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Hungry? 5 local food spots good for your wallet and the planet

October 29, 2013

Staff Picks: ASU staffer Natalie Muilenberg, assistant editor in the Global Institute of Sustainability, picks five local eateries that serve up tasty food, are budget-friendly and pass the sustainability test.

So you’re a student, faculty or staff member at Arizona State University and are hankerin’ to down some sustainable grub, right? These days it’s hard to figure out where your food comes from and what restaurants are actually telling the truth. (Ever heard of greenwashing?)

Have no fear; I’ve rounded up some reasonably priced sustainable restaurant options located near the Tempe campus, home of ASU’s School of Sustainability and Global Institute of Sustainability.

And I’ve rated the cost of a typical meal at each restaurant on a scale of one to five, with five being the most expensive. 

Memorial Union, second floor
11 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday 
Dinner served 5-7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday
Price point: 3

How could we start this list without mentioning Tempe campus’ very own sustainable restaurant? Boasting seasonal menus and a casual dining atmosphere, Engrained features ingredients such as cage-free eggs, all-natural chicken and local, organic tomatoes.

The menu regularly includes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Our favorite has to be the tomato, basil, Queen Creek olive oil and mozzarella flatbread – it’s like Italy in your mouth!

Don’t forget to check out the smaller and faster version of Engrained, E2, located at Orange Mall across from Wilson Hall.

La Bocca Urban Pizzeria and Wine Bar
699 S. Mill Ave, Tempe
11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday 
11 a.m.-11 p.m., Thursday
11 a.m.-12 a.m., Friday-Saturday
Price point: 4

If you’re over 21, you may go to La Bocca for what the Phoenix New Times calls, "the best sangria." But if you’re under 21, then definitely stay for the hand-tossed Mediterranean pizzas and assorted bruschetta planks. And when it can, La Bocca incorporates local ingredients like Queen Creek olives, crusty bread from Arizona Bread Company, Scottsdale’s Sweet Republic ice cream and Phoenix’s Schreiner’s Fine Sausage. 

Desert Roots Kitchen
414 S. Mill Ave #111, Tempe (Mill Avenue Shops Courtyard)
8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday
Price point: 2

Do you know how much carbon, water and crops are needed to raise meat? A lot. That’s why going vegan or vegetarian can lower your ecological footprint. But being vegan or vegetarian can be quite limiting, restaurant-wise. Fortunately, there’s Desert Roots Kitchen, a small café hidden in the Mill Avenue Shops Courtyard.

A taste for the global with a penchant for the local, Desert Roots Kitchen is the place to go for coconut curry cranberry almond lentil wrap, Indonesian rice with purple cabbage or pumpkin curry quinoa with dates and spinach. Be sure to like it on Facebook to get daily menu updates before hitting the streets. 

D’Lish Health Conscious Kitchen and Coffee House
1135 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe
6 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday
7 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday
Price point: 3

Skip that Taco Bell and instead drive-thru D’Lish for a nuts n’ berries salad or chicken breast panini. At D’Lish you can dine in, take out or "drive-thru," making it virtually impossible to not eat healthy and organic. D’Lish also uses earth-friendly food and drink containers, and recycling is available on site. Plus its coffee is free trade, all natural and locally roasted. What’s not to love?

Cartel Coffee Lab
225 W. University Dr., Tempe
7 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Sunday
Price point: 2

With its concrete floors and bike wheel-covered walls, Cartel Coffee Lab begs you to ride your bike to get your morning Joe. Cartel now has four locations across Arizona, and Tempe’s location was the first and remains to be where all coffees are roasted. The majority of roasts come from organic, pesticide-free farms in Guatemala, Sumatra and El Salvador. If that doesn’t sway you, just come for the taste; BBC Travel named Cartel one of America’s Best Coffee Bars in September. 

Honorable Mention: Chop Shop
222 E. University Dr., Tempe
7 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Saturday
7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday
Price point: 3

Even though the options at Chop Shop aren't technically local or organic, they are healthy, and that’s a big part of being sustainable. You’ll find fresh veggie sandwiches, filling protein plates (tofu is an option) and seasonal lemonades, like cucumber and mint, that will re-energize you after hitting the books. You can take out, but we like to sit outside at the tables under the trees or make our next move on the giant outdoor chessboard. Chop Shop gets some points for using water-saving faux grass!