Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2013

Neighborhoods

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  • + North Phoenix
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  • + Outside the Valley
  • + Palo Verde
  • + Paradise Valley
  • + Peoria
  • + Queen Creek
  • + South Phoenix
  • + South Scottsdale
  • + Sun City
  • + Surprise
  • + Tempe
  • + Tolleson
  • + Unknown
  • + Waddell
  • + West Phoenix
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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Best Arcade with a Bar
Dave & Busters

When it all boils down to it, all video games essentially are about one thing: escapism, pure and simple. You hit start, leave reality behind, and get in some CGI-animated wish fulfillment of the bullet-slinging, ass-kicking, or fast-driving variety; at least until your energy bar (or money) is exhausted. And at either of the Valley's two entries into the Dave & Busters chain, such fully rendered ego trips are a bit more realistic, given the high-end graphics of the games comprising its glitzy Million Dollar Midway arcade. And the extensive menu of booze, beer, and cocktails of a mixed or frozen nature available at each of the large in-house bars certainly helps matters, too. Try having a few Big Wave Daves, one of D&B's eight signature drinks, followed by a spin on the Typhoon undersea simulator. Or maybe have a Newcastle or three before storming the castles of Infinity Blade FX. Best off all, things go 21-and-over after 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so you can get in some quality time on the Fruit Ninja FX machines without having to wait for tweeners to finish their games first.

2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, 85281
MAP
480-281-8456
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21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Ste. 44-1400, Phoenix, 85050
MAP
480-538-8956
Best Place for a Twilight Drink
El Chorro

A few years ago, the elegant but crumbling old El Chorro — a Paradise Valley icon — was completely redecorated. On the inside, it doesn't look the same, but one thing no one changed was the view, and the patio is and always will be the best place to enjoy El Chorro. Another constant: You're here for the drinks, not the food. That is, unless your server will sneak you a basket of El Chorro's signature sticky buns. Either way, the view of the north side of Camelback Mountain is breathtaking. And the cocktails aren't bad, either.

5550 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley, 85253
MAP
480-948-5170
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3939 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-852-3939
Best 21st Century Speakeasy
Citizen R+D

Scottsdale's cocktail lovers have been singing the praises of this tiny, semi-secret spot above Citizen Public House since it opened in 2011. Yes, the rules are strict and the prices steep, but then again, where else can you get a cocktail served in a freshly cracked coconut? And don't even get us started on the tableside gin or the flaming artistry that mixologist Kris Korf will perform with Jameson. While the cocktails are more than enough to keep us coming back — at least as often as our wallets will allow — the attraction is about more than just that. We love interacting with the knowledgeable staff who are always more than happy to help you select the right drink. Even the hulking doormen are pretty chill, as long as you follow their rules. You'll probably have to wait to get inside and wait to get your drink, but if you're looking for a cocktail experience that will actually live up to the hype, we promise it will be worth it.

7111 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
602-904-3904
Best Shot
Pickle Shot, Palo Verde Lounge

It's a self-explanatory concept — a shot of well tequila, chased with a half-shot of leftover pickle juice. It may sound gross or weird, but the briny, sour pickle juice completely cuts the burn of the tequila (and masks some of the not so high-end flavor). If you're still not sold, think of it this way — you'd typically pair a tequila shot with lime and salt, unless you're trying to be European and use orange and cinnamon. The lime is sour; so is pickle juice. The salt is, well, salty; so is pickle juice. More commonly, you'll find picklebacks, which are pickle juice and whiskey and very hip in New York City right now, but we love Palo Verde Lounge for putting a Southwestern twist on this trend. Whether or not they knew it was a trend when they came up with it is anyone's guess, but the low-brow shot served at this dive in Tempe is still the best, regardless.

1015 W. Broadway Rd., Tempe, 85282
MAP
480-968-9221
Best Punch
Renegade by MOD Critics' Pick
Renegade by MOD
Lauren Saria

Chef Michael O'Dowd may have stepped down from Kai, Arizona's most decorated restaurant, but he didn't entirely leave the theatrical side of dining behind when he opened his own restaurant, Renegade by MOD, this spring. And while the "American West"-inspired eats may not be the most accessible offerings, we're happy to belly up to the restaurant's spacious indoor-outdoor bar, where drinkers will find a menu of amusing cocktails courtesy of talented house mixologist John Woo. We particularly enjoy the signature Renegade Punch in a Bag. The hot pink concoction of rum, juices, and champagne comes, as you might guess, in a bag. It's a little out there for sure, but if we close our eyes and let the strong booze work its magic, it's almost like we're transported to New Orleans' Bourbon Street for a night of hard partying. Plus, for whatever reason, the floppy bag makes us suck it up all the faster. And it has a Kool-Aid ice cube. How can you not love that?

9343 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 85260
MAP
480-614-9400
Best Bloody Mary
Dick's Hideaway Critics' Pick
Dick's Hideaway

Wake up! It's a new day — and last night seems to be ruining it with the gift of a massive hangover. Never fear, Dick's Hideaway is here to smack the sick right out of you. Dick's take on the classic brunch cocktail is kicked up with a hefty dose of spice in the tomato juice mixture prepared special by the chefs at Dick's sister restaurant, Rokerij. Added to Pinnacle vodka and garnished with lime, pickled asparagus, and celery, this Bloody Mary is in a league of its own when it comes to flavor. But the best part of this Bloody Mary experience is the shot of beer to chase the spicy concoction. It totally balances out the heat and eases you back into the normally functioning world, being the good cop to the cocktail's bad-cop cure.

6008 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85016
MAP
602-241-1881
Best Martini
Durant's Critics' Pick
Durant's

For us, a good martini is as much about the ambiance as it is about what's in the glass, and Durant's delivers on both fronts. The seasoned bartenders know how to make a damn fine martini — whether you're looking for a classic or something more modern. And rest assured, you'll enjoy it in a seat where thousands before you have honored the same tradition. Even if a martini's not typically your drink, you'll feel silly ordering anything else at Durant's.

2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 85004
MAP
602-264-5967
Best Specialty Cocktails
Bar Crudo Critics' Pick
Bar Crudo
Crudo

Imbibe your way to cocktail bliss at Bar Crudo in Arcadia. The ever-changing seasonal drink specials pretty much define craft cocktails. Freshly made herbal and fruity simple syrups, boutique bitters, and a host of fresh ingredients combine with top-shelf small-batch spirits to create some of the tastiest drinks in the Valley. You can taste the passion for mixology in every sip. One of the best of the more recent offerings is the Milano Gimlet — an herby, sweet-and-sour blend of Broker's gin, Frenet Branca, lime, basil, and housemade cinnamon grapefruit syrup. If that has you feeling parched, the classy but comfortable lounge area that makes up Bar Crudo is the ideal location to soak up some of these beautiful drinks. Thanks to resident mixologist Micah Olson, Phoenix might actually be on the map for high-quality craft cocktails.

3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-358-8666
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7111 E. 5th Ave. Ste. E., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-398-4208
Best Skinny Cocktail
Skinny Chola Margarita at Barrio Queen

When the drinking is done and the hangover is gone, it's those damn calories that always seem to stick around — souvenirs from sipping one too many rich cocktails. Fortunately, there are drinks out there for those who want to be health-conscious while still drinking themselves unconscious. Take the Skinny Chola Margarita at Barrio Queen. This light Latin beverage is all natural, with a simple but satisfying mixture of Jose Cuervo tradicional blanco, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice served on the rocks. Free from syrups, mixes, and other artificial substitutes, the Skinny Chola Margarita is as much a staple for body-conscious barflies as it is for anyone in search of a straightforward, no-frills cocktail.

7114 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-656-4197
Best Sangria
Rita's Kitchen

A few years ago, we got our hands on the recipe for the red sangria from Rita's Kitchen, but try as we might, we just can't perfect the blend served at the casual restaurant at the Camelback Inn. Red wine, orange juice, vanilla, sugar, cut-up fruit, and — what? We suspect we weren't told the whole truth. But we can't blame Rita's. Some secrets are too good to give away. And we're more than happy to sit on the patio here — under the bubble lights, with live music playing and fires roaring in the winter — and contemplate just what might be in that sangria. Nutmeg? Cinnamon? We'd better order one more. You know, for experimental purposes only.

5402 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley, 85253
MAP
480-948-1700
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5040 N. 40th St., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-957-2555
Best Wine Bar
Kazimierz World Wine Bar

Some might argue about how to pronounce the name (for the record, it's "Kaz-MEER-ehz"), but most locals can agree that Kazimierz World Wine Bar is the go-to spot for fine vino. As the more reclusive sister to restaurant Cowboy Ciao, Kazimierz makes you feel as though you've stepped out of Scottsdale and into your own underground speakeasy, complete with dark stony surroundings, dim lighting, backdoor entrance, and low couches, chairs, and tables. Offering an overwhelming selection of more than 2,000 wines, internationally inspired late-night noshes till 1:30 a.m., and live musical acts on the daily, Kazimierz is a trip for your taste buds as much as it is your eardrums. With wines from around the world and sounds — jazz, Latin, world beat, you name it — that are just as diverse, an evening visit to Kazimierz can almost feel like a mini-getaway.

7137 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale, 85251
MAP
480-946-3004
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3939 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix, 85018
MAP
602-852-3939
Best Brewery
SanTan Brewing Co.

In a phrase popular among douchey business types, SanTan crushed it this year. Not only did the Chandler-based brewery pioneer the AmeriCAN Craft Beer Festival (which we named the year's best fest in this issue), they did it while opening a new 35,000-square-foot warehouse that soon will enable them to increase distribution outside the state. The past year also saw the release of seasonal brews in cans, making it possible for us to enjoy Rail Slide, Sex Panther, and Mr. Pineapple wherever we damn well pleased. You'd expect them to get at least a little distracted by the weekly cask tappings at their brewpub and the upcoming release of Count Hopula, but no. SanTan had no time for distractions. They were too busy crushing it.

8 S. San Marcos, Chandler, 85225
MAP
480-917-8700
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1340 E. 8th St., Tempe, 85281
MAP
480-303-9967
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Best Arcade with a Bar: Dave & Busters

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