Best Place To Be A Bartender 2002 | Ice Breakers | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
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.

As its name implies, the ultra-luxe Sanctuary Resort pampers its guests with seclusion and serenity. Elegant and intimate, perched on 53 prime acres of Camelback Mountain, the gorgeous property certainly encourages us to abandon our cares. The most stressful aspect of any visit, in fact, is deciding just where to relax as we enjoy a fine cocktail and a spectacular, rose-gold-azure sunset.

The opportunities to be impressed are endless. Perhaps we'll settle back on the outdoor patio of Jade Bar, watching as the city lights sparkle up into nighttime. It's so private it's almost a personal retreat, where we sip martinis or specialty sakes. Maybe we'll treat ourselves to dinner at the adjacent Elements restaurant, indulging in farm-fresh American cuisine sparked with Asian accents amid a sleek setting of wood, stone and fire. Wrap-around floor-to-ceiling windows mean panoramic views of Paradise Valley. Or we might just kick back by the swimming pool, an outrageous infinity-edge pool overlooking Camelback's Praying Monk rock outcrop. After the sun sleeps, the pool glows with light and dances with flames flickering from surrounding fire bowls. Simply Zen-sational.

Tom Carlson
For more than 50 years, the Durant family has been treating us to "good friends, great steaks, the best booze and bisquits [sic]." Is there something to be respected about tradition in a virtual baby town like Phoenix? Oh, yeah. Several years ago, Durant's management (old man Durant had died) tried to shake up the system and redecorate, renovate and rehabilitate the traditional menu for modern tastes. Well, why not just call a press conference to drown kittens in the canal?

Durant's is old-fashioned, and that's it. Nothing more needed. Which is why its martinis taste so much better than anywhere else. They're served by waitresses who have worked here for more than two decades. We can have a cigar alongside, should we want. Cell phones are ceremoniously tossed. We can drink martinis at lunch, and no one in the dark dining room will tattle to our bosses. We enter and leave through the kitchen, because it's nobody's business what we're up to once we enter Durant's. Life doesn't get any better in any generation.

We'll keep this one simple. How can you go wrong when you mix two crowd-pleasers: a martini and bubbly? You can't, and the proof is in The Flirtini, a concoction of champagne, vodka and vermouth you'll find at Zen 32. The result is the confidence of a martini and the lightheaded delight of champagne, quite the social lubricant. And the taste is even better than it sounds. But be warned: It goes down a lot easier than a regular martini and hits you a lot faster, too. Don't say we didn't warn you.

The hottest damn thing in Arizona isn't the summer sun; it's the "Suicide" wings at Long Wong's in college town. When you order the "Suicide" wings, they ask you, skeptically, if you've ever had "Suicide" wings. Realizing that the unsuspecting might have tried the wimpy version at other Long Wong's outlets in the Valley, the staff then follows up its initial question with: "Have you had our Suicide' wings before?"

They ask with a smile. There are no refunds.

These wings immediately encase your skull in flop sweat on the outside and trigger a Gatling gun of endorphin firings on the inside.

The secret ingredient in this kitchen is chili powder ground from habanero peppers, nasty little boogers variously estimated at 30 to 50 times the heat of a mere jalapeo. They ladle the habanero powder into the sauce with a shovel for the "Suicide" wings.

There is nothing spicier anywhere in the Grand Canyon State.

Looking for a place that plays more than just the four most popular dance songs? "Batucada" has moved to Soho on Wednesday nights, and if it weren't for the musical stylings of DJs Sinbad, Pete Salaz, Maji and others, you wouldn't be able to get the house-heads from Phoenix to mix with the posh Scottsdale crowd. This sultry music will make you want to move, and the atmosphere is relaxed and sexy. Plus, we guarantee that you won't hear another remix of "Rapture" or "I Can't Get You Out of My Head."
Michael's is one of the only restaurants in town where we don't mind if we can't get a table right away. Because while we're waiting, we can head upstairs and settle in at his high-class bar. It's almost like our own private dining area, plush with long cushy sofas, overstuffed armchairs, an incredible selection of wines and spirits, lovely views of Scottsdale's sunsets, and, if we're lucky, musical selections from our favorite lounge talent, David Grossman (he does a meltingly tender rendition of Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection" and "It's Not Easy Being Green").

Plus, we can order selections from Michael's menu, like his always amusing amusé of Michael's "Silver Spoon" hors d'oeuvres, shrimp-stuffed rigatoni in Chardonnay tomato thyme sauce, seared foie gras on Sauvignon poached pear duck confit salad, or soy-glazed calamari on gingered crab risotto.

Hmm. Maybe we'll just table those dinner plans and stay right where we are in the bar.

Beautiful places attract beautiful people. And O is just that kind of place: a voyeur's paradise. Sit back and enjoy the people, the decor or the TV screens playing music videos. The people here are the cream of the crop, at least as far as looks go, in a city that is already known for its highly groomed folk. These guys and girls are hot and dressed to kill. Still, don't be fooled into thinking that the lack of a cover charge means you are getting a free show. You will more than make up for it in the price of drinks.

Best Place To Get Your Ribs Tickled At Midnight

The Rhythm Room

The Rhythm Room is a blues bar. But there's nothing sad about the snacks, where you can gather to gorge on barbecued ribs at midnight. This is parking lot cuisine, but it's cool, cat, where on Saturday and Sunday nights you can sink your teeth into "Sunny Sunshine Barbecue Sauce" drenched ribs, pork loin, beef tri-tops, chicken and hot links. It's served out of a mobile grill, and when you're satisfied, then you can head back inside for a cold brew and some sounds from Sistah Blue.
Jennifer Goldberg
We're not sure who Casey Moore is, but we sure do like hanging out at his house. In fact, all historic homes should be this happening: 13 beers on tap, jocular bartenders who do handstands on the bar, and decidedly un-bar-like dinner specials. And should you find yourself eating in one of the second-story dining rooms, there's no need to order spirits: The home, built in 1910, is reputedly haunted.

Mr./Mrs. Moore's front porch and side yard are strewn with tables and benches where the laid-back and liquored-up can lounge. The crowd encompasses all kinds, from hard-drinking hippies to hot NFL has-beens, but the overall vibe is one of ease and unpretentiousness.

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