BEST PLACE TO DITCH LAST MONTH'S FLAVOR

TT Roadhouse

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

Goat Head Saloon
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.

Bikini Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman
Crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, as you push your way through the Bikini Lounge toward the bar, you'll find a mix of pseudo-intellectual artists, wanna-be underground college students and hooker-chic women and men who look like truck drivers. Tiki torches line the back walls around the deep-seated booths and the pool table in the back while the jukebox roars anything from '50s doo-wop to early '90s hip-hop -- it's all smooth, and it's all good for the hook-up train. The place is noisy and loud, so most of the "picking up" here goes on in the parking lot or out on the street in front of the bar, but the "come hither" looks from the lip-glossed, doe-eyed chicks remain inside.

Readers' Choice for Best Bar for Conversation: Copper Canyon Brewing & Ale House

It takes more than scantily clad gyrating women to make a good strip club. Try finding one with a variety of great music, a low cover charge and good drink specials. Add friendly waitresses, clean rest rooms and, oh yeah, beautiful dancers and the list gets pretty short. The Bourbon Street Circus has all of this and more, which puts it at the top of the list for local gentlemen's clubs. Have a cold drink and admire the scenery while you're seated in the dimly lighted background near one of the two stages or, if you have the cash, in the champagne room. Lovely ladies will politely ask if you'd like a dance, and if you have the interest (and money: $8 before 7 p.m., $10 after) your senses will be in for a treat.

MercBar
MercBar
Call it novel inspiration: On many a sweltering Havana day, Ernest Hemingway kept cool at his favorite watering hole, La Bodeguita, with a steady supply of ice-cold mojitos. Not surprisingly, the famous Cuban concoction helps beat the heat here as well -- if it's good enough for the literary legend, it's good enough for the parched souls of Phoenix. A tall, refreshing glass of rum, fresh mint, sugar, lime juice and soda, the mojito's been popping up on drink menus around town. But let the drinker beware. While it's hard to screw up cocktails such as gin and tonic or whiskey sours, there is absolutely a right way and a wrong way to make a mojito. And Merc Bar -- a dimly lighted, low-key-chic lounge discreetly located in the Camelback Esplanade -- does the drink justice, keeping it tart but sweet, strong but slurpable.

Readers' Choice for Best Happy Hour: Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar

Feel the passion, dust off those dance shoes and drop into the hottest gay Latin club in the Valley. Whether you are looking to cha-cha or for muchachos, this club spins dance hits that are en fuego. The mostly male patrons (although there are a number of trannies that work and hang out here) are hot, hot, hot! If you're seeking Ricky Martin or Ricky Ricardo, this is where he'll be. Paco's also features weekly drink specials, Thursday night CD release parties and drag shows that keep the music going until the break of dawn (well, 1 a.m. anyway). Find that hot Latin lover and then hit the mirrored dance floor for some salsa or merengue. Maybe you'll want to stay by the bar and do some body shots; whatever gets your blood boiling goes here. All we can say is that Paco Paco is muuuuuy rico!
Sky Lounge
On Friday nights, the Sky Lounge in downtown Phoenix turns into a virtual Buena Vista Social Club, where young and hip Latinos throughout the Valley lounge downstairs and gyrate upstairs.

Afro-Cuban salsa jammers Cascabel (that's "rattle" to you) liven the atmosphere for the drinkers -- and themselves -- with their unique blend (for Phoenix, anyway) of Latin jazz, samba and Gypsy swing. Their stage sits literally outside of the club, acting as a sort of musical barker to Washington Street cruisers.

Upstairs, the place is pure salsa nirvana. The balcony is great for breathers and the back bar is jammed with cool alter-Latinos. The room routinely rocks, but not until 1 a.m., when DJs spin nonstop Latin techno-pop and rock en espaol for a packed and sweaty dance floor. If there's no room, and that's usually a given, people just make their own dance floors wherever they are. People walk, stop to dance, then keep on cruising.

Until that after-hours scene explodes, the night belongs to salsa and chicks -- lots of them. They're the prize that longhaired Mexican rockeros and Pan American salseros compete over for the honor of an electrifying dance.

Readers' Choice for Best Club for Latin: Pepin

Papago Brewing Company
Meagan Simmons
Tired of going out and looking for a beer but having a limited selection to choose from? Looking for a place that offers the full gamut to fill your goblet? The Papago Brewing Company knows your pain. The owners believe that there is more to beer than Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Light. Featuring 30 different beers on tap as well as two engines for cask-conditioned ales, this place aims high and soars. It has a wide variety of imported, domestic and microbrew beers (more than 450) to wet your palate. Not to mention more than 100 unique and hard-to-find wines, ports and meads to quench your thirst. So, all you liquid dieters who are looking for an extensive menu of the finest suds in the land, head over to Papago Brewing Company and knock back some of nature's bliss.

Readers' Choice for Best Beer Selection: Timber Wolf Pub

Readers' Choice for Best Brew Pub: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Horse & Hound Sports Grill
Any dive with more than one television, beer, a pool table, a Golden Tee machine and a couple of obnoxious drunks in hockey jerseys can call itself a sports bar. But to count as a really notable sports bar, there has to be something that grabs you. The Horse & Hound has a couple of things going for it. For one thing, it's freakin' enormous; the actual bar is like a figurine compared to the rest of the massive space, taken up by tables, memorabilia and more TVs than a police station property room. For another, it doubles up on the vices for its more adventurous patrons. An adjoining room serves as an off-track-betting parlor, with screens to monitor the ponies and the greyhounds (hence the Horse & Hound name). So it's not just a watering hole; it's more like a Chuck E. Cheese's for stressed adults in need of their own playground.

Readers' Choice for Best Sports Bar and Best Bar to Watch the Game: McDuffy's

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