As the title suggests, these are my personal recommendations--the selection or description is neither objective nor comprehensive. The selection is based on location (close to campus), price, or my highly idiosyncratic preferences. Needless to say, there are many other places to choose from.
The Memorial Union (MU). There are many places to eat on the first floor and in the basement of MU, including an all-you-can-eat cafeteria and a convenient store. Here are a few that I tend to use frequently for lunch:
- Engrained Cafe. The concept is green: An environmentally-conscious restaurant serving delicious meals made from fresh, locally grown ingredients. Conveniently located on the second floor of the Memorial Union, where the Symposium is held. (We will be having receptions at Engrained on Thursday and Friday.)
- Starbucks. No explanation needed. There are several locations around campus, including one in MU and another in W.P. School of Business, which is right next to MU. I miss their House Blend, which they no longer serve. But Pike (which is what they give you if you ask for "house coffee" these days) is good enough.
- Einstein Bagles. My personal favorite include the Chicago Bagel Dog and their Darn Good Coffee.
- Cold Stone Creamery. A famous ice cream joint that was first opened in 1988 in Tempe, Arizona, by ASU alumni Donald and Susan Sutherland.
On or near campus:
- CupZ. A local coffee house in the College Avenue Marketplace. There are a number of fast-food restaurants near by.
- IHOP. A pancake chain attached to Twin Parms Hotel. My daughter's favorite is "create-a-face" pancake (for kids only).
- 3 Margaritas (Mexican). This is my daughter's favorite. The one I usually go to is on Rural (1717 S Rural Rd, Tempe; 480-829-5737), just south of ASU Tempe campus. Within walking distance from Four Points by Sheraton. The unique pink building on your left--just after the railroad--is impossible to miss!
- Four Peaks Brewing Company (Brew Pub). A well hidden treasure of Tempe--it's located in the middle of what appears to be a residential neighborhood. This is a local microbrewery that serves great beer and food! It's within walking distance from ASU campus (about a mile from MU). The closest Light Rail stop is Apache/Dorsey.
- Gordon Biersch (Brew Pub). This is a chain restaurant, but so what? They have good food, good atmosphere, and good beer. My favorite is Märtzen--if you like full-bodied and strong beer, I higly recommend it. Garlic fries used to have lots of chopped garlic on top, but they've toned it down quite a bit; I was disappointed, but it's still pretty good.
- House of Tricks (French). A well-hidden treasure--a great place for leisurely lunch meetings. Everything I've ordered there has been great. Between Fulton Center and the Mill Avenue. They also have a great wine selection, though I've never had the chance to try one.
- Phoenicia Cafe (Mediterranean). A casual mediterranean restaurant, serving Halal food. There is a Middle Eastern market right next to it. Just north of ASU Tempe campus.
- Cafe Boa (Italian). An upscale bistro. It's categorized as Italian, but it feels more like a European fusion (if there is such a thing). I've been there for happy hour several times and enjoyed their wine and appetizer.
Other places throughout the Valley:
- Abuelos (Mexican). My favorite upscale mexican restaurant. Great atmosphere, great service, great food. The one I usually use is in Chandler--near Chandler Fashion Center.
- C-Fu Gourmet (Chinese). This is the place we usually go for dim sum not only for its location but also for its quality. It is located next to Shimogamo and near Lee Lee's Super Market, a Chinese supermarket that sells grocery from all over the world.
- Cherry Blossom Noodle Cafe (Japanese). If you like tonkotsu or takana ramen, this is the place. Other dishes are also good. If you order ramen, you also get some bread and salad (a combination I've never seen in Japan), but their bread is actually pretty good. I don't go there often enough because it's north of Phoenix, which is beyond my usual territory.
- Dragon Fly (Vietnamese). This is a great upscale vietnamese restaurant. Nice atmosphere and great presentation. The food is also great, too. The only problem is that they recently close the one on Mill Avenue, so you'd have to take the bus or drive to Mesa. It's right next to Hodori.
- Golden Buddha (Chinese). I usually go for their dim sum. The taste is more plain than I would like, but that may be just me. Located in the Chinese Culture Center, just a few minutes North of the airport. In the viscinity, there are several other great Chinese restaurants as well as a Chinese supermarket.
- Haru Sushi (Japanese). The only kaiten zushi (revolving sushi bar) in the Valley. The quality of fish is pretty good for the price. My personal favorite are hamachi, ika and sake (salmon).
- Hodori (Korean). This is my favorite Korean restaurant. Their soondobu (spicy tofu hotpot) is almost addictive! Mandu (pan fried damplings) are also great.
- Rock Bottom (Brew Pub). Need I explain? There are several locations throughout the Valley.
- SanTan Brewing Company (Brew Pub). It's a bit of a distance, but if you can find a way to get there, it's worth the trip (if you like brew pubs, that is). The service is OK, but they do have pretty good beer. You might also enjoy other restaurants and shops in downtown Chandler.
- Shimogamo (Japanese). This is the place if you are looking for an upscale Japanese restaurant that actually serves authentic Japanese food in authentic atmosphere (unlike RA Sushi, which serves fusion cuisine in loud and funky, quasi-Asian atomosphere). I hear this is one of the places where Japanese celebrities frequent, though I have yet to run into one.
- Sushi Ken (Japanese). If you want to enjoy a reasonably-priced, casual Japanese meal in Arizona, this would be my recommendation. This is my "comfort food" place. In addition to great sushi and sashimi, they have various other dishes, including various kinds of grilled fish and ramen. My daughter loves their incredibly generous kids meal!