Healthy and local food options in Downtown and Tempe

Sometimes, the dining hall on campus can’t provide a busy, overworked student with the food he or she wants. For those times, students are tempted to venture outside campus grounds to find the nourishment they desire.

There are several eateries in downtown Phoenix and Tempe that offer healthy alternatives to the common processed foods either served in the dining hall or the nearest fast food restaurant to campus.

Students who attend the Arizona State University Downtown campus have the opportunity to shop for locally grown organic produce and bread at the Phoenix Public Market located on Central Avenue and Pierce Street. When the market is not open, students are not out of luck in finding local, organic food.

The "Café" sign on Phoenix Public Market Cafeé in downtown Phoenix

The “Café” sign on Phoenix Public Market Cafeé in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

The Phoenix Public Market Café is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week and is located in the building adjacent to the lot where the market is held.

Chef Aaron Chamberlin, owner of the café, is committed to selling local, fresh and organic food to his costumers.

Drew Decker, assistant general manager of the Phoenix Public Market Café, said the local certified restaurant always offers fresh, local and as much organic foods as possible.

He said anything at the café can be a healthy alternative to what students normally eat.

“A healthy alternative would be like having a salad,” Decker said. He added that the side dishes on the menu are broccoli, sweet potatoes and black beans which are all healthier than the potato chips or fries that may be offered at other restaurants or the dining hall, he said.

About 70 percent of the meals listed on the café’s lunch and dinner menu are either vegetarian or vegan.

The Phoenix Public Market Café even offers vegan choices for sandwiches and pastries.

Not too far from the Phoenix Public Market Café, on Roosevelt and Second streets, is Carly’s Bistro.

Carly’s offers hearty sandwiches that are made fresh and with local produce. There are vegetarian and vegan options such as the Vegan Wrap, the Beet, Fig and Pear salads, Tomato Bisque and the Caprese Sandwich.

With each meal, Carly’s offers a choice of orzo pasta salad or organic greens as alternative side dishes to french fries.

One thing students can benefit from is the restaurant’s hours. Students can visit Carly’s Bistro from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Carly’s is also open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.

While the Phoenix Public Market Café and Carly’s Bistro may have vegetarian and vegan options, Bragg’s Factory Diner’s whole menu is filled with vegetarian and vegan meals for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Bragg’s, located on Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Street, serve “soyrizo” and “eggplant ‘bacon’” in their breakfast dishes, while lunch features quinoa and a chickpea patty.

The diner was built in 1947 by the Bragg family. Since then, the dinner has been well-known for their 100% vegan pies that are baked fresh daily in flavors such as Apple Rosemary and Cappuccino Mousse.

ASU’s Tempe campus offers students a wide variety of local options as well. Scottsdale restaurant ChopShop opened a location on Forest Avenue and University Drive late last summer. The restaurant, which prides itself on providing quick, healthy dining, has received a considerable amount of business within the past few months, said Shift Supervisor Alicia Bladek.

ChopShop in Tempe

ChopShop in Tempe (photo by forkyum).

“We’re decently priced and we’re so close to campus. Students like something other than fast food,” she said. “We offer vegan options and we offer gluten-free options. We also try to offer substitute bottle products, such as kombucha, which a lot of places do not offer.”

Bladek said that though ChopShop is not organic, it does provide fresh, seasonal ingredients for all dishes. Food is never frozen and is prepped every morning at the Scottsdale location. She said the pressed juices at the shop proved to be most popular with students.

“We make them in house with fresh veggies and fruits,” she said. “We also have a local girl that does all of our granola and pastries.”

ChopShop is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Another local option for students on Tempe’s campus is Blue House Coffee Goods. The mobile coffee cart sits on the northwest corner of College Avenue and University Drive, near the Newman Center. ASU alumnus Sam Beger and economics junior Nick DiPastena created the business last semester and have been selling coffee since August.

Blue House Coffee Goods cart in Tempe

Blue House Coffee Goods cart in Tempe (photo by forkyum).

“I was studying for my MCATs and Nick said he was transferring back to ASU and he had a coffee roaster,” Beger said. “Some gears started clicking and we agreed we should start up a coffee cart, roast our own beans and have it be a cool thing.”

He said the business provides a local alternative to many corporate coffee shops on campus. Beans roasted by Beger and DiPastena are purchased from a local wholesaler in Tempe.

“Most coffee shops around here don’t roast their own coffee so we like to make sure that the coffee that you’re drinking has been roasted within the last 24 hours,” Beger said. “It’s extremely fresh.”

He said Blue House, being a mobile, bicycle-driven coffee cart, works to their advantage. Blue House makes deliveries to offices on campus. Beans are delivered free of charge. The cart is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

A shop directly on campus is Charlie’s Café, which has locations near Hayden Library, the College of Law and College of Design. The café is one of the only non-corporate businesses on campus and provides students with beverages and lunch specials daily. Manager Kat Keenan said the café’s Hayden location has been open for nearly nine years and offers a variety of cultural options.

Charlie's Café on the Tempe campus

Charlie’s Café on the Tempe campus (photo by forkyum).

“We have things like italianos and gyros and baklava. We make some of it here, but also go to different restaurants near campus,” she said. “A lot of our menu items are local.”

Keenan said the café tries to support other small businesses in the valley. A family-owned tea company provides tea to the café. She said the café’s Hayden location may be hidden or obscured a bit, but this works in student’s favor.

“I think it’s a really good idea to have something that is a little bit out of the way, so one area isn’t just packed with food and students in line,” she said.

Charlie’s Café is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Students who are willing to bike a few blocks north of campus may enjoy Green New American Vegetarian, located near Scottsdale Road and Fillmore Street. Green offers local, vegan-vegetarian options as well as vegan, soft-serve ice cream. Menu items range in price from $4-$9. Green’s Tempe location is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Decker at the Phoenix Public Market Café said it is important for students to eat healthy because of the benefits from they receive from doing so.

Brain food: the organic chicken salad sandwich at Phoenix Public Market Café (photo by forkyum).

Brain food: the organic chicken salad sandwich at Phoenix Public Market Café (photo by forkyum).

“I had a parent email me today asking if there was some sort of meal plan here because all her child is eating is dorm food,” he said. “It’s important to have a healthy alternative when all you eat is pizzas or whatever so then you gain ‘the freshman 20.’”

Decker said that eating fresh and organic foods, such as the foods offered at the café, Carly’s, Bragg’s, ChopShop, Charlie’s Café and Green, not only is healthy, but gives students energy and brian food.

“It allows them to actually go through the day energized and not dragging their feet because their eating greasy food,” Decker said. “It doesn’t even have to be greasy- a lot of the food that you’re out there eating is processed and so you’re not getting the enzymes and all the nutrients that comes with local and fresh foods.”

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Where Devils Play

Writing papers and cramming for tests are usually what you’ll find Arizona State University students doing when they aren’t in class, but there’s always time for late-night fun near both the Tempe and Downtown campuses.

Four Peaks Brewing Company

Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe (photo by forkyum).

The Tempe campus has the advantage of being in close proximity to Mill Avenue where students can unwind at a number of bars and clubs.

There’s also Four Peaks Brewery located on 8th St. and McClintock. The brewery has locally brewed beers and a full menu to pair with them. Since the opening in 1996, Four Peaks has been brewing with flavors and aromas they feel most passionate about.

Featuring eight mainstay beers along with numerous seasonal beers, Four Peaks Brewery is a relaxing local hang out for not only students close by but also families and beer seekers from across the country. “During the week we get an older crowd, but on the weekends we tend to attract more college kids,” says Kasey Stewart of Four Peaks. “We see a lot of people that come in specifically for the beers, or the food and beer, and then we get the out-of-towner’s that are traveling around trying out different breweries in the area.” Four Peaks brews beer that is catered to light beer drinkers as well as IPA and stout lovers, that can be paired alongside dishes such as pasta and burgers.

Crescent Ballroom

Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

An alternative night spot for students on the Downtown campus and residences of the area is Crescent Ballroom, a local bar, music venue and lounge located on 2nd Avenue and Van Buren Street in downtown Phoenix. Crescent is home to a small music venue that features live music from all different genres. “We offer live shows every night of the week and Crescent Ballroom is really interested in bringing people in that are really passionate about music and introducing them to an intimate setting,” says Rianna Rhoads of Crescent Ballroom, “It’s a great place to be for music lovers or for those who want to just grab a drink and hangout.”

Crescent Ballroom made it’s debut in October of 2011, and has made quite an impact already, “I think Crescent Ballroom is one of those places that actually saved downtown Phoenix a little bit, just because it calls people from all walks of life, from all areas of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Chandler, and the people that would not usually be down here.”

Cocina 10

Cocina 10 is in the lounge at Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

The lounge at Crescent features a key aspect to the experience, Cocina 10, the restaurant that is separated from the main stage. Jorge Gomez, a local chef that helped put together menus for Chelsea’s Kitchen, Le Grande Orange, and Postino began to recreate the menu for Cocina 10 after Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco and Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco had started the kitchen.

Both Four Peaks Brewery and Crescent Ballroom are local favorites and offer students at each campus something different.

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Fork Yum Presents Healthy Eating in the Dining Hall

Eating healthy in the dining hall is not always easy to do. Students with heavy workloads and busy lives often go for the foods that seem the most convenient- even if those foods are not the healthiest.

Danika Worthington, a 19-year-old journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, has been trying out a new pescetarian lifestyle in a goal to be healthier. 

“I know a lot of diseases like heart disease comes from eating red meat,” Worthington said.

Worthington wants to be a pescetarian for at least one year, she said.

“I’ve started to eat like a pescetarian about a week ago, but I am easing into it,” Worthington said. “It’s hard to quit meat cold turkey- I had some chicken nuggets over the weekend.”

Although she’s been thinking of beginning her new diet for a few months, Worthington wanted to make sure she didn’t miss out of Thanksgiving. She said she officially began her pescetarian goal the day after the holiday.

“I’m taking it slow and not getting to upset if I cheat, but I am going to really kick it into gear come New Years Day,” Worthington said.

Fork Yum joined Worthington for three meals on Monday, Dec. 2, as she finds new dishes to eat in a college dining hall.

For breakfast, Worthington had a veggie omelette and vanilla yogurt topped with granola.

At lunch time, she created herself a spinach salad with tomatoes and cucumbers with an apple on the side.

And to end the day, she had a portobello mushroom sandwich with rice, green beans and fried zucchini.

The dining hall has proposed some challenges for a student looking for meatless meals. There are “Meatless Mondays” that ASU dining offers where tofu is served as the hot dinner, but not every student who is trying to rid of meat wants to eat tofu.

“I’ve tried tofu and I just don’t like it,” Worthington said. “Maybe that will change in the future, but for now I’m going to go without it.”

There are even challenges for students who aren’t necessarily trying to eat vegetarian but want to eat healthier.

“There’s always the grill and there’s always greasy pizza offered in the dining hall,” Worthington said adding that those types of food are tempting.

The dining hall also offers a salad bar every day at lunch and dinner hours.

But Worthington may represent a number of students when she said,  “I mean, I’m not going to eat a salad every day.”

Rise of Thai

The popularity of Thai food seems to be growing and places are popping up to serve hungry customers.

Downtown Phoenix is an excellent study in this. For example, there’s a Thai Basil, a Thai’d Up and a My Mom’s Thai Kitchen on the same block and all of them do well enough in business to stay open.

Sign in front of the Thai'd Up restaurant.

Thai’d Up in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

Jirat Hempimarnman, employee at the Thai Basil on Adams Street and First Avenue for the past year, said there’s a lot of competition for Thai food in the downtown area (clearly). The Thai Basil he works at has been open for the past two years or so, he added.

A wooden carving in front of the Thai Basil restaurant.

A wooden carving in front of the Thai Basil restaurant in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

The restaurant is busiest during lunchtime hours because business folk leave their offices to grab lunch, he said. Dinnertime is slower because there’s no one working then, he added.

Hempimarnman credits part of Thai food’s popularity to its spiciness, a sign of the food’s authenticity. He noted the food is healthy as well.

“They put (in) a lot of seasoning and a lot of herbs that help your body,” he said.

Caleb Thal, employee at the Thai’d Up at 110 North Central Ave for about the past year and a half, agreed with Hempimarnman’s statement that a lot of Thai food’s appeal comes from its healthiness. There are many vegetarian and vegan options available, and overall the food is just good, he said.

“Within 30 seconds of walking, you could hit two other Thai restaurants,” he said, in reference to the number of Thai restaurants in the area.

Though Thai restaurants are not as heavily concentrated in the Tempe area, there’s still plenty to be found, like the Thai Basil on Rural Road and Lemon Street, near the main ASU campus.

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A larger Thai Basil location in Tempe (photo by forkyum).

Manager Jay Anuvat said the restaurant has been open for almost four years, and he’s worked there for the same amount of time. The location was chosen for its parking space availability and the fact that they could sell alcohol there, he said.

Their peak hours do vary from downtown Phoenix’s, with lunch and dinner being about equally popular, he said. The crowds they draw are also different, being a mix of not just people who work in the area but students and teachers as well, he added.

Anuvat agrees that Thai’s popularity is because of its flavor, variety, and health benefits, He stopped short of saying it was healthier than any given food, noting he does not want to insult any nations.

“We cook it when you order… we do it fresh,” he said, noting that’s why people prefer it to processed food.

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Has Fro-Yo impacted the ice cream industry?

Sparky’s Old Time Creamery on Mill Avenue in Tempe has a frozen yogurt machine. That might get one wondering about any impact frozen yogurt has had on the ice cream industry.

“It’s really just to stay current on the trends,” General Manager John Couste said. He does not see frozen yogurt as fad-like, noting its “Renaissance” with the health conscious.

With a greater focus on healthier foods,  they provide customers with that option while keeping to their main product of ice cream, he continued. The creamery hopes to expand on their yogurt selection in the future, and with “two to three yogurt shops in the area, it’s something you don’t want to be left out on,” Couste said.

An argument could be made for yogurt hurting ice cream, he admits. People worried about their diet have yogurt as an option, but there will always be those who want ice cream, he added.

The ice cream parlor Melt, located on Roosevelt and Fifth Streets in Phoenix, is owned by John Sagasta. Sagasta said he doesn’t really have an opinion, as he does not see ice cream as affected by the frozen yogurt industry.

“I think ice cream always got a place,” he said. “I mean, you go to Safeway, you don’t find a bunch of frozen yogurt in the aisle you find ice cream.”

Frozen yogurt has been around for a while even before self-serve, he noted, and just because self-serve frozen yogurt is seeing a surge in popularity does not mean ice cream’s days are numbered. He admitted he does not know much about any local frozen yogurt places in the area, but noted he does not see the appeal of frozen yogurt dying any time soon.

“Those machines are out there. They’ve got to use them for something,” he said.

Crystal Botello, Sagasta’s wife and fellow employee, said she doesn’t think there exists much competition between frozen yogurt and ice cream.

“I think frozen yogurt itself is a whole different industry,” she said.

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