The Best Of ASU

The best of ASU includes these delectable looking cake pops from Mind Over Batter. Photo by Stephanie Pellicano.

Best Burger: The ChuckBox

202 E. University Dr.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 968-4712

M-Sa 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Su 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Oh, Chuckbox. How could we go with anything else? Not only are you so close, right on University, where chain restaurants pale and cower in your wake, but you consistently offer up the best burgers in town. Your Big One Burger is filling but never full of fluff, while your barbecue chicken sandwich is divine, with all the fixings for either provided gratis. And it’s all cooked to order right in front of us by a friendly staff in a charming cabin-style building. Thanks, Chuck. ASU wouldn’t be the same without you.

Best Candy Shop: Candy Addict

414 Mill Avenue, Suite 119

Tempe, 85281

(480) 921-1155

M-Sa 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Su noon-9 p.m.

When you step into Candy Addict, you feel like you just stepped back into your childhood. They offer Giant gummy bears the size of your fist, lollypops the size of your face, nostalgic candy from the ’50s to the present, handmade truffles, locally made prickly pear cactus candy and a rainbow of saltwater taffy – none of which you can find in your local grocery store. If you need your sugar fix, go here, and you’ll be hooked like a 10-year-old on Pixi Stix.

Best Comic Book Shop: Ash Avenue Comics

810 South Ash Avenue

Tempe, 85281

(480) 858-9447

Th-Sa noon-8 p.m., Su noon-5 p.m., M noon to 7 p.m., Tu noon-7 p.m., W 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Located in an oasis of other local businesses like Cartel and Cowtown Skateboards, the shop is well organized and gives enough space to peruse the thousands of comics it offers. One of our favorite parts is the stand featuring the work of local comic book artists, from the abstract to the average hero. There’s also a “recommended” section near the front with some great starter-uppers for new comic book readers.

Best Theater: MADCAP Theaters

730 S. Mill Ave.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 634-5192

Various, Th-Su 

A brew of Rocky Horror scandalousity, geeky revelry and community cinema — Mill Avenue District Community Arts Project (MADCAP) theaters on Mill Avenue is not your typical night at the movies.  With screenings such as Back to the Future or Clue, MADCAP plays movies you’ve always wanted to see on the big screen, and usually for less than $10.

Best Pizza: Jamie’s Pizza

2107 S. Rural Rd.

Tempe, 85282

(480) 927-1234

Th-Sa 10:30 a.m.-3:30 a.m., Su-W 10:30 a.m.-12:00 a.m.

We realize how this might be controversial: the area around ASU is filled to the brim with noteworthy pizza places catering to the college audience – most open late and without any wait. But Jamie’s Pizza, a relative newcomer to the scene and even more recently under new management, takes the crown. Using local ingredients and savory thin crust and providing through delivery or an intimate restaurant, the title is well-deserved. (And, yes, so is the cover of our print edition.)

Best Mexican Food: El Pollo Supremo

221 W. University Dr.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 966-3713

Daily 11 a.m.-9p.m.

Don’t judge a book by its cover definitely runs true here; Pollo Supremo is a hole in the wall by every definition. For the indecisive eater their menu is perfect – there are only two choices: mesquite charbroiled chicken cooked to perfection or carne asada. And both choices of meat come with delicious sides of pinto beans, pickled purple onions, salsa and fresh tortillas. Just be forewarned: cash only.

Best Lunch Buffet: Delhi Palace Cuisine of India

933 E. University Dr., Ste 103

Tempe, 85281

(480) 921-2200

Daily 11 a.m-2:30 p.m., 5-10p.m.

If you like your Indian food served with loads of delicious garlic naan bread, then you’ll love this authentic gem. It’s tucked in a strip mall just across the street from campus, but from the inside you’d never be able to tell – the restaurant is filled by ornate Indian decor and the wafting smells of curry exuding from the kitchen. The buffet is available from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for only $8.95. The chicken tikka masalla is a must try, with its creamy tomato base and a slight kick that isn’t overpowering.

Best Bookstore: Changing Hands

6428 S. McClintock Dr.

Tempe, 85283

(480) 730-0205

M-F 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sa 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Changing Hands has been a beloved Valley institution for almost 40 years. But unlike most institutions, it’s avoided the dust and decay of age by remaining relevant and vital to the community it serves. Changing Hands’ fierce commitment to remaining local and independent sets it apart from big-box retailers. Providing a place for people to buy new and used books and trade in their used books, the store also hosts authors’ speaking engagements/book signings, writing workshops and activities from tarot card readings to improv performances. If you live by the local-is-best ethos, Changing Hands is the bookstore for you.

Best Yoga Studio: Inner Vision Yoga

725 E. Guadalupe Rd.

Tempe, 85283

(480) 839-1006

M-Thu 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m., F 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sa-Su 7:30 a.m.-noon

At Inner Vision Yoga, both novice and seasoned yogis are welcomed and encouraged to let yoga transform them – to live it rather than merely practice it. More than 20 highly trained teachers lead more than 100 yoga classes each week, including ashtanga, flow, meditation, power and two classes IVY says is unique to its studio: heated flow and healing emphasis yoga. It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the sprawling Phoenix metropolis: by working up a sweat or chilling out. Grab your yoga mat and embrace your inner yogi. Namaste.

Best Caffeine Fix: Cartel Coffee Lab

225 W. University Dr.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 225-3899

M-Su 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

Don’t let Cartel’s hipster-hotspot reputation fool you. Sure, you can’t swing a pair of skinny jeans around without hitting at least a dozen struggling artists, writers and musicians, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the coffee is sublime. The freshly roasted beans lend an intensely earthy, slightly nutty and toasty flavor to espresso, macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes. Cartel’s iced toddies have a cult following and their iced chais, mochas, hot cocoa and Italian sodas are also notable. Bring your MacBook and your most charming lines to snare a cute artist. And, for the love of god, it’s espresso, not expresso.

Best (Worst) Musical Break-up: Dear and the Headlights

2007-2011

Based in Phoenix, Dear and the Headlights sounded like southern comfort in the desolate desert – with shaky vocals delivering intellectual and emotive lyrics, at times wildly energetic and others sleepy and solemn, it was a moment of perfect folk rock. After dominating the local scene with their 2007 EP Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, DATH played a self-proclaimed 700-something shows, among them Coachella and Warped Tour. 2008’s Drunk Like Bible Times is one of the best albums to come out of Arizona in recent memory. But alas, nothing beautiful can last: after a period of inactivity, the band released a note last July that they were officially broken up. Within the letter, lead guitarist P.J. Waxman mused: “How do you create music about your life when your life is all about creating music?” We wish we knew, P.J., we wish we knew.

Best Sandwich: The Salmon BLT at Four Peaks Brewery

1340 E. 8 St., #104

Tempe, 85281

(480) 303-9967

M-Sa 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Su 10 a.m.-2 a.m.

We first tasted this sandwich this spring when it beat out all of its Tempe competitors in the BLT Battle Royale, and all this time later, it’s still beckoning us back to that cozy beer den that is Four Peaks. A thick stack of crisp, nutty bread, juicy salmon, thick-cut, smoky bacon, fresh lettuce, succulent tomato and playfully devilish pepper jack cheese all topped with authentic pesto mayonnaise, this sandwich is a contender for our last meal on earth.

Best Thai Restaurant: Lemon Grass Thai Café

818 W. Broadway Rd., Tempe

(480) 967-9121

M-Th 11 a.m.-9 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., closed Sundays

Located between a conspicuous hookah lounge and a Subway, it’s easy to miss this gem of authenticity. Inside, the decorations include the ceiling of a traditional hut that seems to protrude through the kitchen, eastern knick-knacks lining the counter, and dimly lit booths. A family-owned joint, it not only has exceptional service, but a member of the family can almost always be found watching an Asian soap opera among the diners. The menu is vast and extremely vegan-friendly, but for a classic try the lemongrass basil ($9.95); vegetables, spicy garlic sauce, crisp basil and your choice of protein make up this delicious feast.

Best Happy Hour: Mellow Mushroom

740 S. Mill Avenue

Tempe, 85281

(480) 967-6355

S-W 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m., Th-Sa 10:30 a.m.-3 a.m.

The best deal on Mill Ave., and possibly Tempe: Happy hour is half off all alcohol. And happy hour doesn’t come once, but twice a day; first during weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., which includes half off appetizers. Then all week there’s half-off alcohol from 10 p.m. to close (which is an impressive 3 a.m. on the weekends), making this a great place to pre-game before a night out. Whether you’re craving a craft brew, cheesy bread or a cosmopolitan, Mellow Mushroom has something cheap for everyone.

Best Unintentionally Themed Shopping Plaza: Ash & University

Ash Ave. and University Dr.

It’s plain to see where hipsters were hanging out long before everyone knew about it. With Cartel Coffee Lab, Casey Moore’s Oyster House, Wet Paint Artist Supply, HTC Body Piercing and Buffalo Exchange, this spot is the unofficial hipster hang out. Make a day of the people-watching experience: Grab a coffee at Cartel, browse ironic flannel shirts in Buffalo, spill paint on it in Wet Paint, gauge your ears in HTC, and then sip some microbrews and count the moustaches at Casey’s.

Best Run (Annual): Pat’s Run

The best part about this run is that it’s not necessarily a race (you don’t even have to run to participate) and it’s not even about winning for yourself – it’s all about Pat and giving back. In honor of Pat Tillman, an ASU and Cardinals football player who was killed in 2004 while serving with the Army in Afghanistan, the Pat Tillman Foundation was started and holds the run annually to support the Tillman Military Scholars program. It’s a 4.2 mile route (symbolic of Tillman’s No. 42 jersey from when he played football as a Sun Devil) that takes participants around Tempe and ends on the 42-yard line of the Frank Kush field in Sun Devil Stadium. The next race will be held on April 21, 2012. For more information, visit the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Best Bike Shop: Kore Bike Industries

 

2240 N. Scottsdale Rd.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 966-5673

M-Sa 10 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Su

The people selling and building bikes here have rode miles in your skater shoes, so if you’re looking for a shop that truly gets what you want, Kore is it. It’s a shop off Scottsdale Road and McKellips Street in Tempe run by riders who refuse to sell cookie-cutter bikes that break in an instant. Owner Ryan Cowling carries only the small brands in the business, and while he does sell complete bikes, it’s all about building the bike to fit its owner: He wants you involved in building the bike you’re about to buy. Plus, maintenance isn’t limited to a warranty; their bikes come with free lifetime servicing. The people at Kore want to get to know you as much as they want you to piece together your dream bike.

Best Local Band: Indie

Kinch’s approach to music will keep any listener longing for just one more verse – with a thud-thudding piano in the background and an intelligent frontman’s croon, the band’s lyrics and melodies may be enjoyed for a morning groove. But however you enjoy them, you’ll end up swaying back and forth, imagining you’re in the presence of the soon-to-become rock stars.

Best Reggae-Surf-Punk-Rap Band: RAC

 RAC incorporates a little bit of everything in their tunes – punk to reggae to surf harmonies to rhymes and raps – you name it, it’s about there. What’s surprising is how cohesive it all comes out in the end: Their melodies are almost hypnotic, getting your feet to tap away with the Jamaican-style groove.

Best Place to Spot Wildlife: The School of Life Sciences

ASU Tempe

(480) 965-3500

Slytherin house ain’t got nothin’ on this house. The School of Life Sciences building offers 18 wild subspecies of rattlesnake and non-poisonous snake, all native to Arizona.  One of the favorite stopping spots for students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, any student or visitor can benefit from the “living collection” located on the A Wing of the building by learning about the creatures that make up our desert.

Best Run (monthly): Thursday Adventure Fun Runs

Road Runner Sports

43 S. McClintock Dr.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 968-2022

Every third Thursday

So, it may not get you the Olympic gold, but this run is a little more than fun – prizes are offered too. On the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at Road Runner Sports, participants of all ages run or walk to various checkpoints to collect prizes and raffle tickets. The checkpoints consist of a mixture of restaurants, bars and stores, where in return you can receive gift cards or up to thousands of dollars in running gear. After the race the 21 and older runners can grab a free beer (!) and socialize with the other runners while a DJ performs. Even better: the admission is free.

 

Best Cake Pops from Mind Over Batter. Photo by Stephanie Pellicano.

Best Cake Pops: Mind Over Batter

1805 E. Elliot Rd.

Tempe, 85284

(480) 491-0012

M-Th 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. F-Sa, closed Su

Cake pops are becoming the latest trend in the world of desserts, but the local folks at Mind Over Batter already have them mastered. Tucked quietly into a shopping center next to the Pollack Tempe $2 movie theatre, it’d be hard to miss if it weren’t so good. Of course, Cake pops aren’t Mind Over Batter’s only specialty – the cupcakes certainly come to mind – but the popular flavors sell fast, so make sure you get there early. They boast 16 cake pop flavors that look just as good as they taste.

Best Buffalo Wings: The Vine

801 E. Apache Blvd.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 894-2662

11 p.m.–2 a.m. daily, food served to midnight

Quick tip: Word on the street is to order the Buffalo wings “extra crispy” when you eat at The Vine, a place that’s much more than just a hole in the wall bar with great and inexpensive bar food. Recently remodeled with new furniture, it still keeps thee same great deals that bring ASU crowds pouring in, especially on Monday and Wednesday nights, when one dollar drinks are served up. Even more to look forward to during the week: Tuesdays mean a dozen wings for $4.99 all day, and karaoke happens every Thursday. Whether you’re coming in for their cheap crispy wings or looking for a good crowd every night of the week, The Vine isn’t something to miss out on.

Best Breakfast: Harlow’s Cafe

1021 W. University Drive

Tempe, 85281

(480) 829-9444

Daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

If you’re looking for the perfect breakfast before school or the ideal hangover brunch on the weekend, Harlow’s is a quick stop away from campus, right there on University and Hardy. The coffee is strong and the service is quick, and they offer the standard breakfast essentials (all with huge portion sizes) – pancakes, chipped beef and house-made muffins and biscuits. Their best-known dish is the Egg’s Maximilian, which includes crispy hash browns, spicy green chilies and onions on a tortilla with eggs, salsa and sour cream. Go for the addition of chorizo if you really want this dish to change your morning.

Best Basketball Court: Jaycee Park

817 W. Fifth St.

Tempe, 85281

(480) 350-5200

Looking for the best place to shoot some hoops beyond the SRC? Jaycee Park is not only close by and open late but is known for some competitive play. The talent level is high, and the space always seems to have a consistent amount of people each week. The two full courts are well-lit with good rims and backboards and there’s plenty of parking if you decide to drive, along with clean bathrooms and water fountains. The park also includes space for volleyball, baseball and the time-honored sport of picnicking.

Best Hot Dog: Ted’s Hot Dogs

1755 E. Broadway Road

Tempe, 85282

(480) 968-6678

M-Th 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., F-Sa 10:00 a.m.-9 p.m., Su 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m

How did Tempe get so lucky? Out of a grand total of eight spots, seven Ted’s Hot Dogs locations are in one of the great hot dog bastions of the universe – New York. But for reasons we can’t fully comprehend, Tempe is home to the last. And although it may not contain the 80-plus years of history of the New York locations, the Tempe spinoff has become a ASU staple nonetheless. The menu is masterful in its simplicity – a few choices for your dog, a few sandwiches and a few burgers. But even then, it’s tough to choose between the delightful Polish or Italian sausage, or take sides for your side – onion rings or potato salad? No matter what, you can’t go wrong.

Best BBQ: Andrew’s BBQ

730 E Guadalupe Rd

Tempe, 85283

(480) 244-4227

M-Th 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

F 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sa-Su, 11 a.m.-8 .pm.

When it comes to barbeque, Tempe is not often thought of as a mecca for a good rib. But the culinary entrees offered at Andrew’s BBQ  changes all of that. It’s assuredly sloppy, but you won’t mind when biting into barbecue this good. Andrew’s imports all its meat from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and even has cupcakes available to appease your need for something a little bit neater.

Best Bar: Four Peaks Brewery

1340 E. 8th Street

Tempe, 85281

(480) 303-9967

M-Sa 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Su 10 a.m.-2 a.m.

“Too easy,” you say? Maybe. But then again, how could we not pick this fine establishment? ASU – Tempe, even – just wouldn’t be the same without it. There’s a reason you can hit so many stops around the Valley and get yourself a Kilt Lifter Ale on tap – and why so many people take other bars up on that. The Oatmeal Stout is one of the fullest brews you can treat yourself to, and don’t get us started on the food – well beyond just “good bar food,” the Salmon BLT is the best sandwich in town, while the chicken tenders, cooked up with their famous pale ale, make for an irresistible combination.

Best Music Store: Hoodlums Music and Movies

6434 S. McClintock Drive

Tempe, 85283

(480) 775-2722

M-Sa 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Su 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

A super-knowledgeable staff is one thing, a great selection for that staff to help you out with is another. Nestled right next to the king of local bookstores in the Valley, Changing Hands, the two combined can meet all of your entertainment needs while still satisfying any local-only aesthetics (the place even has a section dedicated to local music). But the service is what reigns supreme at Hoodlums: for any special request, pop in and they’ll be more than happy to order it for you. Even better, special in-store concerts with great bands give you a reason to stop in even when your usual music budget is dwindling.

Best Tattoo Parlor: Lady Luck Tattoo Gallery

961 E. Guadalupe Road

Tempe, 85283

(480) 777-3775

Lauded by many, Lady Luck has been inking coeds since October 2006. The shop is clean and contemporary, and with several popular local artists to choose from. While some tattoo shops can feel unwelcoming or downright exclusive, Lady Luck is known for its friendly atmosphere – the staff and patrons can often be found watching anything from classic horror movies to “Da Ali G Show.” If that doesn’t tell you they’re friendly, consider this: Last year they offered a Valentine’s Day special of $25 per heart tattoo. What love.

Best Place to Study Outside: The Secret Garden

Tempe campus

No Hours

We might be breaking some sort of rule by telling you about this, but you know what? More than a few students know about it already, and it’s too nice in there not to let everyone else in on the fun too. Tucked near the quad at Dixie Gammage Hall and West Hall, you can usually catch a few students making their way through it these days, but something about it keeps the atmosphere tranquil. Bring a book near one of the benches and brush up on some history or literature (or math or physics; the garden welcomes all kinds). Better than spending hours crammed in a stuffy library, bring a snack and soak in a little peace and quiet.

Best Music Venue: Yucca Tap Room

29 W. Southern Ave.

Tempe, 85282

(480) 967-4777

6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Daily

When the logo is the words “Yucca Tap Room” shaped into a guitar, you know what’s up. Usually just called “Yucca Tap,” this music venue has offered free live music every single night since the early 1970s. Local, national and even international artists perform every kind of music, and the regular act is Blunt Club, a Thursday-night mainstay that mixes hip-hop, reggae, dubstep, funk and electro acts. In case that isn’t enough, the place also has a separate tap and whiskey room with 28 beers on tap and 200-plus in bottles and cans, as well as a pizzeria, dubbed Speakeasy Pizza. There’s no better place to pretend that Monday is Saturday.

 

Best Of Downtown

 

Best Lunch: Coronado Café

2201 N. 7th St.

Phoenix, 85006

(602) 258-5149

M 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., T-Th 11 a.m.-8 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-9 p.m., closed Su

This historic home turned restaurant has one of the best lunch menus around, offering not only mid-day hallmarks like a grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich, but also hot foods, like meatloaf served with a heaping pile of fluffy mashed potatoes. Whether you choose to sit inside one of Coronado Café’s small but cozy rooms or at a corner table beneath the pomegranate tree, the ambiance is hard to beat.

Best Exhibition: “Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century”

at Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Art Museum

625 N. Central Ave.

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 257-1222

W 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Th-Sa 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Su noon-5 p.m.

This exhibition showcases the iconic architect’s vision of buildings that were not only energy efficient but also environmentally sustainable. Wright designed dozens of homes and buildings in Arizona during his lifetime, including Scottsdale’s Taliesin West, Wright’s primary winter residence for more 20 years. In honor of the state’s 100th birthday, the exhibition includes a large-scale model of a new Arizona State Capitol building concocted by Wright in 1957. The show runs through April 29.

Best Hot Dog: Short Leash

14 E. Pierce Street, Various

Phoenix, 85004

(480) 620-8479

W 4 p.m. -8 p.m., Th 7 p.m.-9:30 pm, F 11 a.m.-1:30 pm, Sa 8 a.m.-noon

Short Leash artfully grills up dogs with distinguishing esoteric ingredients. Be warned: the place is mobile, and a little hard to catch at times. Call ahead to find out where you can snag one. The food truck is usually  stationed in front of Phoenix Public Market on Wednesday evenings and on Fridays, or parked behind the Valley Youth Theater on Wednesdays for lunch. But if you don’t mind hunting a bit for your food, you can’t do much better. Some of their signature dogs include the Aiko, with mango chutney and red onions, or the Lady, with chipotle cream cheese and fried pickles. Sound adventurous? After biting into one you’ll be out of your culinary doghouse and wondering how you lived so long without one.

Best Barbecue: Honey Bear’s BBQ

2824 N. Central Avenue

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 702-3060

Su-Th 10 a.m.-8 p.m., F-Sa 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Honey Bear’s claims to have built its establishments on secret Tennessee barbecue flavors and sauces passed down through 50 years – and after eating there, you’re likely to have no trouble believing that. With BBQ chicken wings hot off the grill at only 75 cents, and the unquestionably best fried catfish in town, there’s just no comparison. Grab one of their fantastic sandwiches – available with pork, beef, chicken or hot links – or order up some meat by the end to stock up for later. Trust us: it’s still going to be gone in no time.

Best Pizza: Parlor Pizzeria

1916 E. Camelback Road

Phoenix, 85016

(602) 248-2480

M-Th 11 a.m.-10 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-11 p.m., closed Sunday

So, you’re looking for something a little more upscale than the standard pizza delivered to your door during a late-night craving. No problem. The Parlor Pizzeria offers some of the most imaginative pizzas in the Valley to tickle your tastebuds, and it’s all done with a fine-dining attention to detail. It’s no surprise it’s been named one of Food Network’s 50 Best Pizzas, along with several other local accolades. Try the Yukon Gold Pizza, with fresh potatoes, gorgonzola and leeks, or the agnelle, with sausage, goat cheese and mint pesto. Not into pizza? Not to worry. The sandwiches and salads rank among the best too.

Best Steakhouse: Durant’s

2611 N. Central Avenue

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 264-5967

M-Th 11 a.m.-10 p.m., F 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sa 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Su 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.

Durant Steakhouse has a long history in the Valley: the renowned restaurant has been the go-to steakhouse for Phoenix patrons for 60 years. And it’s not hard to see why. The place serves up the best steaks you can find about anywhere, along with some great bottles of wine. But just as good as the food and steak is the atmosphere: romantic, professional and classic.  It’s the ideal spot for a special occasion, right in the heart of downtown Phoenix. We do mean special, though; the menu items aren’t college-budget friendly unless you’re just popping in for a salad.

Best Vintage Clothing Store: Blueberry Deluxe

702 W. Montecito Ave.

Phoenix, 85013

(602) 717-8376

M-W closed, Th-F 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sa-Su 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Named after a super-cute pug that roams the store, Blueberry Deluxe is a vintage dream. Owner Jessica Carroll has outfitted the boutique with clothes and accessories of yesteryear, putting together a high-quality time warp. Local indie artwork and friendly service have shoppers clamoring for more.

Best Place to Sip in Style: Lux Central Coffee Bar
4402 N. Central Ave.

Phoenix, 85012

(602) 696-9976

Su-Th 6 a.m.–midnight, F-Sa 6 a.m.–2a.m.

Lux is not your average cup of joe. Electro-indie music, cozy couches, home-style dishes and a hip bar keep customers coming back for more. College students studying at desks, couples enjoying a night out, locals taking in the community atmosphere and more come together to create a hip vibe that manages to avoid snobbery. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh, coffee-laced air with an urban feel, Lux serves up brews as decadent as its name.

Best Tattoo Shop: Love and Hate Tattoo Parlor

322 W. McDowell Rd.

Phoenix, 85003

(602) 973-4093

M-Th noon–10 p.m., F-Sa noon–11 p.m., Su noon–7 p.m.

There’s nothing to hate about Love and Hate Tattoo Parlor. Artist portfolios ensure you know exactly what you’re getting into before laying down the ink. The mural-covered storefront sports a ferocious tiger, advertising the potential of the four artists within. But if you’re not interested in ink, or if you’re looking for a little something extra, the cozy shop also offers piercings. A friendly, professional staff means your next piece of body art will be exactly to your liking.

Best Wine Bar: Postino Central

5144 N. Central Ave.

Phoenix, 85012

(602) 274-5144

M-Th 11 a.m.-11 p.m., F 11 a.m.-12 a.m., Sa 9 a.m.-12 a.m., Su 9 a.m.-10p.m.

The best way to enjoy a glass of wine on a warm sunny Phoenix day is on Postino Central’s patio. During happy hour (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) every glass of wine is $5. But if wine doesn’t wet your whistle, Postino also offers $5 pitchers of beer, including local Four Peaks brews. Monday and Tuesday nights feature a special of a bottle of wine and bruschetta board for $20 after 8 p.m. The servers are well versed in the wine list – tell them what you usually like to drink and they will steer you to the perfect choice.

Best Tapas: Rice Paper

2221 N. Seventh St.

Phoenix, 85006

(602) 252-3326

Su-Th 10 a.m.-11 p.m., F-Sa -midnight

The approachable menu at Rice Paper allows for both a strictly-tapas experience and a traditional Vietnamese meal. The stylish happy hour is daily from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with $6 appetizers and $1 off of 14 variations of spring rolls, as well as $2.75 drafts and $4 well drinks. But don’t get carried away with the spring rolls and edamame: the crispy rolls are crunchy and delicious.

Best Outdoor Study Spot: Civic Space Park

444 N. Central Ave.

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 262-4734

Studying outside, lounging in the sun and listening to the splashing of a fountain are rarely activities associated with downtown city life, but Civic Space Park offers ASU students and downtown visitors an urban spot to sit back and relax. Perfect for laying out a blanket to read on or starting a game of Ultimate Frisbee, the wide grassy area combines the comfort of suburbia with the convenience of the city. Not that you’re completely cut off from civilization: the Fair Trade Café is steps away — a perfect spot to grab a coffee and a pastry. You can’t miss “Her Secret is Patience,” the mammoth basket-like sculpture suspended in air and lit by multicolored lights at night.

 

The best music store is Revolver Records. Photo by Jessica Heigh.

Best Music Store:  Revolver Records

918 N. Second Street

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 795-4980

M-Th 11 a.m.-9 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Su noon- 5 p.m.

Looking for the golden oldies, some old-school rap, a little bit of jazz or the latest season of your favorite TV show on DVD?  Revolver Records on Second Street carries all that and more. Rows of vinyl LPs line the walls and slightly cramped aisles. But who cares about space when it means more room for music? Revolver’s wide array of vinyl LPs spans every decade and genre from psychedelic to new releases. The prices are unbelievable too, with most records selling for less than five dollars.  CDs, turntables and other memorabilia fill out the collection, making the store a veritable gold mine of entertainment.

 

Enjoy a freshly made waffle from Matt's Big Breakfast. Photo by Noemi Gonzalez.

Best Breakfast: Matt’s Big Breakfast

801 N. First St.

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 254-1074

Daily 6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., closed Monday

Buttery Belgian Waffles, fluffy hash browns, endless (and fantastic) coffee, the newest edition of the The New York Times – just a few of the hearty meals and more Matt’s Big Breakfast offers for the early bird – or, if you’re so inclined, the birdie who eats brunch.  This breakfast joint, despite its maximum occupancy of 40, creates a buzz everyday from open to close. Presented with a notebook paper sign-in sheet outside the restaurant, the wait is worth it – just ask anyone else standing in line.

Best Bar: The Roosevelt Tavern

816 N. Third Street

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 254-2561

Su-Th 5 p.m.–12 a.m., F-Sa 5 p.m.–2 a.m., kitchen until 11 p.m.

All-day happy hour: Who could complain?  At least on Sundays, that is. For the other, less-fortunate days of the week happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. Couches, retro chairs and a refurbished bar make visiting The Roosevelt well worth the short trek from the Downtown campus — and the happy hour prices make the super-dim lighting a non-issue. $3-$6 drinks and a featured $4 item of the day make a perfect early evening snack, especially when the fare is a jumbo-sized pretzel with honey mustard or a turkey bacon sandwich on grilled brioche bread.

Best Spot for a Photo Shoot: Roosevelt Row’s Art District

Between 7th and 16th ave.

Phoenix, 85004

This urban district is lined with murals that form a tapestry of culture — think worlds of music, Calaveras or colorful cityscapes. Each mural, alleyway and coffee shop offers unique art that your Facebook profile picture, blog or Instagram account could seriously benefit from.

Best Crepes: Jobot Coffee

918 N. Fifth St.

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 228-7373

Daily until midnight, 24 hours Saturday

Whether you’re in the mood for sweet Nutella or a zesty pizza, Jobot Coffee offers more than 11 types of delectable crepes for night owls who need a change of scenery after hours of homework. Start off by choosing to eat indoors or outdoors, then pick your poison: we recommend the black-bean sundried tomato treat with a cup of Cartel Coffee Lab’s fresh roast.

Best Hiking Trail: Camelback Mountain Summit Trail (Echo Canyon) 

3940 E. Camelback Rd.

Phoenix, 85018

(602) 956-0930

It will kick your butt, but the view from the highest point in Phoenix will shut you up – if you have any breath in you left to complain. This oneish-mile trail is by no means a leisurely walk; it is an arduous, steep climb as you strain yourself to scale red sandstone rock. Don’t let the short length of the trail fool you; follow it and you will be covering about 1,200 feet of rock to reach the 2,704-foot summit. Camelback Mountain sits in the middle of urbanity but offers an escape from the daily grind. Limited (but free) parking fills up quickly, especially on the weekends. Get there early; you won’t regret the view or the workout.

Best Yogurt: A Touch of Yogurt

2 N. Central Ave.

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 495-9226

M-F 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Over the past few years, frozen yogurt chains have proliferated like freezer burn on an old tub of Blue Bunny. Bypass the corporate takeover of your dessert and support a locally owned and operated business that has been serving up sweet treats since 1987. A Touch of Yogurt’s fro-yo offerings change daily and range from the traditional – milk chocolate and French vanilla – to the unusual – pumpkin cheesecake, “scotchmallow” and piña colada. Bonus: The yogurt is certified kosher and toppings and nonfat options abound.

Best Live Music Venue: Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave.

Phoenix, 85003

(602) 716-2222

M-F 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m., Sa-Su 6 p.m.-2 a.m.

Talk about a triple threat: Not only is Crescent Ballroom a much-hyped new music venue (past acts include St. Vincent, Friendly Fires and Maria Taylor), but it also has a full-bar lounge with live music every day and a kitchen, Cocina 10, helmed by the inimitable Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco fame and Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco. It’s a mouthful. It’s also one of the city’s adaptive reuse projects, located in the historic F.L. Hart Garage, built in 1917. The combination of old and new – plus the good music, food and booze – makes the Crescent Ballroom the best venue to engage all your senses.

Best Vegetarian Food: Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House

4773 N. 20th St.

Phoenix, 85016

(602) 254-0129

Su-W 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Th-Sa 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

With its vegan organic menu, Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House helps define guilt-free eating. The bright décor matches the restaurant’s fresh and vibrant vegetables, and Chakra leaves you feeling full, satisfied and renewed. Don’t forget to check out Chakra 4’s unique tea menu — it’s bigger than the food menu.

Best Chinese Food: Sens Asian Tapas & Sake Bar

705 N. 1st St.

Phoenix, 85004

(602) 340-9777

M-F 11 a.m.-2 p.m., M-Thu 5 p.m.-midnight, F-Sa 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Su 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Step outside your comfort zone and try a dish you normally wouldn’t with the Asian restaurant’s sprawling small-bites tapas menu. For lunch, pair the traditional Chinese soup gyoza’s savory broth with the cabbage- and pork-stuffed dumplings. The sea salt and truffle butter edamame is also a favorite among locals.

Best Mexican Food: Tacos de Juarez

1017 N. 7th St.

Phoenix, 85006

(602) 258-1744

M-Tue, Thu 10 a.m.-9 p.m., W 10 a.m.-3 p.m., F-Sat 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Su 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Tacos de Juarez is authentic Mexican food tucked in what looks like a trailer next to a bus station. Mark our words: it is phenomenal. Lunch specials are just $5.99 and burritos start at $4. The red and green salsas are simple and fresh, but be prepared: If you go on the right day, the salsa can be especially spicy. Not only is the food delicious, but the service is also friendly and speedy.

 

Best Of Polytech

 

Best Mexican Food: The Burrito Shack

5663 S. Power Rd.

Mesa, 85212

(480) 988-6017

M-Sa 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Sunday

The Burrito Shack lives up to its name – this place makes no bones about its humble edifice, which is literally a shack on the side of the road. Park in the dusty lot, amble past a motley assortment of picnic tables and lawn chairs and up to the counter, where the Swensen family serves up Southwest-style Mexican food and American favorites, from breakfast burritos and carne asada fries to tamales and burgers. The taco burrito and California burrito are favorites, and the Swensens are happy to customize orders – they might even name a menu item after you, as they’ve done for several regulars.

Best Hot Dogs: Higley Hot Dog Hut

3105 E. Williams Field Rd.

Gilbert, 85295

(480) 988-3133

M-F 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sa 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Sunday

Leave Arizona for a bit and step into old-school Chicago, where the hot dogs are always all-beef and celery salt is expected. Owner Jeri Kryza has been making Chicago-style hot dogs and other favorites from her Midwest childhood (bratwursts, polish dogs, gyros and burgers) for 26 years at this beloved hole-in-the-wall hut. Many of her loyal regulars are Illinois natives, so you know this place is legit. Fake like you’re from the land of Lincoln and order gravy bread – a stack of bread and a side of gravy that tastes like an Italian beef sandwich without the meat. Bring cash – they don’t accept plastic.

Best Barbecue: Ryno’s BBQ

16751 E. Williams Field Rd.

Gilbert, 85295

(480) 988-0724

M-Sa 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Sunday

Indulge your carnivorous urges at this family-owned barbecue joint, which has been certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. First, pick your meat – beef brisket, smoked chicken or pulled pork – and then its delivery system – sandwich, plate or, for takeout or the truly hungry, by the pound. Have napkins handy for the St. Louis-style pork ribs and choose from traditional sides – spicy beans, sweet beans, mac and cheese, potato salad – or classics with a twist, such as Southwest creamed corn with garlic and green chilies. Insiders order the “Redneck Reuben,” an off-menu item the staff recommends topped with hot sauce and spicy coleslaw.

Best Watering Hole: The Thirsty Cactus Cantina

7205 S. Power Rd.

Queen Creek, 85142

(480) 457-8788

Su-W 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Th-Sa 11 a.m. to 1 or 2 a.m.

Owners Mark Setterington and Jerry Cramer bill the Thirsty Cactus as “your neighborhood Cheers” and do their best to live up to that – one of them is always there, chatting up customers or tending the bar. There are 12 beers on tap and frequent drink specials (on Thursdays, Three Olives Vodka is $3 per shot all day). Watch the game and feast on traditional pub grub like wings, their specialty, and wacky burgers like the Thirsty Cactus Special – a burger topped with onions, pickles, avocado and a fried egg nestled in a pretzel roll. Get some liquid courage and showcase your pipes on Thursday and Saturday karaoke nights.

Best Italian Food: Dema’s Italian Bistro

18256 E. Williams Field Road

Gilbert, 85295

(480) 988-7223

M-Th 11 a.m.–9 p.m., F 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sa noon–10 p.m., Su 4 p.m.–9 p.m.

Right on the corner of Power and Williams Field Road, this bistro is Poly’s friendly next-door neighbor that wants to feed its youngsters. They deliver right to your dormstep, and have daily deals to fit your low expenses (or your crippling loan debts). It’s also made from scratch, so skip the formerly-frozen Pizza Hut for some authentic cucina italiana. If pizza’s not your thing they can also deliver salad, pasta, or some rockin’ tiramisu. And if you’re bored on a Saturday night, they have karaoke from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Best Splurge/Steakhouse: Trophy’s

7215 S. Power Rd.

Queen Creek, 85297

(480) 840-3981

Daily noon to 10 p.m.

Steaks are dandy, but the intrepid meat eater seeks greater animal-protein highs. The adventurous foodie can gorge on elk and buffalo sliders and wild game from around the world: kangaroo, llama, pheasant, quail and alligator, to name a few. Wash it all down with one of the 18 beers (including craft and Arizona-made brews) on tap or one of the 30 different wines. The patriarch of the family that owns Trophy’s is a big game hunter, and his mounts adorn the walls. Splurge on a wine or beer dinner and you just might win a hunting or fishing trip in a raffle.

Best Coffee Shop: The Coffee Shop at Agritopia

3000 E. Ray Rd.

Gilbert, 85296

(480) 279-3144

M-Th 7 a.m.-8 p.m., F-Sat 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Su 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Delicious coffee and award-winning cupcakes – what more could one want out of life? The folks at The Coffee Shop clearly aim to overwhelm with goodness. In addition to specialty coffee drinks (blended drinks called monsoons and Spanish lattes with sweetened condensed milk have devoted followings) and the cupcakes that have twice landed them on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” (red velvet and their signature “coffee and cigarettes” cupcake are bestsellers), they also serve breakfast, lunch and an assortment of pastries, from cinnamon rolls to whoopie pies. Everything is fresh and homemade in a suburban farm setting – simple perfection.

Best Music Store: Música Latina at the Higley Stop & Shop

3183 E. Williams Field Rd.

Gilbert, 85295

(480) 988-3323

M-Sa 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Su 1 p.m.-7 p.m.

It’s all in la familia at Música Latina, a Latin music shop and Hispanic market at the Higley Stop & Shop, a local institution owned by matriarch Lidia Torres and her family since 1986. The tiny tienda specializes in Tejano(Texan-style) music but stocks (and plays continuously all day, every day) CDs, concert DVDs and even a few cassettes from Latin music superstars from around the globe – bestsellers include Vicente Fernandez, Maná, Los Tigres del Norte and Juanes. You can also stock up on Mexican snack foods, pantry staples and craft beers. Everything you need for a fiesta, all in one place. ¡Viva la música!

Best Place to Study Outside: The Desert Arboretum

Grab a book and get outside to combat the dorm-room doldrums. The desert arboretum is the perfect place to get some sunshine and commune with nature while you fill your head up with knowledge. The arboretum is part of ASU’s sustainability project and is chockablock with desert-dwelling, drought-resistant plants that conserve water. Its original location in the desert walk has been extended so that its tendrils extend throughout the campus. Fear not, techies: Thanks to recent construction, an outlet for your laptop is never far away, so you can get the best of both the inside and outside worlds.

Best Club: Urban Gaming Club

It’s not every day you see a bunch of pilots, engineers and business majors running around and fending off zombies, but if the Urban Gaming Club has anything to say about it, it’ll be mainstream soon. The UGC’s 100-plus members gather once or twice a month for a little jovial escapism to lessen the stress of mountains of homework and looming exams. Humans vs. Zombies is the most popular game, but organizers are open to everything, from assassins, capture the flag and king of the hill to V.I.P. – whatever’s fun and brings people together.

 

Best Of West

 

Best Pizza: Pullano’s

13848 N. 51st Ave.

Glendale, 85306

(602) 978-1234

M-Thu, S 11 a.m.-10 p.m., F-Sa 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

There may not be anything that characterizes college life better than the iconic slice of pizza. Unfortunately, college students are ready to eat any kind of pizza – hot, cold, off the floor, you name it. But Pullano’s pizza has been dishing up mean slices of New York style pizza for more than 30 years, slices that are iconic for all the right reasons. The daily special is an extra large cheese pizza and 30 wings for $24.99. Additionally, Pullano’s offers a traditional Italian menu with all the classic dishes, giving you a small bit of Italy in the desert.

Best Hot Dog: Dazzo’s Dog House

6143 W. Glendale Ave.

Glendale, 85301

(623) 934-3536

M-Sa 10:30- 8p.m., closed Su

There is nothing more romantic, oddly enough, than summer time and hot dogs. Does it have something to do with baseball season? Maybe. But regardless of the history of the hot dog and hot weather, Dazzo’s Dog House is taking advantage of the odd pairing, and is cooking up some mouth-watering Chicago-style hot dogs out of Glendale. The spot’s signature puppy is a fully-flared kosher Vienna with all the fixings that’s fixed to get your tongue skippin’ in reverie.

Best Music Store: Thrifty Joe’s Books and Music

6020 West Bell Road, Suite E-104

Glendale, 85308

602-547-2540

M-Sa 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Have an inkling to rid yourself of all those high school CDs as fast as you can? Well, maybe you can mortgage the strife into something beneficial and turn that CD collection into dough at Thrifty Joe’s. Thrifty Joe’s offers an eclectic and quirky mix of video games, albums and books. No matter what you’re there for, the store is a friendly place to purchase used goods at a price that’s not going to bankrupt your already-dilapidated pocket book.

Best Coffee: Next Coffee Company

19420 N. 59th Ave., Suite J

Glendale, 85308

(623) 322-4852

M-Th 6 a.m.-8 p.m., F 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Sa 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Su 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

If you’re looking to impress your environmentally friendly-yet-casually trendy date, take them to Next Coffee Company and order the Himalayan Hammer – you’ll surely cause heart tremors. It’s just one of the specialty coffee creations among the unique servings that Next Coffee offers for the bustling mind. Next Coffee, which is housed in a shop full of wide-open spaces that are perfect for studying, specializes in offering local products, music and comedy. They also mix liquor with their beverages for a uranium bomb to the tongue that may just cause mild hysterics.

Best BBQ: Chuhgajib Korean Restaurant

4920 W. Thunderbird Rd. #117

Glendale, 85306

(602) 298-0110

Su-Th 10 a.m.-9 p.m., F-Sa 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Tucked in the strip mall off Thunderbird Road and 49th Avenue is this intimate, cozy family-style Korean BBQ filled with intricately carved wood tables and calming, light-pink walls with low lights that put your eyes and your stomach at ease. Don’t be fooled: Chuhgajib Korean Restaurant brings the heat when it comes to BBQ – literally, the dishes are cooked on grills centered right in the middle of the tables. Their lunch specials are especially easy on the college budget, with entrees running at a lean price of $4.95.

Best Mexican Food: Big Burrito

4920 W Thunderbird Rd.

Glendale, 85306

(602) 938-4434

M-Sa 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Su 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sometimes the best remedy for a long week is an equally long burrito full of all those bad foods you can’t help but devour. Big Burrito isn’t hiding behind its name whatsoever – their burritos pack a punch to the gut. They also offer a diverse smattering of authentic Mexican dishes that will certainly salsa dance with your taste buds. If you’re looking for something to wash the delectable dishes down with, their horchata is the perfect partner for any meal.

Best Place to Have a Picnic: ASU West Campus Fletcher Lawn

4701 W. Thunderbird Rd.

Glendale, 85306

Fletcher Lawn at the West campus is surrounded by brick buildings, trees and a bubbling fountain – the recipe for a perfect picnic spot. Fletcher Lawn serves as the center of the West campus, sometimes a quiet patch of grass to meet up with friends and sometimes buzzing with crowds of students as informational booths line the walkways. Grab a drink at Starbucks (just steps away at Fletcher Library) and lay out on the grass on Fletcher Lawn.

Best Crepes: Le Chalet

5626 W. Bell Rd.

Glendale, 85308

(602) 337-8760

Su-Thu 11 a.m.-9 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Walk into this local restaurant you’re no longer in Glendale. Stone facades and heavy wood decorative accents transport diners to the Swiss Alps – as does the food. The savory crepes of Le Chalet can satisfy the hungriest ASU student, with combinations such as creamed mushrooms, ham, swiss cheese and egg, and greens, smoked salmon, tomatoes and dill ranch dressing. Travel to France in the same restaurant with its collections of fondue, such as the salted butter caramel or a fondue of potatoes, onions, bacon, heavy cream and Reblochon cheese.