BEST HOOKAH BAR 2003 | King Tut Cafe & Catering | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
No gyrating belly dancers, no velvet couches. This is just a hookah bar, plain and simple. King Tut, a Middle Eastern restaurant, lounge and de facto cultural center, was around way before the Tempe smoking ban and Gulf War II made smoking hookahs dangerously cool, so, thankfully, it hasn't resorted to becoming a glitzy novelty. The joint is relatively quiet during the day, so gaggles of ASU students stop by to relax and study between classes on the well-worn Persian couches. At night, the action turns up a notch, but only a slight notch. The seemingly endless soundtrack of Bob Marley and anonymous Arabic jams seems just a little louder and the crowd thickens mildly. Perhaps because there are no shimmying distractions, the cross-legged, barefooted patrons always seem to be engaged in lively conversation between each puff of their smoke.

Interested in shakin' that booty to good vibrations? Then shuffle your feet over to Axis/Radius. It's not one nightclub, but two under one roof. Start off at Axis, and when we dip, you dip, we dip in front of the 10-foot video screen. Bust a move to your favorite songs or enjoy live music once a week from sexy Shalom and Pazport. It's getting hot in here; take off . . . across the glass catwalk to Radius.

At Radius you will find the top DJs spinning the hottest dance music under an extraordinary light show. If you're having problems finding your groove thang, look to one of the sultry go-go dancers for it. Whichever side you are on, there will be plenty of bodies to grind; the dance floors are always packed. So get up on the dance floor (or both) and move that body to the pounding beats.

Readers' Choice for Best Dance Club: Axis/Radius



Relationships require time, money and too much maintenance in the fast-paced 21st century. Sanctuary offers a perfect atmosphere for those looking to have a little fun without any strings attached. There are seven fully stocked bars at which to lose your inhibitions, which also allows more time to make the rounds to locate that party partner for the evening. Sanctuary is always mobbed so it's nearly impossible to strike out. And with the VIP room upstairs, there are always beautiful babes flaunting their stuff on the catwalk. Head to this hot spot that has been dubbed "Skanktuary" because of the abundance of skimpy outfits and slippery morals.

Readers' Choice for Best Place to Drown Your Sorrows: Clicks Billiards

Screaming drag queens and young gays and lesbians hover like schoolchildren at recess as the mere mortal 1 a.m. threshold approaches at Boom on Saturday nights. Between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., those players loosen up, as the men line the bar flirting with the muscled bartenders, young boys do the "diva catwalk" on the dance floor's poles and the transvestites strut in full cheap regalia. The gender signs left the rest rooms long ago, so leave the modesty behind. With local DJs spinning high-energy techno, house and the occasional Top 40 hit remix, there's enough audio energy to sustain the hot and heavy grinding on the sardine-can-tight dance floor.
Ticker Tape Parade is bashing away on the main stage inside the cavernous Nita's, and you're by the big bar, hanging with Valley scenesters, buying each other beers. Five songs into the set, you get that itch in your back, and the spigots prepare to open. It's pissing time. Buzzing as you are from all the Red Stripe, you stumble into the john and start your routine. Looking down, the message hits you in white lettering: "Say No to Drugs." Good Lord. God is speaking to you through a red urinal cake. The Big Man is making his pitch for clean living, even in one of the most energetic live spots in town. You have your little moment of clarity, zip up your pants and stumble back out onto the floor.

This is the Valley's most oddly inspirational rest-room break.

It never fails. You're at Club Freedom, and your girlfriend has exceeded her drink limit and excuses herself to throw up. You get worried about her and stand by the ladies' room. Inevitably, you'll find a girl crying in her cell phone trying to secure a ride home after a dance floor argument with a brutish boyfriend -- Victor, Tommy and Bennie seem to be names the caddish set prefer these days. Or you'll find two girls in spangly dresses with matching boobs, one consoling the other that the guy she just broke up with the month before is dancing with someone else. It's like a Dr. Phil audition. From our eavesdropping, we found one Eve complaining about her soon-to-be ex for staring at the DJ's crate of vinyl instead of marveling how wonderful she looked. Admittedly, the view from the ladies' room is terribly one-sided, but so are most breakups, and, let's face it, no one's venting anything but bravado at the men's room.

But why break up at Freedom? Maybe because its very name suggests to people it's a great place for declaring independence, whether it's from Tempe's predictable music scene or from the predictable mate they came to hear it with. Maybe it's the club's proximity to ASU and the Holiday Inn that makes for a volatile mix of patrons. The indoor fireworks seem especially incendiary on the club's hottest night, Kind Fridays, which winds from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., leaving plenty of time for those who haven't quite found the time to call it quits in public.

Looking good is only the half of it. You also need to be seen by other good-looking people to truly pull off an ensemble. SIX is the place to be seen in the Valley. This über-chic lounge with its mood lighting and modern decor is the place to flaunt your style. Each night of the week there is a different theme to tantalize your senses. The bar is backed by lights that change color with the music and is lined with an ice strip to keep those drinks cold. DJs spin mellow mixes as background music. This way, you're still able to mingle and network without having to scream, which never looks attractive anyway. SIX brings together professionals who are not only fashionable but are cool and confident.

Just a tip: When using the rest rooms, remember to lock the door (they'll fog up). Otherwise, the entire bar will get a free peep show. And that's something you don't want to be seen.

Readers' Choice: SIX


TT Roadhouse

Lauren Cusimano
Sure, breaking up is hard to do. Especially when it comes to gauging the reaction of the one being dumped. Will they cry? Will they come out swingin'? Will they scream at you like Bobby Knight? It is really hard to make that call. We suggest you take them some place . . . different to cut them loose. At TT Roadhouse, the parting of ways will fly well below radar. If the distraught individual starts to cry, the place is dark enough so no one will see. Let's say that the person is a feisty one and comes at you like Mike Tyson; the aptly trained bouncers will be there quicker than Carl Lewis. The screams will be drowned out by a rockin' jukebox crankin' out punk anthems and hard guitar riffs. Besides, the regulars -- consisting of punks, bikers and other ruffians -- are used to volatile outbreaks. But, best of all, the Roadhouse is close enough to the Scottsdale club cluster that you can find a new squeeze before sunrise.

These bar snacks are so flat-out tasty we'd stuff ourselves even if we'd just finished dinner. There is a big, beautiful selection of eclectic savories like sumac grilled lamb chops with mint hummus, spaghettini egg rolls with a spicy peanut dipping sauce, horseradish mashed potato stuffed shrimp with cactus pear and five-peppercorn ranch, and ahi with watercress cucumber salad over won ton chips. More traditional bar fare gets the Eddie's touch: chicken tenders encrusted with tortilla chips, dunked in green chile ketchup; shrimp slathered in Moroccan spices alongside honey dough balls; and toasted seafood ravioli with a gripping apricot-voodoo dip. The lounge features a Mediterranean theme, stocked with Turkish-style chaises and decorated in vibrantly colored fabrics. Sometimes there's live music, but there's always a bartender with an easy hand pouring our favorite cocktails.

Readers' Choice for Best Bar Food: Bar Nun

If you're really a Guinness drinker, then you know how hard it is to find Guinness in this town, poured like it was meant to be served: warm, in a pint glass, by someone who knows what they're doing. You know how to wait for it, mouth watering, watching until the slow fizzle of the light brown bubbles clears to the top and leaves the body dark, thick and pitch black. Ah . . . Guinness. The beer that eats like a meal.

Unfortunately, most bars around here serve it cold, in a frosty glass, with no head. But we stumbled upon the Friendly Irish Pub quite by accident -- and much to our delight. Not only are the people quite friendly at the Friendly, but they know how to pour and serve the nectar of the white and pasty, for a shocking $2 a pint.

No, we're not kidding. Sit down at the long oak bar, light up a cigarette (one of the few smoker-friendly establishments in Mesa) and imbibe the dark liquid, or order anything from the staggeringly complete selection of libations. The pub has more cowboy hats than any Irish bar in the universe, but the happy hour is hopping, the beer is perfect, the food is good, and the pool sharks are ready to take your money after you drink too much.

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