Best Karaoke Bar 2002 | Painted Mountain Golf Resort | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
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.

Best Place To Drink Like A Gunslinger

1889 Bar

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.

We all want to be rock stars, even if we frighten children when we sing in the shower, can't play an instrument, and have the stage presence of a banana slug. At Hollywood Alley's Sunday night open mike, you get your best shot to feel like a real live rock star, if only for three songs. Facilitator "Optimist" puts together a great slate of folks of all levels of talent. From a talent-free "wanna-be" to the occasional, fabulous "could-be," the evening is entertaining regardless. If you don't like one performer, just order a beer, count to 10, and it's all over. If you want your shot at 15 minutes of microcosm fame, this is the best place to do it. There's even a prize for the best act -- though rumor has it the award has more to do with Optimist's eyes than ears.

Best Place To Keep It Real In Downtown Scottsdale

The Coach House

Jennifer Goldberg
Slinging sauce since 1959, the Coach House is purportedly the oldest tavern in Scottsdale. In a city obsessed with places new and fabulous, how refreshing it is to find oneself in a charming, friendly, old-fashioned shit . . . er, watering hole.

Its homespun character rises in part from the collages lining the wooden walls, displaying the drunken-to-varying-degree visages of thousands who have passed through -- or out. And because liquor and literature are natural complements, a shelf full of paperback books sits within reach of the bar.

Singing the House's praises, perennial patron Greg mentions its "tight-knit group" of regulars. Indeed, when ex-bartender Tim enters, his name rises in a Norm Peterson-style chorus. The place is, above all, accessible. It opens at 6 a.m. daily, except on Sundays, when the sobriety of the Sabbath is observed until 10 a.m.

Best Place To Go Goth While Getting Your Fix Of The Fixx

Anderson's Fifth Estate

Though the calendar says the '80s are long dead, the decade of Sarah Jessica Parker, hair product buildup and economic recession lives on. (Hey, wait a sec . . .)

On Saturday "Retro Nights," Anderson's marks the spot for a handful of phenomena that left the building when Reagan did: $2.50 Long Islands, Duran Duran videos and Robert Smith-grade eyeliner. Yet somehow, this place revisits the '80s without getting cheesy, campy or Scottsdale-swanky. There's no attitude here -- just sweaty young people sporting everything from Nikes to neck spikes.

Yes, Anderson's attracts a faithful throng of somber goth kids, and it only makes things more interesting. As the lighthearted revival rises in the Main Room, the goth group mopes about the Elbow Room, weaving in and out of elevated cages and wondering how soon is now. The rooms' opposing moods make for a nice contrast -- Aerosmith vs. The Smiths, AC/DC vs. ABC -- but the overall vibe is so laid-back that any spot on either dance floor is fair play, whether you're doing the dance Safety, Neutron or Humpty; walking the dinosaur or walking on sunshine; dancing on the ceiling or dancing with yourself.

Oh, no, you're thinking. Not another theme night, like "Pimp-n-Ho" or "Ghettofabulous," where normally well-dressed crowds pull out the ol' do-rags and wife beaters, or the boas and stilettos. Well, you don't have to worry about that here. No, Devil's Martini, which gained recognition as the place with the hairdresser in the ladies' room, has "Carnival," when the champion "flair bartender" has often been seen flaunting his skills by juggling bottles Tom Cruise-style. Overall, Carnival's vibe is creative and flamboyant instead of trashy and stagnant. Finally, a theme night with class!

Best Lounge That Was Tiki When Tiki Wasn't Cool

The Bikini Lounge

Benjamin Leatherman
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.

We love wine-tastings but are turned off by what often adds up to high prices. What's up with the $65 tab for a nice dinner paired with three-ounce pours? We'd rather skip the châteaubriand and go for another cork.

Sun Devil Liquors supports our penniless status, hosting tastings of approachable wines like Kendall Jackson for a low $5. But the best deal is every day in the basement, where a cozy brick-floored wine cellar awaits. Grab one of the few wooden tables, or take a seat at the bar and groove to piped-in jazz. Sample as much wine as you like, priced from just 50 cents to $3 each. Nibble on complimentary cheeses, or pack in your own snacks. Still too rich? There are free tastings every day from 3 to 5 p.m., from a more limited selection. Cheers!

Sanctuary has revamped its old, overcrowded VIP room, and not a moment too soon. VIPers, remember what a suffocating box it used to be? Now it's bigger and better. They've even expanded it to overlook the main bar and dance floor below, so that you can really feel above it all. Of course, if you're trying to sneak in, it's just a tad more intimidating, but if you make it in, it's worth your toil.
Ice Breakers should be a chain, but it's not. At least not yet. It's got a great concept -- brew your own beer, alongside an encompassing brewery menu (sliders, Cobb salad, Reubens, baby back ribs, fish and chips, and burgers). And that personal touch adds up to a better-than-chain experience.

Ice Breakers offers interactive brewing. This means you get to brew your own beer, but, not being professional hops masters, you get a coach to guide you through the process. The deal even includes custom label design with your name, image, logo or other clever idea on each bottle. And you use the same equipment and ingredients as served in professional restaurants. You'd better really like beer, though -- the smallest batch available is 15 gallons -- a full keg (the equivalent of 72 22-ounce bottles).

And you'd also better be patient. The initial brewing takes up to three hours. Fermentation time is two weeks. Bottling the finished beer takes about an hour. How long it takes to down the final keg, though, is completely up to you.

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