Food Scene

House of Tricks: an oasis in Downtown Tempe

By Angela Muniz
Photos by Mark Lipczynski

Given its tucked away setting, it’s easy to believe House of Tricks is named for the way it plays on the mind like an oasis—a touch of green in Downtown Tempe’s growing urban landscape.

In reality, the cozy restaurant takes its name from owners Bob and Robin Trick. And though the space made up of two historic homes seems untouched by time, the Tricks have nurtured the space to grow as the city has over the last 30 years.

It started in 1987 when the couple left their regular jobs to renovate an old house into a neighborhood restaurant. It seated 11 people. Over time, they expanded. “It grew organically,” explains Robin Trick. “It didn’t happen all at once.”

The restaurant now includes a signature bar wrapped around a tree on the deck that joins the original house to a second one next door. It’s a popular hang out spot for Tricks’ eclectic mix of guests. On any given night, business people and ASU Gammage show goers mingle with neighborhood locals and visiting tourists. “You can wear a suit or shorts,” says Trick when asked about how diners dress. “You’ll see both. We’re not pretentious. We’re real people.”

While Tricks offers craft cocktails and beer, it’s known for its wine. There are about 25 wines by the glass on the menu and a deeper list by the bottle. And just like their guests, there is something for every occasion and price range.

Where the houses offer intimate tables, the recently renovated front patio offers plenty of space for group dining or events. Executive chef Scott Umscheid and kitchen manager Andrea Bales have crafted menus for day and night. Where Umscheid draws from his Midwestern roots, Bales cooks with an Asian flair. The result is a varied selection that Trick describes as unusual takes on traditional dishes.

There are mainstays like the harissa-spiced mussels, and whole grain mustard-cider braised Beeler’s pork volcano shank, as well as seasonal offerings that change about twice a year. This includes a selection of wide selection of starters that Trick says are popular for groups to share.

With 30 years of history and no signs of slowing, Trick says the secret comes from their commitment to the community. “People come to Tricks because of how they feel when they’re there. It’s comfortable,” says Trick. “You’ll probably run into someone you know. It’s the whole experience of being there. We’ve always been that. The feeling hasn’t changed.”

House of Tricks
114 E. 7th St., Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 968-1114 

Written Toni Smith

An Arizona native, Toni Smith loves to dine out, conquer hiking trails, go to concerts and survive hot yoga classes. She has also never met a dog she didn’t love instantly. She lives in Tempe with her husband and daughter.