Dining tips for ASU downtown Phoenix students (and the rest of you too!)

While this article is focused on downtown ASU students, the tips are relevant for anybody who lives, works and/or plays in downtown Phoenix.

[Source: Kelly Green, New Times Chow Bella]

​Downtown Phoenix has come a long way in a short period of time. Anyone who’s been around longer than an ASU freshman can tell you that. But the dining scene for students still leaves a bit to be desired. Here are our tips for feeding yourself, these first few weeks of school.

Source: Kelly Green, Phoenix New Times

1. Become a Coupon Clipper Printer

Little known fact: downtownphoenix.com has tons of special deals and coupons on local restaurants and businesses, just select the option from the “What to do” tab and print away.

2. Be Picky About Your On-Campus Eating

There are two restaurants in the bottom of the Cronkite School at 555 N. Central Avenue: Subway and El Portal. Subway is good for a few meals, then all of the sudden one day you walk in and never want to smell that bread again. And El Portal has earned quite a reputation locally for its health inspections, which you might want to check out here.​

Our pick for an on campus meal?

ASU’s Taylor Place (120 East Taylor Street) offers lunch and dinner to everyone, not just students or dorm residents. A little more than $8 will get you an hour of bottomless food and drinks at the buffet-style cafeteria, which has offers a pizza station, salad and fruit bars, pastries, and made-to-order sandwiches. Sit outside on the patio for less of a rowdy high school cafeteria experience, unless of course, that is your thing.

The places you should be going and our coffee picks, after the jump.

3. Schedule Your Classes Around the Wednesday Farmers’ Market

Saturday mornings are booming at Downtown Phoenix Public Market‘s open-air market (14 E. Pierce Street, phoenixpublicmarket.com). But for a smaller, more low-key experience, check out the one held on Wednesday nights from 4 – 8 p.m. Get your caffeine fix from Royal at the Market and then peruse the stalls outside for a delicious between-class snack; They feature all locally-made products including Doctor Hummus‘ pita chips and dips, hand-crafted goodness from Wei of Chocolate, baked delights from Bread Basket Bakery, and fresh fruits and veggies from various farms. It is a great place to grab a quick bite or do a little grocery shopping, and you can’t help but feel good about supporting local businesses.

4. Microwave Away

Next time you go through a money-saving/brown-bagging phase, it might be useful to note the microwaves on the first floor of the University Center building (411 N. Central Avenue), down the hallway from the vending machines.

5. Skip Starbucks for Royal at the Market or Fair Trade

Royal at the Market is Phoenix Public Market’s impeccably-designed coffee shop, located just inside the market behind the wine bar. The friendly barista whips up a mean chai tea latte that is perfect for sipping on the way back to class or when wandering through the market’s aisles.

You can’t miss the signs at Civic Space Park (across the street from ASU’s University Center) pointing you downstairs to Fair Trade Café (424 N. Central Avenue), where all their coffee is – you guessed it – fair trade and organic. They also have an assortment of pastries and baked goods, and if you mention you are a student they’ll give you 10 percent off. What an even better reason to get away from the usual zoo that is Starbucks: Grab your do-gooding cup of coffee and have a seat outside on their tranquil patio (complete with zen water feature) or, on a particularly good day, head back upstairs to lounge underneath a tree on one of the park’s lawns.

6. Get Your Butt Off Campus​

But you won’t have to go far. Here’s a list of some of our faves.

  • Carly’s Bistro (128 E. Roosevelt Street, carlysbistro.com), With a striking wall of graffiti art greeting you from the parking lot, Carly’s serves up equally impressive fare, including “Around the World” grilled sandwiches and refreshing salads. Follow them on Twitter to stay up to date on events and great drink specials.
  • Athenian Express (814 N. Central Avenue, athenianexpressaz.com) Great for a quick, cheap meal. Their menu is extensive, and includes subs, burgers, and vegetarian options outside of the usual Greek dishes.
  • Thai Elephant (20 W. Adams Street, thaielephant.qwestoffice.net) This Tempe staple provides a little spice to the downtown scene. The Drunken Noodles and Tom Kha soup are favorites.
  • The Breadfruit (108 E. Pierce Street, thebreadfruit.com) A pricier but well-worth-it option, The Breadfruit offers a sophisticated island atmosphere – think authentic Jamaican jams floating through a small but cozy dining room as you sip your Red Stripe. Couple this with an even cooler menu that showcases local, fresh ingredients and employees that seem to be mixing up a revolution that is very anti-fast food. Make sure you have enough time to slow down and enjoy your lunch, Jamaican-style.
  • Crave Sandwich Café (541 E. Van Buren Street) This small, no-frills sandwich shop is tucked inside ASU’s Mercado and provides a solid offering of sandwiches and salads, including some vegetarian options. There’s no indoor seating, so grab your sandwich to go (brown-bag style) and head over to the nearby Arizona Center for some lunch-hour people watching.
  • Big Daddy’s Dogs (Corner of 2nd and Taylor Streets) For something quick and cheap, hit up this hot dog cart that has been taking up real estate on the same corner for the past two years. The cart specializes in Chicago-style dogs, where you can pile yours high with a couple different types of mustard, sauerkraut, peppers, pickles, and a vibrantly green sweet Chicago relish. Add chips and a drink for a whopping $4.25, and sounds like a lunch made in (hot dog) heaven.
  • Finally, and hopefully eventually, Pita Jungle (1001 N. 3rd Avenue,pitajungle.com), whose signs that fill the corner’s empty space taunt us even though their website promises an October opening.
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One thought on “Dining tips for ASU downtown Phoenix students (and the rest of you too!)”

  1. Thanks for the excellent recommendations, especially the list in 6 (Carly’s is particularly good, though I would add Hanny’s to that group as well). Oh, and good to know about El Portal; I haven’t tried it yet, and now I don’t know that I ever will.

    The Wednesday version of the farmers’ market leaves a lot to be desired though, almost to the point of not being worthwhile. ‘Small’ and ‘low-key’ would be nice, but in this case they translate too: ‘almost devoid of options.’

    I’m sure a ton of students, including me, would rather go to Fair Trade or Royal, but the Starbuck’s has the advantage of accepting ASU’s M&G dollars, making it a default better value for most of us. On the plus side, it’s staffed by downtown students so it’s actually one of the friendliest and most relaxed Starbuck’s locations I’ve ever visited.

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