Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Sometimes, karaoke is good -- if we've had enough to drink. But often it is very, very bad.
If only we had a gong. Wait, we do, at Hamburger Mary's. On Tuesday nights, friends and foes alike pack the popular gay and lesbian establishment, and pay a buck for the privilege of banging the silver saucer-shaped instrument. Whichever musically impaired maestro is cattily caterwauling at that moment then gets a 30-second countdown to double the donation or be cut off. Usually the victim will plop down the money, only to get even louder in defiance, because usually it's not about talent, but enthusiasm. The stakes get higher and higher as non-fans continue to drop in dollars, and this dance repeats itself long into the night. By the time last call is shouted, the till is overflowing and will be donated to charity.
One of the surprises of moving to Phoenix for the first time from some place like Los Angeles or New York is being able to have a pint of P-town's "home brew" -- Kiltlifter Scottish Ale -- on tap at a local saloon. Let's be honest, when you're a newbie transplant with some of that El Lay or Gotham 'tude, your first reaction to PHX -- not knowing the area -- might be, "Why, God, why?" But a draught of Kiltlifter, the flagship ale of the Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe, is enough to convince you that not only is there civilization in P-town, but it has produced a damn fine brew-ha-ha, one worthy of incessant quaffing. Kiltlifter is an award-winning, Scottish-style amber ale that uses peat-soaked malt (the same used in making Scotch) to give the beverage a smoky sweetness, accented with a touch of English hops. It's a sophisticated, refreshing drink, and Phoenicians should be as proud of it as they are of the Arizona flag.
To borrow a line from John Belushi in Animal House, now that Arizona has gotten off its keister and extended the drinking cutoff until 2 a.m., we advise you to start drinking heavily. And there's no better place to start drinking heavily than at McDuffy's Wide World of Entertainment in Peoria, which has 21 different beers on tap and at least the same number in bottles. This sleek, 13,000-square-foot sports bar is jam-packed with large-screen TVs tuned to all of your favorite athletic competitions, and then some. McDuffy's also offers off-track betting year-round, so you can lose your shirt (or win a bundle) while getting hammered. And the kitchen prepares some of the best bar food, bar none, everything from beer-battered fish and chips and roast beef sliders au jus to hand-crafted pizzas, made to your exacting specifications. Moreover, with its half-price happy hour -- and a reverse happy hour on Sundays that includes Sabbath tourneys of "beer pong" (Yahweh must love that one), McDuffy's has become a destination drinking, dining and fun zone for the entire west side. If only Belushi were still around, he'd love it. Readers' Choice: Four Peaks Brewing Company
Hey, Dancing Queen, if those shoes haven't scuffed a dance floor since disco, it's time to leave the house. Deciding where to bust your latest Beyonc moves isn't easy, but there are a few diva-worthy dance floors out there -- all of them inside the confines of The Buzz.
The Buzz is perfect for the schizophrenic dancer who's not really sure what groove to follow. The maze of bars and themed rooms surround a large dance floor lighted by hypnotic lasers and energized by scratch-happy DJs who spin everything from house to funk to hip-hop.
Save the last dance until you've perused the rest of the two-story fun bar. The Rat Pack Lounge offers a little Sinatra-inspired R&R -- perfect for rejuvenating yourself -- and the rooftop patio is essential for airing out those sweat-soaked digs of yours. Don't lounge around too long, however. The Buzz is best experienced by dancing yourself dizzy. Readers' Choice: Axis/Radius
This place would impress even the Queer Eye guys. From the opera bar to the leather couches to the jumbo shrimp appetizer, everything about Amsterdam is perfectly appointed, particularly the help -- and the clientele. You'll feel like you've died and gone to cable when you sink back with a martini (we recommend the French) and enjoy the, er, view, as well as the live piano music and frequent drag shows. For you fag hags (and boys who do the mani-pedi thing), we highly recommend "Martinis and Manicures" -- just $5 for a mani, $10 for a pedi, 7 p.m. to close, plus $5 martinis.
Don't bother asking for a "facial." It's not that kind of place. Readers' Choice: Amsterdam
Thankfully, you'll be hard-pressed to find a mullet here. E-Lounge draws patrons of all ages, but its largest draw is the twentysomething crowd. With ample, cushy couches, reasonably priced drinks, and hordes of hot women, E-Lounge is fast becoming the nightclub that local lesbians have wanted for years. The inside decor resembles a grotto inferno, with dark red brick walls, paintings of exotic, scantily clad women, and a spacious, sunken dance floor -- a perfect pit for exhibitionists, and a great eyeful opportunity for voyeurs. Add some of the Valley's hottest DJs (Domenica, Pete, and Laura B.) to the mix, and there's bound to be beautiful booty shakin' until last call -- and maybe more booty after that. Readers' Choice: Ain't Nobody's Bizness
Dwelling in our desert burg the way we do, with temps rocking C-note plus, what better escapist fantasy could one have than an evening at Scottsdale's Drift Polynesian Restaurant and Tiki Lounge? Drift's like that flick Blue Crush come to life, with Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez look-alikes walking around in clam diggers and midriff-baring tops, serving you pupu platters and exotic tropical drinks -- such as the Evil Bastard, Pele's Eruption, and The Grotto -- all in wild, Polynesian-style glasses.
The atmosphere is kick-back, with huge Easter Island-style heads, glowing blowfish bodies, and Gilligan's Island torches. And then there's the big, glass-topped bar that wraps around a large aquarium, with two big TV screens playing Hawaii Five-O or surfing videos up above it all. The music's an eclectic mix of hip-hop, funky electronica and Top 40, and there are plenty of circular booths to chill with friends and scope the crowd. The food's tasty, the drinks are frosty, and the booties are bouncy, so put on that shiny shirt and be there, fool!
Forget the tasty ghost stories, oysters and local brews that make Casey Moore's a favorite dining/drinking hangout for ASU students and Tempe residents. Conversation is the real mainstay of this historic house turned watering hole.
Just a brief stroll from the corporate cornucopia of Mill Avenue, Casey's is camouflaged among quaint houses in a small neighborhood on Ninth Street and Ash Avenue. Not only is the place worth singing about (see lyrics in Jimmy Eat World's "If You Don't, Don't"), the laid-back bar has a knack for rousing the most intellectual, conversational side of us all.
There's something about the seating -- wooden picnic-style tables and benches, and a comfy bar area -- that cries for a good conversation. Don't get us wrong; this is still a college bar with plenty of college antics and cheap pickup lines. But here, you're more likely to find the alternative, vintage-happy academic referencing Confucius than cunnilingus.
It doesn't matter whether your topic of choice is philosophy or procreation, however. Casey's is the optimal venue for raising your Guinness -- along with your point of view. Readers' Choice: Merc Bar
What better bar to watch the game than the one where you can actually watch the game? Located above the left-field bleachers at Bank One Ballpark, this isn't your typical family-friendly Friday's where the birthday girl gets a brownie.
Okay, maybe there's a little of that, but what could beat chowing down on a half-pound hot dog while hearing the crack of a D-Back's bat just below you? The best part -- you don't need a ticket to the game to get in, and while some avoid the bar in fear of a packed house, the 14,000-square-foot joint serves up to 1,000 people, so your chances of missing out on a seat are slim.
Even during baseball's off-season, this Friday's is a fully equipped sports bar, with 40 screens to satisfy every sports fan's fancy. Readers' Choice: Zipps Sports Grill
Hovering on the border of Arizona State University, Oasis Cafe lights up Apache Boulevard with lively music and authentic Arabic cuisine.
And, of course, hookahs for rent. The hookah is a smoking pipe designed with a long tube and an urn of water that cools the smoke. Don't forget the shisha: smooth, flavorful tobacco; we recommend apricot or strawberry.
Friendly conversation or a plate of hummus is the perfect complement to a session of hookah smoking, but Oasis doesn't stop there. Belly dancers hypnotize crowds every Friday night, and televisions in the restaurant are tuned to the Dubai network out of the United Arab Emirates.
Ziggy's transformation from Sun Devil-themed sports bar to popular punk-rock hangout wasn't truly complete until the owners took the Best of the Pixies CD off auto-repeat and finally got the jukebox stocked with kick-ass discs handpicked by DJ Jefe, who also books bands there. Ziggy's definitely amped up its cool quotient by bringing live rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, punk, garage and Americana to Mill Avenue not long after Long Wong's shut down, but now that we can pop in some quarters and hear whatever tunes we want, it's almost as fun just to grab a burger or a beer and rock out during the off hours.
Less than a year old, this swank, west-side strip club is already setting new standards with its plush, modern interior decor, and candy-apple-red exterior design. The girls are young, sexy and approachable, unlike the ice queens you find at other gentlemen's clubs, and the ambiance is intimate and classy, as opposed to the warehouse atmosphere some spots have. The lounge features big, plasma TV screens, and a selection of handmade and imported beer, as well as the choicest liquors. And the place also offers daily promos, like two-for-one table dances Sundays through Thursdays, and hourly specials on Fridays and Saturdays. The owners bill it as "the biggest little strip club in Phoenix," and in the case of the Pin Up Girl Lounge, we have to agree that sometimes great things come in smaller packages.