Get Outof the Dining-Doldrums Rut . . .

And ride go-karts, wield flaming torches, or eat a testicle

It's like clockwork. As each and every night out rolls around, you swear it'll be filled with excitement, rather than the regular routine of dinner and a movie. But alas, creature of habit, when your head hits the pillow, you've somehow wasted your evening filling your face with the usual comfort food, watching cinematic dreck, or downing overpriced drinks at the same danceterias.

Cheer up, cubicle drones, and resolve to give your nightlife a fix in 2006. It's really not so hard to live la vida loca and report to work in the morning with a smile.

For instance, aren't the usual beef, chicken, and fish options wearing a bit thin? Be a gutsy gourmand with something more outrageous -- such as, say, alligator. Those creative Creole cooks at VooDoo Daddy's Magic Kitchen in Tempe and Phoenix serve up the repulsive reptile's meaty tail in delicious breaded bits ($7.29) or as a smoky sausage, sautéed in spicy tomato sauce and served over rice for their Louisiana Alligator Piquante ($13.99). They've also got deep-fried frogs' legs if you'd rather begin your culinary epiphany with amphibians instead.

Hurry up and eat your bug parts; it's time to go juggle fire.
Mike Maas
Hurry up and eat your bug parts; it's time to go juggle fire.

And if you've got the, er, balls to be a connoisseur of courageous cuisine, consider consuming a plateful of calf fries ($10) at the Stockyards Restaurant. Also known as Rocky Mountain oysters or cowboy caviar, the family jewels harvested from unfortunate young calves have been cleaned, breaded, and cooked to a golden brown. Despite the intimidation factor, these tasty testicular treats are juicy and mealy, with a chipotle cocktail sauce for dipping. Also on the menu, wild boar and venison sausages with chutney ($9) make for a surprisingly scrumptious outdoorsy appetizer.

Those who aren't quite so, um, nutty, but who still want to treat their taste buds to something not served at IHOP, can head to a nondescript southeast Phoenix strip mall for the belly-busting Brazilian steak house Fogo e Brasa. Non-vegans from across the Valley gorge here on huge cuts of rump steak, lamb, pork loin, and other cuts of serious meat, brought to the table in endless, all-you-can-eat succession ($29.97 per person).

Nibble a little eye candy at Bacchanal Greek Restaurant in Phoenix or Sinbad Restaurant in Tempe. In addition to luscious Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, respectively, these establishments offer tableside belly dancing, drum circles, and folk music throughout the week.

With dinner done, roust yourself out of the multiplex rut. At F1 Race Factory, motorheads of all ages sate their need for speed by racing gas-powered go-karts on two quarter-mile indoor tracks ($20 for the first race, $18 for the second, $12 for the third, and $75 for unlimited races). Burn more adrenaline at the gigantic climbing wall, arcade and pool hall, and when it's time to head home after drinks at the Factory's "Fueling Station," get someone else to do the real driving.

Trigger finger need a treat? Get locked and loaded at Shooter's World, as this West Valley gun shop and firing range is open nightly for pistol-packing patrons to get a little target practice. Friday evenings are ladies' nights; the fairer sex gets free access to the firing range, as well as free eye and ear protection, instruction, and firearm rentals from 4 to 8 p.m. (Regular charges are $13 for the firing range, $7 for gun rental, $1 for eye and ear protection, and targets are $1.)

Getting into a firefight isn't the only kind of flammable fun. A poi is a flaming ball atop a rod, and the poi-wielders of local dance troupe Domba graciously teach the fine art of fire-dancing in their small Tempe studio to anyone who isn't made of paper or ice. Every Thursday evening at 6, members instruct students on such techniques as how to "flow through movement while manipulating chains with orbs of fire," as they put it. Sounds hot. The studio also offers workshops in Bollywood dancing and belly dancing throughout the week. Classes are $15 each, $70 for five, or a bargain package of 10 for $130.

Instead of boring old shots of Patrón or Jack Daniel's at your nearby tavern, try downing a glass of food coloring or popcorn butter as a part of "The Wheel of Fear Factor" at Giligin's in Scottsdale. Wednesday nights feature a blend of both game shows as competitors spin a wheel and attempt to solve nasty-word puzzles while trying to avoid spaces on the dial that would require them to complete such stomach-turning tasks as gulping shots of fish oil or consuming mayonnaise cupcakes. The grand prize? A keg or case of beer. (Hope it washes away the aftertaste.)

If you insist on a movie, steer clear of that overpriced blockbuster and opt for No Festival Required. Every month, Valley artist Steve Weiss presents an anthology of indie flicks, videos, and short films -- comedy, drama, animation, and more, in assorted themes -- from auteurs local and international. Admission is usually a paltry $5 to $6.

So drop that Whopper. It's 2006, and your nights are for sitars and fish oil now. Eat it

Bacchanal Greek Restaurant
3015 East Thomas Road, Phoenix
602-224-9377
www.bacchanalgreekaz.com
Tuesdays through Thursdays, food served from 5 to 9 p.m., with entertainment until 11 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, food served from 5 to 11 p.m., with entertainment until 1:30 a.m.

Fogo e Brasa
4909 East Chandler Boulevard, Phoenix
480-783-6060
www.fogoebrasa.com
Dinner served daily, 3:30 to 10 p.m.

Sinbad Restaurant
5004 South Price Road, Tempe
480-491-5588
www.sinbadaz.com
Tuesdays, 5 to 10 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5 to 11 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Stockyards Restaurant
5009 East Washington Street, Phoenix
602-273-7378
www.stockyardsrestaurant.com
Dinner served Mondays through Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 4 to 9 p.m.

VooDoo Daddy's Magic Kitchen
1706 East Warner Road, Tempe
480-897-8660
4326 East Cactus Road, Phoenix
602-788-4666
www.azeats.com/voodoodaddys
Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Do it

The Domba Studio
524 West Broadway Road, Tempe
480-894-8777
www.domba.com
Workshops run at various times, check Web site for schedule.

F1 Race Factory
317 South 48th Street, Phoenix
602-302-7223
www.f1racefactory.com
Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to midnight.

Giligin's
4251 North Winfield Scott Plaza, Scottsdale
480-874-2264
Wheel of Fear Factor, Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

No Festival Required
602-265-9524
www.nofestivalrequired.com
Screenings held monthly at various locations; check Web site for schedule.

Shooter's World
3828 North 28th Avenue, Phoenix
602-266-2600
www.azshootersworld.com
Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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