Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2003


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Food & Drink

Goods & Services

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Merc Bar

Call it novel inspiration: On many a sweltering Havana day, Ernest Hemingway kept cool at his favorite watering hole, La Bodeguita, with a steady supply of ice-cold mojitos. Not surprisingly, the famous Cuban concoction helps beat the heat here as well -- if it's good enough for the literary legend, it's good enough for the parched souls of Phoenix. A tall, refreshing glass of rum, fresh mint, sugar, lime juice and soda, the mojito's been popping up on drink menus around town. But let the drinker beware. While it's hard to screw up cocktails such as gin and tonic or whiskey sours, there is absolutely a right way and a wrong way to make a mojito. And Merc Bar -- a dimly lighted, low-key-chic lounge discreetly located in the Camelback Esplanade -- does the drink justice, keeping it tart but sweet, strong but slurpable.

Readers' Choice for Best Happy Hour: Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar

2525 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 85016
Billet Bar

Get your motor runnin'? Head out on the highway? Lookin' for adventure? Looking for your dentures, more likely. If you haven't already noticed, the median age for the heavy-metal thunder-riding Harleys these days is about 56, and it's the guys who stayed in med school in the '60s instead of pursuing personal freedom and white-line fever across America. So it's to be expected that this motorcycle clique making up for lost time makes its hedonistic home a chic, relatively new bar in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, wearing more leather apparel than most wanna-be punks half their age.

Despite the metal and marble bar's proximity to the Easyriders Tattoo Parlor, most of the marked men who come in for a drink are under the age of 29 and are too smarting from being under the needle to spike the "Born to Be Mild" set. But don't you make the mistake of writing off these geezers as two tires short of a wheelchair -- they're old enough to remember how to have a good time; they punch up mostly agreeable dinosaur rock selections on the corner "Jukebox-zilla," as it is affectionately known; they drink responsibly; and on Thursday ladies' nights, they usually have a fortysomething hottie in tow.

Can your old man pull off any of this without getting clocked in the head with a fryer by your Mom? Nah, didn't think so.

3752 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 85251
Devil's Martini

(and 10825 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-348-1666) The devil's in the details, and this ritzy bar knows exactly what it takes to mix the perfect mart. These toss-backs can get expensive ($7.50 for a basic recipe), but wow, they're worth it, with generous three-ounce pours of alcohol. Of course, these martinis are based on vodka (nobody uses gin anymore, it's so passé) with fruit (no olives, no onions; today's young drinkers want high-octane, cotton-candy punch). What shall it be tonight? Top picks: "Sex & the City," with Absolut Mandarin, Amaretto Disarrono, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry; and the "Soprano," with Campari, triple sec, Absolut Mandarin and a shake of OJ. Appetizers are needed to soak up the sting of lethally poured Stoli Razberi, served as the "Turner" with triple sec and lemon juice, or the Kaiser Soze, shaken with Stoli vanilla, Kahlúa, Bailey's, milk and Goldschlager. This is one devil we really want to dance with.

Readers' Choice: Martini Ranch

4175 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 85251
Kolby's Corner Pocket Billiards

This is your cue to make a break to Kolbys Corner Pocket. Forget about those rinky-dink matchbox tables you have to pop quarters into. The 22 regulation-size tables here are works of art from the likes of Gandy, Gold Crown III and Brunswick. At Kolbys, you rent by the hour, which makes it a great destination for a group outing of wholesome fun. This place is serious about its pool and so are its patrons. There won't be some wayward drinker disrupting that crucial shot at the eight ball. Find the angle, line it up and sink into Kolbys Corner Pocket.

Readers' Choice: Clicks Billiards

1301 E. University Dr., Tempe, 85281

There's only one place in the Valley to find and enjoy a truly great smoke -- Goodfella's. The recently opened lounge has two buildings in which to relax. The front houses the humidor that is stocked with premium cigars such as Romeo y Julieta, Don Thomas, Arturo Fuente and Montecristo. There is also a flat-screen TV and parlor sofas. If you smoke up an appetite, grab a sandwich from the deli.

A separate building in back is home to the members-only cigar club (membership is $175 a year). There's a salon fully equipped with a pool table, dart room, plush leather couches, a conference room and more. Members receive discounts on cigars and special events like televised fights. The real flavor to this place is here, in an atmosphere that allows you to enjoy your tobacco with other like-minded individuals.

Readers' Choice: Ritz-Carlton


Is there a place that meets these requirements: a) a huge selection of top-shelf liquors; b) a spacious floor plan with lots of comfortable seating; c) an outdoor area to take in some fresh air; and d) rows upon rows of beautiful men?

Yes sir! Only one place in the Valley can serve up these requirements and keep them coming -- Amsterdam. Enjoy martinis and a manicure (on Mondays) or just come every day of the week for an abundance of eye candy. Is it a coincidence that this ultra-hip bar is named after the unofficial gay capital of the world? We don't think so.

Readers' Choice: Amsterdam

718 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 85004



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