House of Tricks (114 E. 7th St., 480/968-1114, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 5–10 p.m. Sat., $21–29 ) is one of Tempe ’s best restaurants. Tucked behind big, shady trees, the 1920s cottage offers casual charms and sophisticated New American dishes with French, Asian, and Southwestern flavors. Enjoy a glass of wine in the outdoor Garden Bar, or opt for a cozy dinner inside. The eclectic, seasonal menu features starters like crab and mango salad with yellow bell peppers, cilantro, and honey-lime vinaigrette. The herb-crusted lamb porterhouse and spiced ahi tuna on toasted couscous are just as flavorful.
Monti’s La Casa Vieja (100 S. Mill Ave., 480/967-7594, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $8–32) is an Arizona institution. The adobe building is among the oldest in the city. It was the boyhood home of longtime Arizona congressman Carl T. Hayden, whose father ran a ferry across the Salt River before it was dammed in 1911, and it’s been a restaurant in one form or another for well over 100 years. The focus on stick-to-your-ribs dishes like prime rib, pork chops, and ribs would satisfy even the restaurant’s most ravenous pioneer patrons, and the kitchen isn’t bad with seafood, either. If you try just one thing, though, make it the ground sirloin sandwich served on cheese toast with a side of the restaurant’s justifiably famous Roman bread.
Four Peaks Brewpub (1340 E. 8th St., 480/303-9967, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–2 a.m. Sun., $5–17) is a regular on “best of” lists for tasty bar food and locally brewed ales. Set in an 1892 red-brick, mission-style building just off the beaten path in Tempe , the brewery shows off its floor-to-ceiling steel casks in the back and a chalkboard with the day’s brews in the front, including alcohol-content percentage. Savor the Kiltlifter, a three-time medalist at the Great American Beer Festival, for its flavor and provocative moniker. If hunger strikes, try the pub’s Southwest burger topped with chiles and jalapeño dressing. Or indulge your deep-fried fantasies with the 8th Street Ale Chicken Strips, the only chicken tenders you can order without feeling like you have an immature palate.
College students don’t mess around when it comes their sandwiches. They want their meat and veggies stacked high and their portions huge. Luckily, Bison Witches Bar and Deli (21 E. 6th St. Ste. 146, 480/894-9104, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily, $5–9) is well up to the challenge. A Tucson legend, Bison Witches’ Tempe location is a cheap, casual spot for lunch or dinner. You’ll find traditional bar appetizers and a few salads, but regulars know it’s all about the Half and Half—a filling half sandwich paired with one of five soups in a giant bread bowl. Grab a beer while you decide which mix-and-match option to enjoy. The chunky chicken salad on wheat with the potato bacon soup? Or perhaps the reuben on rye with the Boston clam chowder?