Night Train: The Ultimate Light Rail Pub Crawl
In just a few short days (December 27, to be exact), the Valley Metro will be running. With those electrified cables comes the chance to drink down Phoenix like never before. Yes, soon you'll be able to get booze from Mesa to damn near Glendale without forcing a friend to be your DD. In honor of this occasion, we spent the past month assembling The Ultimate Phoenix Bar Roll. In case you didn't see it online, we're bringing it to you here, from the easternmost stop in Mesa to the westernmost stop in central Phoenix.
A team composed of Niki D'Andrea, Jay Bennett, Benjamin Leatherman, Jonathan McNamara, and Martin Cizmar drove the route, searching out the best drinks at every stop. Yes, every single one. Along the way, you'll hit everything from scuzzy gas stations with well-stocked beer caves to some of the swankest watering holes in town. If you want to do a light-rail bar crawl the right way, this is your guide. Drink up.
Where: Main Street Billiards, about 500 feet southeast of the station
Drink: A mug of Shock Top Ale, $2.50
Scene: Boasting more felt than the Muppets, Main Street Billiards features the most pool tables in the East Valley, making it the perfect place for you to stage your own private version of The Hustler. And though there's no scientific proof that alcohol will improve your abilities, a few mugs of Shock Top Ale will at least help calm your nerves when you're getting smoked. — B.L.
Where: Bill's Market, directly north of the station
Drink: Four Maxed Citrus, a 16-ounce can of caffeinated malt liquor (with a hefty 10 percent alcohol by volume) for $1.89
Scene: Not every stop on the light-rail system has a bar within walking distance, so, from time to time you'll stop at places like Bill's Market, an old-school neighborhood bodega with a pay phone (huh?) out front and a herd of stray cats around back. It's decorated with a nice assortment of softball trophies and it sells everything you need. — M.C.
Where: El Pueblo Meat Market, a five-minute walk east from the stop
Drink: A Clamato and a Budweiser, $4.
Scene: There may be worse places to drink, but we haven't seen any. There isn't much scenery to speak of outside the joint — there's an abandoned hotel across the street — and inside, well . . . Our suggestion: Drink your drink, but do it quickly, then get back on the train. — J.M.
Where: The Roc Bar, at 1400 South McClintock, a 10-minute walk south from the station
Drink: 100 Cracked Fists. Imagine everything including the kitchen sink (with a grenadine kiss) and you're still not even close.
Scene: With enough monitors to make the most die-hard sports fan go into convulsions and a few pool tables to boot, Roc Bar is a nice little hangout. — J.M.
Where: The Lucky Devil, one block west of the station
Drink: The "Shot Ski," $5 or more for top-shelf booze
Scene: The joints around ASU find interesting ways to get their patrons drunk. At the Lucky Devil you'll find the "Shot Ski," a large water ski with three shots lined up on it. Try it with a couple of your bros, or attempt to get a pair of hotties to join you. — B.L.
Where: Sushi 101, approximately 500 feet northeast of the station
Drink: Hot sake, $3.50 for a small carafe
Scene: While you can down a few carafes of Nipponese rice wine in the dining room, we dig hanging out in the lounge area, where a funky wooden bartop is decorated with Japanese instructions on how to properly eat sushi and Polaroid snapshots show the comedians who've stopped by after their gigs at the Tempe Improv. — B.L.
Where: Paradise Hawaiian BBQ, a three-minute walk from the stop. Go east from the station, then south on College.
Drink: Kona Longboard Island Lager, $5
Scene: If it's game day, you'll have no problem getting a free beer at this stop, in the shadow of Sun Devil Stadium. Other days, however, you should check out Paradise, a casual little joint with a big patio and typical Hawaiian fare (Spam Musubi, anyone?). If you're here later in the evening, Dirty Devil Sports Bar is next door. — M.C.
Scene: Where, oh, where can you get a drink on Mill Avenue? No, really. Since Coconut Club closed, we've been hard-pressed to find a decent bar on Mill! Ahem. Seriously, folks, getting a drink on Mill is obviously easy, so pick your poison. — M.C.
Where: Rolling Hills Golf Course, a 10- to 15-minute walk, northeast from the station
Drink: A pitcher of Bud Light, $6.50
Scene: Our lofty goal with this bar crawl was to find someplace at every stop that was within walking distance and not actually closer to any other stop. We've done that here — barely. There's nothing but office buildings (and the Marquee, which has no public bar) here, so you need to hike up Mill Avenue to the lounge at Tempe's city-owned golf course. — M.C.
Where: Draw 10 Lounge, a 15-minute walk west of the station on Washington Street
Drink: 32-ounce "mega" mugs of draft beer, $4.50
Scene: Sports fanatics gather here to obnoxiously cheer, holler — so don't diss their team — and enjoy some male bonding over a few monster 32-ounce mugs — that's a beer the size of a Big Gulp. —B.L.
PHX Airport Shuttle
Where: The Crowne Plaza's Café Sha Lounge is across from the station
Drink: Whatever you can get them to serve you before they boot you
Scene: We would not send you into the tony Crowne Plaza hotel if there were any other option at this stop. You have no business being here, but it's super-close and Cafe Sha's lounge is open until midnight. There are probably some pathetic traveling businessmen that'll buy drinks for any ladies in attendance. —M.C.
Where: American Park 'n' Swap at Phoenix Greyhound Park. Can't miss it.
Drink: 16-ounce cup of beer, $3 plus a $2 admission to the swap meet
Scene: The American Swap Meet is like Wal-Mart, thrift store, and supermercado all rolled into one gigantic outdoor yard sale. Four times a week (Wednesday evening, Friday morning, all day Saturday and Sunday) denizens from across the Valley gather in the parking lot to hawk their wares on tables, out of vans, or in makeshift storefronts. Practically anything and everything you can think of is available for sale — including cold beer. — B.L.
Where: Chevron Station, located just west of the stop
Drink: 24-ounce Budweiser, $2.09
Scene: There's terribly little in the way of bars around this stop. What there is, in abundance, is greasy hangover prevention in the form of Carl's Jr., McDonald's, and Rally's. Pop a cold one from the gas station just to keep your buzz going and fill up on some fast food. — J.M.
Where: Los Dos Molinos, 1,000 feet west of the station on Washington
Drink: House margarita. Forget the frozen shit and order yours on the rocks with salt, $7.
Scene: Los Dos' Washington Street cantina is situated between numerous bridal stores. You may see some of the wedding dresses while you sit on the outside patio drinking your margarita, but don't let the alcohol give you any dumb ideas. — J.M.
Where: Majerle's, at 24 North Second Street. Walk a block west, head north on Second and you're there.
Drink: The Suns Bomber, a glass of orange energy drink and a shot of grapefruit liqueur — to be dunked Jäger-bomb-style.
Scene: When a bar is owned by former Phoenix Sun Dan Majerle, you know there's going to be a whole lot of sports going on. Check out the game on his HD screens. — J.M.
Where: Copper Door at The Hotel San Carlos. From the train, head east on Central toward the historic hotel, about two minutes on foot.
Drink: The Humphrey's Palm Room Mojito, a cocktail combining Bacardi Razz with fresh black raspberries, mint, and sugar cubes, $8
Scene: Copper Door is one of the more upscale stops on our tour of depravity. Take in the ambiance while drinking a mojito and then consider a dip in the Hotel San Carlos' rooftop pool. Yeah, we know it's winter, but you're going to be so blitzed by the time you make it this far that you won't care. — J.M.
Where: Seamus McCaffrey's, one block south and one block east from where you stumbled off the train
Drink: A pint of Guinness, $5.50
Scene: Seamus McCaffrey's has long been one of the Valley's premier Irish pubs. The place has a quaint, old-timey feel to it (essential for any pub worth its weight in shamrocks) and live Irish music on the weekends. — B.L.
Where: Portland's Restaurant & Wine Bar, directly across from the station
Drink: The Urban Cosmo, $10
Scene: Upscale living is king in this part of downtown Phoenix. As such, the wine-centric eatery is constantly packed with well-heeled urbanites and office workers who suck back chic drinks and spirits. Portland's serves top-shelf wines and liquors like the Urban Cosmo (a mix of Ketel One, Cointreau, cranberry, and lime juice). It's a tad pricey, but at least you'll feel like a highfalutin power broker after a few sips. — B.L.
Where: Cheuvront Restaurant & Wine Bar, one minute south of the station
Drink: Juan Gil Monastrell '05, a red wine from Spain
Scene: This joint is strictly upscale, so don't think you can stumble off the train in your cargos, flip-flops, and screened T-shirt and expect to fit in. After a hard day at your office high-rise or after taking in the symphony, this is a place people stop for a nightcap. — J.B.
Where: Switch, a four-minute walk north from the station
Drink: Caipirinha, $6.50
Scene: Switch is the kind of dimly lit swanky joint that evokes a big-city vibe. The happy-hour crowd is in an interesting one: equal parts gays, grandmas, boomer couples, and office chicks looking to blow off steam after sitting behind a desk all day. — J.B.
Where: Club Central is at 3121 North Third Avenue. Go west on Thomas and north on Third, a 10-minute walk.
Drink: Tap That Ass, a heady drink consisting of Hennessy, cranberry, and Alizé, $8
Scene: A two-story nightclub with two bars, tables for dining, a dance floor, a stage, and a space for karaoke. Proprietor/barkeep Wilford is a nice fella who chatted us up for a couple of hours as we sucked down his powerful concoctions. "They do the job," Wilford said. Amen, brother. — J.B.
Where: Alexi's Grill, a five-minute walk north of the station
Drink: Crown Royal with a splash of ginger ale, $6.50
Scene: Alexi's sure smells good. Too bad we aren't there to eat. The bar, which is separated from the restaurant, isn't bad but is, perhaps, slightly over-lit. Alexi's seems like the kind of place where traveling businessfolk hunker down for a cocktail after saying a long-distance goodnight to their spouse and kiddies. — J.B.
Where: George & Dragon, a five-minute walk north from the station
Drink: Tetley's ale, $4.75
Scene: A favorite among some New Times employees, G&D was destined for a spot along the light rail, as it's a natural for any kind of pub crawl. You can't go wrong with this drinkery: occasional live bands, pool tables, soccer on the tube, and a signed photo of Joe Strummer behind the bar. — J.B.
Where: Maizie's Cafe & Bistro, a 10- to 12-minute walk north of the station
Drink: De Bortoli Chardonnay (Australia, 2007), $7.50.
Scene: This place is packed with an equal mix of yuppies and post-college 20-somethings. It was good to see, given that Maizie's (open only since May 2008) isn't really within walking distance of a significant residential area. We like that this place exudes a vibrant, open, modern feel without trying too hard to be hip. — J.B.
Where: Applebee's, a three-minute walk from the stop
Drink: Applebee's Main Street 'Ritas (in strawberry, mango, or wildberries flavors), $3.40 before 7 p.m., or $7 after 7 p.m.
Scene: Applebee's is the only bar within walking distance, but there are plenty of cool local businesses in the area. Red Hot Robot on Camelback, Practical Arts on Central, Stinkweeds Records, and Halo piercing shop are all clustered on the intersection. — N.D.
Where: Charlie's, 727 W. Camelback Road, a minute walk from the stop
Drink: $3 beer pitchers from 2 to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with $1 happy hour drinks from 7 to 9 p.m.
Scene: Charlie's, in the middle of what's known as "the gay corridor," is a country-themed gay bar, so expect to see lots of dudes of all ages (but mostly guys in their 30s and 40s) in cowboy shirts and hats. —N.D.
Where: Four Kings Cocktail Lounge, a two-minute walk down 19th Avenue from the stop
Drink: Rum and Coke, $2.75.
Scene: The lounge tends to get a lot of retirees during the day, with a younger crowd at night. The club can be selective about who gets in the door. It discourages attire like hoodies and beat-up tennis shoes. —N.D.
Where: Oz, a five-minute walk from the stop, on Bethany Home Road
Drink: Rolling Rock, $4.50
Scene: This stop is across from Christown Spectrum Mall, so expect to see lots of fellow transit commuters, families, and holiday shoppers when you first get off the rail. At Oz — best described as a borderline-dive gay bar — expect to see lots of good-looking gay men, drag queens, and the friendly face of Booker the bartender, who's known to pour stiff drinks and crack loose jokes. After all you've been through, relax and enjoy it. — N.D.
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