BEST POOL HALL 2004 | Clicks Billiards | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
In our opinion, the only sports worth playing are those that don't get in the way of creature comforts like watching TV, drinking brewskis, eating potato chips, and smoking ciggies. Sure, we'd love to compete in the decathlon, but you try doing the pole vault while puffing on a Camel and see how easy it is. That's why we'll stick to the sport of kings and rogues alike, pocket billiards, a game wherein "sinking balls" is actually a cause for celebration for most guys. When it comes to shooting a little stick in the PHX, we prefer a clean, unpretentious spot where you can enjoy some suds, inhale as much tar and nicotine as your lungs can handle, and avoid breaking a sweat in air-conditioned bliss. That's why we love Clicks. Not only does it have 22 pool tables, darts, air hockey and foosball, it's got a dozen beers on tap, all of which are invariably served to you in a frosty mug; and a full bar, including frozen margaritas -- a must for any serious pool shark. Clicks boasts a genuinely fun atmosphere, with attentive waitresses and barkeeps, as well as a general manager who's featured in a sci-fi/fantasy comic book series called The Villikon Chronicles. (Check the Web site if you don't believe us.) All we need now is for Clicks to install some La-Z-Boys so we can sleep off a drunk when need be, and the place'll be perfect. Readers' Choice: Clicks Billiards

Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar
The wine list here truly boggles the mind. Even the most jaded wine geeks would be tickled about the offerings, which include not only topnotch reds and whites, sparkling wines and dessert wines, but also a stellar selection of sake (hey, it's rice wine, after all). After you've found a choice bottle, sink into your cozy couch and take in some live jazz (if it's Monday night, when Margo Reed hosts an open jam, or Thursday, when different local groups make monthlong appearances), or just enjoy a dimly lighted setting for intimate conversation and gourmet menu picks, like the Barossa flatbread with pancetta, onion, apple, Gorgonzola and rosemary. It's all in good taste.

Benjamin Leatherman
Where's the beefcake? Ladies 18 and up can make like Wendy's -- and get hot and juicy, indeed -- at Club Dwntwn, where the U.S. Male Revue lets 'er rip every Friday and Saturday from 8 to 10:30 p.m. And going postal never seemed like such fun. "The best of the West . . . undressed," these boys give new meaning to the term "lap" dance, licking ladies from leg to lobe. While the movie, uh, takeoffs range from hot (Dallas takes the stage -- and our breath away -- in a white Top Gun uniform) to not (the guy in the scarecrow getup? If he only had a clue . . . ), the Vin Diesel look-alike certainly knows how to fill a pair of tighty whities . . . and "Sexy Chocolate" left us more than a little curious about the contents of his wrapper. Think the best things come in small packages? Not with this male service.

We have a theory about The Big Bang: Your mom will love it. Now, we have to offer a caveat. Not just any mother will appreciate this place. It's true that the first time we walked in with Mom, happy hour was in full swing and an America West Airlines employee in tight jeans happened to be gyrating across the surface of one of the two dueling pianos, singing along to Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Really, though, it's all good, clean fun, as the "dueling" piano players keep the tunes (mostly hits from the '60s, '70s and '80s, crowd favorites like "Red, Red Wine" and "American Pie") coming, and waitresses make the rounds with test tube Jell-O shots. Soon our mom was dancing in the aisles, guzzling beer and belting out "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" with the best of them.

Just don't tell Dad.

There are bars where you go to watch the games, and then there's the bar you go to be a sports fan. Not only does McDuffy's in Tempe stay true to the holy trinity of sports -- beer, big screens and betting -- it offers a little something for every sports fan.

Only a 10-minute walk from Sun Devil Stadium, which comes in handy for brewski-packing bargoers who need to sober up on the way back to the car, McDuffy's has been a favorite refuge for avid sports fans since it opened in 1988. It's got off-track betting on horse and greyhound races, and the bar boasts more than 30 beers and a reverse happy hour after 10 p.m. for those post-game munchies. With 12 giant screens and more than 70 additional televisions, it's no wonder McDuffy's is able to show every available NFL and NCAA tournament game, in addition to most match-ups in baseball, hockey, golf, boxing, water polo, wrestling, skiing, log rolling . . . need we go on?

See you there. Readers' Choice: Zipps Sports Grill

Slinky, suave, sophisticated, and about a dozen more s-words besides, the Merc Bar is the sort of place where you can expect to see drop-dead dime pieces in backless black dresses sipping French martinis with Ketel One and Chambord, while GQ-gorgeous guys enjoy their Belvedere vodkas straight up. The interior is dark with wood paneling plucked from some Eurotrashy '60s ski-resort flick starring Elke Sommer. And all about are low couches, chairs and ottomans that the beautiful people of PHX rearrange like some giant, earth-toned game of mah-jongg. Lush, loungey music emanates from the stereo, and for a moment you can pretend that Bill Clinton's still the prez, the stock market bubble never burst, and all's right with the world. The name refers to Mercer Street in Manhattan, on which Gotham's Merc Bar, the sister to the P-town establishment, sits. The waitresses look like supermodels, and the clientele on any given night comprises a meet market that only peddles filet mignon, if you catch our drift. The self-assured and the self-appointed make the scene, and to appear there tells the world you're a person of refinement and taste, a player who can afford the better things in life, even if you're not rich -- yet. Readers' Choice: J Bar in the James Hotel

Hungry for a slab of beefcake? No one could accuse Dick's Cabaret of false advertising -- the club's got plenty of its objectified namesake, bobbing in the bare air beneath rippled six-pack abs. Like their cultural kin the Village People, the dancers at Dick's Cabaret fit a flurry of fantasy roles, performing as sailors, construction workers, cowboys, and whatever else tickles their, uh, fancy. Dick's boys are hard workers, too, performing every day but Monday, when the club is closed. A warning to would-be lascivious lushes and tipsy tippers: Dick's Cabaret doesn't serve liquor -- hard or otherwise -- and no alcohol is permitted on the premises. It's a good thing the shows are so intoxicating.

Okay, so Postino's a little metrosexual. It's the patio that's not a patio, the couches swiped from an old issue of Real Simple, and those little cocktail tables where you're crammed right up beside some couple making Nick and Jessica eyes at each other. The ambiance is perfect for you if your favorite mag is Marie Claire, but what about us Maxim, Playboy and FHM readers? Fortunately, when we get dragged to Postino by our significant others, there's always the compensation of the comestibles; i.e., some of the best bruschetta you'll ever eat -- dare we say it, manly bruschetta with a variety of toppings such as white Tuscan bean, ricotta with pistachios, crushed tomato basil or prosciutto with figs and mascarpone. Or you can go for a bowl of assorted nuts or big, fat Italian olives, both just salty enough to make you want another glass of Kiltlifter to drink as she sips her Zinfandel and talks about how much it sucks that Friends is off the air. Ain't relationships grand, fellas? Too bad the food's not as good when she forces you to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond with her.

Last call is a sad, sad song, at any hour. You're boozed up, you're having fun, and before you know it, the bartender is pulling your drink and kicking you out. There's nothing more hated than the bartender's mantra "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." Well, if you're in the vicinity of Farmer Avenue in Tempe, there's a party waiting. Just east of Farmer is Ash, the street that's home to Casey Moore's, a longtime favorite neighborhood watering hole. After the bar lets out on a Friday or Saturday night, it's common to see inebriated twentysomethings wandering the street, stumbling and laughing their way from house to house until they find something interesting. Our advice: You'll find it on Farmer, between Ninth and 13th streets. Somehow, there's always a party on Farmer. But be warned: If you're more into Hurley than hairdos, it's best you find your after-hours fun somewhere else. The hip kids might eat you alive. Readers' Choice for Best After-Hours: Mickey's Hangover

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