BEST JUKEBOX 2004 | Ziggy's | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Ziggy's transformation from Sun Devil-themed sports bar to popular punk-rock hangout wasn't truly complete until the owners took the Best of the Pixies CD off auto-repeat and finally got the jukebox stocked with kick-ass discs handpicked by DJ Jefe, who also books bands there. Ziggy's definitely amped up its cool quotient by bringing live rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, punk, garage and Americana to Mill Avenue not long after Long Wong's shut down, but now that we can pop in some quarters and hear whatever tunes we want, it's almost as fun just to grab a burger or a beer and rock out during the off hours.

Less than a year old, this swank, west-side strip club is already setting new standards with its plush, modern interior decor, and candy-apple-red exterior design. The girls are young, sexy and approachable, unlike the ice queens you find at other gentlemen's clubs, and the ambiance is intimate and classy, as opposed to the warehouse atmosphere some spots have. The lounge features big, plasma TV screens, and a selection of handmade and imported beer, as well as the choicest liquors. And the place also offers daily promos, like two-for-one table dances Sundays through Thursdays, and hourly specials on Fridays and Saturdays. The owners bill it as "the biggest little strip club in Phoenix," and in the case of the Pin Up Girl Lounge, we have to agree that sometimes great things come in smaller packages.

Benjamin Leatherman
Why does George & Dragon win Best English Pub year after year? Could it be all the British beers on tap? The pictures of the Queen Mum and the Duke of Windsor while he was still King Edward VIII? The fact that it serves peas with its fish and chips and has plenty of HP sauce on hand? Or perhaps it's because it offers spotted dick for anyone willing to eat it? Why, we haven't had a better spotted dick since our days in London just prior to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's fall from power. What? You're squeamish about popping a spotted dick into your mouth? Get your mind out of the gutter, you perv! This spotted dick is a giant bowl of sponge pudding filled with raisins and sultanas and topped with a thick, creamy layer of Bird's English custard. But back to our original question, the reason the good G & D always seems to win Best English Pub is for all of the above, spotted dick included. Can someone cue "Rule Britannia," please? Readers' Choice: George & Dragon Restaurant

There's no need to tell you what B & T stands for, nor where this underground club actually exists. That's because nearly everyone in Phoenix's incestuous demimonde has been there and imbibed after hours. The bands that have played there are renowned, as are the licentious escapades of the revelers, the latter being on a par with the satanic orgies of London's late-18th-century Hellfire Club. Spankings, sexcapades and secrecy are the order of the day, and here many a nubile young lass turned on to the pleasures of exhibitionism. Those who are welcome often find invites in their mailboxes. Or such neophytes might accompany those in the inner circle, or simply be in the right place at the right time. Admission is allowed with the admonition that loose lips sink ships. But, alas, everyone loves talking about what's forbidden, especially when it's a speakeasy as established as this one. Hence, its status as P-town's best worst-kept secret.
There's just something about Hot Pink that makes people horny. Maybe it's the pounding music or the lyrics dripping with innuendo, but our guess is that the extreme inebriation brought on by $2 drinks is what really turns people on. The club is a sexual free-for-all -- if you want something sleazy with no strings attached, this is your place. Look around the dance floor at midnight on a Friday and most everyone is making out. Check out the dark corners of the bar and you'll find people getting a little more personal. Try to go to the restroom and you're likely to walk in on drunken lovers doing the "wild thang." Hey, with that kind of luck, you won't even have to deal with the awkward morning after. Readers' Choice: Myst

There's a reason this weekly Scottsdale shindig has been a fixture of the turntable scene even longer than there's been a scene in the Valley: DJ trends may come and go, but nothing gets the party people dancing like a good house music set. Resident DJs Pete "Supermix" Salaz and Senbad not only spin some sizzling wax, but sometimes even turn over the turntables to some of the best touring DJs in the country. Hundreds of well-dressed bodies pack the dance floor and cluster around the bar when this party's really pumping, and if Next's sleek interior weren't lighted in soothing shades of blue, the place just might overheat.

What with our granny hailing from the Old Country, we freely give love to all of the Valley's fine Irish pubs. But Chandler's Fibber Magees garners garlands from us when it comes to Best Irish Pub because of the grub. It's got the traditional Irish breakfast (fried eggs, rashers, soda bread, sausage, beans, et al.) all day long, Irish whiskey mushroom soup, and the Emerald Isle version of the potato pancake (i.e., the boxty), topped with your choice of Guinness and beef stew, corned beef and cabbage, or smoked salmon. Ease it all into your gullet with a pint of Guinness or Harp, and any number of Irish whiskeys, and enjoy the ambiance of stained-glass windows, antiques, rustic wooden tables and chairs, and ink portraits of Irish writers and heroes. Will Irish eyes be smiling? After a trip to Fibber Magees, we say, indeed they will. Readers' Choice: Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub

Benjamin Leatherman
The Bikini Lounge is the kind of watering hole Charles Bukowski would have immortalized in poem or Jack Kerouac would have lived across from while banging out On the Road. A place where the beer is cheap and the chicks are extra-friendly. The sort of taproom where you can meet anyone from a teamster to a mad artist to a street philosopher all in as much time as it takes you to amble the length of the lounge. This is especially true on First Fridays, with all roads leading to this 57-year-old tiki tavern with its regulation pool table, jukebox, and grass-skirted wahine painting hanging behind the bar. There's the feeling that anything can and probably will happen, like being in a central London pub on a Friday night or playing blackjack on the Strip in Vegas. Off nights, the Bikini Lounge reverts to a neighborhood hang, but on First Fridays it's like a little bit of New York's East Village right here in Phoenix. And for our money, it's the greatest dive bar ever. Readers' Choice: Chez Nous

We were hooked after just one sip, ordering another before the first glassful was even gone. Our waiter refused to give us the exact recipe for the espresso martini, but he did kindly volunteer the ingredients: Bailey's Irish Cr'me, Frangelico, vodka and cr'me de cacao. And, yes, a shot of espresso. The waiter also described the espresso martini experience: "Your body shuts down but your mind keeps racing."

That's a little deep for us. All we can say is, that's one hell of a buzz!

Our thirst for knowledge is equaled only by our thirst for beer. We quench both at Tempe's Rio Salado Brewing Company, where Saturday-afternoon brewery tours impart "a sensory experience of Rio Salado Brewing Company beer." Beer buffs get to "taste and smell the raw materials, learn how they impact the beer, taste the steps of production, as well as the finished products." RSBC's "25-hectoliter brew system" pumps out German-style ales and lagers, all available in kegs and cases and on tap in the Tap Room, where action includes live music on Friday and Saturday nights, "Two fer Tuesdays" and "Manic Mug Mondays." The Company has even taken to sponsoring a yearly spring prom. And with a new outpost on Mill Avenue (no tours, but plenty of suds), it's even easier to consume Rio Salado's specialty, "beer with passion" -- which, in our opinion, is second only to beer with peanuts. Readers' Choice: Four Peaks Brewing Company

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