before you conclude your dine-around, stop by Sparky's Old Town Creamery for a sweet ending. This ice cream shop doles out scoops of small-batch, fresh-churned ice cream made with cream from Arizona dairy farms. Choose from 22 flavors that range from chocolate and strawberry to Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin and Pumpkin Porter.