Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Since 1946, the Bikini Lounge has been the Valley's most unabashed tiki bar, and well it should be. It has everything that those Swingers-style posers would give their martini shakers for: the fake thatched roof over the bar, the bamboo light fixtures, the black-lighted batiks on the walls, and in the place of honor behind the bar, a giant painting of a topless hula girl. Or is it the Girl from Ipanema?
Then there are the added benefits: $1 Kamikaze shooters, $2 mini-pitchers of Milwaukee's Best, Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett on the jukebox (four plays for a dollar), and the knowledge that if you show up, tip well, and buy your tee shirts untested, you can still do your part to keep the posers at bay.
BEST POOL HALL
3227 East Bell
BEST BREW PUB
Four Peaks Brewing Company
1340 East Eighth Street, Tempe
BEST DIVE BAR
The Coach House
7011 East Indian School, Scottsdale
BEST SPORTS BAR
230 West Fifth Street, Tempe
BEST BAR TO BE SEEN
7316 East Stetson, Scottsdale
BEST BAR FOR CONVERSATION
Zipp's Sports Grill
7551 East Camelback, Scottsdale
BEST GAY BAR
718 North Central
BEST LESBIAN BAR
Ain't Nobody's Bizness
3031 East Indian School
BEST BEER SELECTION
Timber Wolf Pub
740 East Apache, Tempe
BEST HAPPY HOUR
several Valley locations
BEST BAR FOOD
Zipp's Sports Grill
7551 East Camelback, Scottsdale
BEST PLACE TO DROWN YOUR SORROWS
5110 East McDowell
Requirements: Darkness. Wood wall coverings a plus; and a wood bar itself, better. A hard-to-define but present odor, either coming from the belly-up buddy next to you or the ancient, labyrinthine pipes also preferred.
Plus: a sense of history (in Phoenix, this means at least 25 years old). Draft beer, of maximum three flavors. A less than six-dollar pitcher. A cold-ass bottle of Bud for around two bucks. Affordable shots of your favorite amnesia. At least one pool table and one pinball game; shuffleboard and darts a bonus.
Finally, a jukebox featuring '70s rock, tear-in-my-beer country and eclectic oldies. And a good, take-no-shit bartender.
Mecca fills the bill. It's dark and smoky, old and wonderfully worn. The indoor/outdoor carpet was once burgundy, the patrons range from neighborhoody to weekend hipsters to indigent.
Having opened in 1933, it boasts the second-oldest continuous liquor license in the county. The paneled-cum-patchwork ceiling droops poetically in the right places, making the average Joe feel 10 feet tall. The bar has a seasick quality to it, seemingly designed by munchkins with a desire to add on, like a vortex house on the side of the highway.
And if you have to break the seal, the rest room features a green shower curtain tween urinal and toilet for moments of reflection.
Is it nostalgia? Or maybe the sing-along factor? Something about the music at TT Roadhouse (oh, and that hot poster of Brigitte Bardot in leather hiphuggers) sets the place apart from being an ordinary pub. Guinness definitely goes down more easily with a little Ramones, some Bad Brains, and a healthy dose of Misfits. And you can't help feeling camaraderie along with your buzz when everyone around you knows the words to the Johnny Cash song on the jukebox. Throw in some ska and reggae tunes and you've got the perfect soundtrack to your night.
It usually takes more than a discounted pint of cheap beer to lure us into an entertainment venue defined by its amateur status, but out of loyalty to our readers, we braved the karaoke scene. Bill and Twyla, the poster children for the axiom "there's someone for everyone," guide the full-capacity crowd to find their muse with karaoke tracks of everything from "Peggy Sue" to Peggy Lee. Here, the waiters wear cummerbunds, the men dance without coercion, and no one would dare try to sing Linkin Park. Twyla even teaches the Electric Slide during the breaks. Folks with an overly developed sense of cool should avoid the place, but for anyone out for a good, completely unpretentious great time, Bill and Twyla have room in their lineup for you.
Among the titty bars, porn parlors and machine shops of East Washington, it's hard to resist its charms. In the giant asphalt pasture that is the parking lot of the Stockyards steak house, you'll find the 1889. And once you reach its swinging saloon doors, you just might feel like you've stumbled from a dusty frontier street into a Tombstone-style watering hole, complete with card games, whiskey by the bottle and painted ladies.
Only if. But still, while everything outside is blinding heat and stark industry, inside the 1889 is an antiquarian's fantasy of Old West atmosphere. The back bar is a colonnade of cherry wood, mirrors and brass. A baroque glass chandelier hangs overhead. And below, fat guys in neckties drink Bud Light, and girls'-night-out types drink Burgundy by the balloonful. Maybe best known as a happy-hour spot for east-downtowners, the 1889 still earns its keep as the standard-bearer of the frontier-saloon mystique, which it flaunts with the bar's most famous trademark: the antique-style murals you find on every wall -- scenes of vaudeville starlets turning away suitors, coquettes in neck-to-ankle swimsuits retaining their virtue, and the like. Plus, it features one of the Valley's truest and fastest-vanishing bar experiences: coming in from the blazing sunlight and into a windowless darkness so total that you have to stand at the door for 30 seconds, let your pupils dilate, and then step up to the bar for the business at hand.