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A hockey fan and beat writer’s guide to Tempe and South Scottsdale offerings

Craig Morgan Avatar
June 9, 2022

NHL beat writers have simple needs when covering their teams on the road. They want a good hotel at a good price within easy reach of the arena. They want numerous eateries and they want numerous drinkeries. Many of my colleagues have lamented the end of the Coyotes’ Glendale era for that very reason. 

Gila River Arena was the perfect set-up. You could walk from the Renaissance or three other nearby properties to the arena, or to the assortment of shops and restaurants in Westgate. It was the classic example of why it’s so easy to live in Arizona. Our neighborhoods are built on convenience, with all of the necessary amenities within a short distance under always-sunny skies.

Of course, Gila River Arena’s location wasn’t so convenient for the vast majority of Coyotes season-ticket holders, and that’s why the team’s new Tempe location — and perhaps its permanent location a few years hence — is the perfect marriage of fan and media needs. 

Valley residents already know plenty about the Coyotes’ new hood, but once my fellow scribes and broadcasters get a sense of Tempe’s offerings, they won’t miss Gila River Arena any more.

Not only does ASU’s multi-purpose arena sit on the east edge of campus, it sits in close proximity to a wide variety of hotels, shops, restaurants, bars/breweries, entertainment and recreational options. You’ve got famed Mill Ave. and Tempe Marketplace in immediate reach, but if you want to kick it Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn style, Old Town Scottsdale is just five miles away; an easy Lyft or Uber ride to a plethora of eating, drinking and entertainment possibilities. Even downtown Phoenix is only 11 miles away.

With the first Coyotes games at ASU’s multi-purpose arena tentatively scheduled for October, here’s a look at what’s available in the immediate and nearby areas.

A night shot of a fountain outside of the Tempe Mission Palms hotel. (Getty Images).


Beat writers love the Marriott brand. It’s dependable and consistent, with options for all budgets and a rewards system that often pays the lodging portion of reporters’ summer vacations. Well, kids, I have good news. There are 19 (yes, 19!) Marriott properties within four miles of the Coyotes’ temporary home.

You want a higher-end option? The Westin Tempe is located right off of Mill Ave. in the heart of Tempe’s entertainment district. The Buttes is an actual resort where multiple NHL teams have stayed, including the Pittsburgh Penguins.

You want a kitchen in your room? There’s a Residence Inn across the street from Sun Devil Stadium.

You want to walk to a Cactus League game? There are hotels adjacent to the Cubs’, Giants’ and Angels’ spring training homes.

You want to be even closer to the airport (the arena is only 4½ miles away)? There are multiple choices.

And if you don’t care about the Marriott brand, the Tempe Mission Palms is an historic property off of Mill Ave., while the Hyatt House Tempe and Hyatt Place Tempe both offer the same convenience that the Renaissance did in Glendale: They are walking distance from the arena.

But seriously, 19 Marriott options? This is what beat writer heaven looks like.

A crowd gathers on Mill Ave. to watch the Fantasy of Lights parade on Nov. 26, 2021. (USA TODAY Network)

Tempe stuff

Let’s get into the food, drink and entertainment options. Here’s a partial list for Tempe in no particular order:

Postino: Great bruschetta and wine options.
Café Lalibela: Incredible Ethiopian cuisine.
Salam’s Market & Deli: Awesome baklava selection.
Haji Baba: Mediterranean.
Republic Ramen: A favorite comfort food of mine.
Oregano’s: Famous local pizza chain.
Caffe Boa: Local, fresh, wild caught and organic eats.
Gus’s Pizza: A great late-night slice.
Spinelli’s Pizza: A favorite of my co-workers.
Original Chop Shop: Healthy Eats.
Pita Jungle: Another famous local eatery.
Chompie’s: There are not enough good Jewish delis in the Valley. This is one.
Engrained Café: Right inside ASU’s Memorial Union.
Portillo’s: For Chicagoans.
Five Guys: Right on Mill Ave. Don’t come at me with that dried up disc that In-N-Out offers.
Culinary Dropout: A must for out-of-towners.
Daily Jam: Breakfast.
Daily Dose: More breakfast & lunch.
Candy Addict: If you need a late-night sugar high while carousing on Mill Ave.
Little Miss BBQ: The lines can be long and the dining area is small, but this Texas-style BBQ spot is so damn good.
Filiberto’s: Late night Mexican fix offers Angus Beef.
Ghost Ranch: Maybe the best Mexican restaurant in a city that is somehow lacking in this cuisine while other Valley cities are overflowing with options.
Gangnam Sushi and Grill: No website currently available.
Thai Basil: On the Southeast edge of campus.
Chou’s Kitchen: Szechuan Spicy beef is OMG! OMG! OMG! In my opinion, this is the best authentic Chinese cuisine in the Valley. If you want to venture to their Chandler location, it’s even better.

Cartel Roasting Co.: A bit too much attitude for me but a popular spot with excellent product.
King Coffee: A relaxed vibe.
Press Coffee: Along Rio Salado Parkway.
Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters: Cool spot, quality product.

Bars/breweries (if you want IPA recs, look elsewhere)
Four Peaks Brewing Company: An official PHNX Sponsor and IMHO, the best brewery in the Valley. The hefeweizen, oatmeal stout and seasonal pumpkin porter are my faves.
Pedal Haus Brewery: Plenty of award-winning beers.
Casey Moore’s Oyster House: A Tempe institution for you heavy drinkers.
Boulders on Broadway: A neighborhood bar.
Taste of Tops: Lots of options.

Phoenix Zoo: The Phoenix Zoo specializes in conservation and rehabilitation.
Desert Botanical Garden: Truly an amazing space with a permanent Chihuly installation.
Papago Park: Easy hikes with views of the city.
Tempe Town Lake: Running and biking paths and boat rentals. It’s not as great as it may one day be, especially if local residents give up on their desire to maintain a dump site and let the Coyotes build something that will attract more visitors to the city and make the lakefront (really a river bank) much cooler. The north bank of the river is still decidedly underdeveloped.
Reptile row: A living collection of Arizona reptiles located in the halls of the Life Sciences buildings A-wing at ASU. This is an under-the-radar find.
Tempe Center for the Arts: Shows, shows, shows.
Diablo Stadium: The spring training home of the Los Angeles Angels.
Sloan Park: The spring training home of the Chicago Cubs.
Sun Devil Stadium: Pac-12 football after dark is always entertaining. It’s even better in the Valley’s most iconic stadium highlighted in the movie “Jerry Maguire” and U2 clips.
Desert Financial Arena: Home of Sun Devil men’s and women’s basketball… for now.
ASU’s multi-purpose arena: It’s also home to the Sun Devil men’s hockey team.
Mrs. Rita’s Spiritual Awakening Center: Get your fortune told/palm read at the place that the Gin Blossoms made famous. By appointment, no photography or video.

Old Town Scottsdale, the city’s downtown hub, is home to hundreds of shops, galleries, chef-driven restaurants, upscale bars and high-energy nightclubs. (Getty Images)

South Scottsdale stuff

Here’s a partial list for Old Town/South Scottsdale in no particular order. To be honest, Old Town’s choices are overwhelming and I am certain to leave out a dozen good options:

Olive & Ivy: Right on the waterfront.
Maple & Ash: Upscale steakhouse.
Nobu: Fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese with Peruvian 
Boondocks: Patio setting, live music.
The Hot Chick: Another relaxed setting with games of every kind.
Brat Haus: Brats and microbrews.
Diego Pops: Mexican fare with a great patio.
Ristorante Giuseppe: Cash only and BYOB at a good Italian spot.
Pizzería Virtu: A homey feel, excellent food.
AZ 88: Great cocktails and food in the beautiful civic-center setting.
Atlas Bistro: New American cuisine, BYOB with a wine shop attached.
The Breakfast Club: No John Hughes homages, just good food.
Bourbon & Bones: Chophouse.
Culinary Dropout: The Scottsdale location.
Daily Dose: Another spot with locations in Tempe & Scottsdale.
Farm & Craft: Cool bistro serving organic, gluten-free and other conscientious eats in stylish digs with a patio.
Franco’s Italian Caffe: From culinary legend Franco Fazzuoli.
Geisha A Go Go: Asian cuisine with karaoke!
Mastro’s City Hall: Super high-end steakhouse.
The Mission: Good Mexican in a quaint adobe style structure.
Sushi Roku: At the W Hotel.
Tapas Papa Frita: I love this place.
FnB: Creative cuisine in a homey setting.
Ocean 44: Premium steaks and seafood in a modern setting. A Rick Tocchet favorite.
Sugar Bowl: A Scottsdale institution for ice cream.
DeFalco’s Italian Deli & Grocery: Family-run deli/market selling Italian ingredients, hearty sandwiches and homemade pasta and sausage. It’s between Old Town and Tempe.
SumoMaya: OK, I’ll admit this place is a good two miles north of Old Town but the food is spectacular and the dining room is one hell of a scene. Oliver Ekman-Larsson loved this spot.

Cartel Roasting Co.: The Scottsdale location.
Berdenas: A relaxed vibe.
Maverick Coffee: Hip, local coffeehouse in a strip mall.
Fourtillfour: This shop shop has a lush tree-covered patio.
Press Coffee: The Scottsdale location is a favorite Auston Matthews’ spot.
JOJO Coffeehouse: I just like the name, but they also have a breakfast menu.

The Beverly: Incredible cocktails.
Goldwater Brewing Company: Capitalizing on a local name.
Craft 64: Just like it sounds: local craft beers.
AZ 88: Yeah, I mentioned it above, but don’t miss its cocktails and setting.
Hula’s Modern Tiki: Hawaiian inspired.
The Canal Club: Cuban inspired.
Straight Up Whiskey Bar: Hidden within the Hotel Adeline, you’ll need the password to gain entry.
Second Story: Dark woods, dim lighting.
Coach House: You can’t miss it. The floor-to-ceiling lights won’t let you.
Merkin Vineyards: A chic tasting room.
Toca Madera: Good happy hour.

Scottsdale Stadium: The spring training home of the San Francisco Giants.
SMoCA: The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts: Shows.
Scottsdale Fashion Square: One of the Valley’s most upscale malls is also good for people watching.

Did I miss one of your favorite places? Convince me that it belongs on this list.

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