Palo Verde Lounge
Jacob Tyler Dunn
There's no explanation for a place like the Palo Verde. Dude, this place should be on an episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not. By everyone's admission, even the regulars, the PV is a dive. Outside, the junky brick building looks like it might house a meth lab or a massage parlor. Inside, it's bare bones: a jukebox, two pool tables operating at 50 cents a pop, a couple of electronic games in the back, one old-school Playboy pinball machine, and a seedy little bar area. And yet it draws one of the most diverse crowds in the Valley, including iron cowboys, college geeks, punk-rock chicks, tattoo artists, crusty old-timers, hip black guys -- you name it. Why do they all head for the Palo Verde? Aside from great drink specials, there's no easy answer, other than maybe it's like pulling on an ancient pair of jeans which, despite all the wear and tear, are comfy as hell. Got another theory? Meet us down at the PV, and we'll discuss it over a couple of pints, matey.
The director, star and co-writer of Never Been Thawed, a tiny masterpiece of an indie film, deserves nods not only for creating a sweetly acerbic, nicely acted local film, but for helping to bust up the post-PC etiquette that's still dogging us into the new millennium. Anders' snarky send-up of all things sacred about a collection of young losers who obsessively collect frozen TV dinners and hold meetings to discuss them, started small and built big all last year. Never Been Thawed made the film-festival circuit, played local art houses, and wound up going multiplex at Harkins Centerpoint, largely on the strength of Anders' (and co-writers Chuck LeVinus and John Morris) sly reinvention of the mockumentary, not to mention his hilarious performance as sexy nerd Shawn. Here's to Never Been Thawed II -- or at least another deeply irreverent feature from Anders and company.
When VH1 asked the musical question "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Laurie?", Phoenix ponied up with lovely young Emily Stone, who took off on a race to be the next Laurie Partridge. First, she appeared on the music network's In Search of The Partridge Family, a quasi-American Idol in which the original cast of the '70s sitcom introduced kids (and middle-aged Shirleys!) who competed to replace them. Emily easily whomped the hundreds of would-be Lauries competing against her, becoming the country's cutest air pianist and winning the chance to record a new Partridge single (which really sucked) and to appear in a pilot for The New Partridge Family (which aired, but wasn't picked up by VH1 or any other network). It didn't hurt that La Stone grabbed her lovely bosom during the acting contest and sang a memorable cover of Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" (as introduced by Shirley Jones, much to the horror of Partridge prudes everywhere). Even if the new Partridge program did lay an egg, we're confident that the lovely Miss Stone will be the next Lindsay Lohan. If not, there's always the adulation of thousands of weirdly obsessed, middle-aged Partridge fans to look forward to.
Dirty Dogg Saloon
Dirty Dogg Saloon may be a "biker bar," but don't be scared. The hot Harleys and other shiny chrome hogs out front belong mostly to middle-aged moneymakers and thirtysomething trendsetters. After all, we're talking about a bar in a Scottsdale strip mall. Some of the fellas still look pretty rough, though, covered in old, faded tattoos, with a few teeth missing here and there, but buried beneath the dirty denim and leather are biker b-boys who just wanna bust some moves. Maybe it's the hundreds of bras and panties hanging from the ceiling, or maybe it's the fine, frivolous young ladies who gather 'round them, but when these guys get down, they get down all the way, doing hand spins and back spins on the floor, throwing off their bandannas, and jamming to whatever's on the jukebox, be it Mötley Crüe or OutKast. Ride on!
You'll only find a small picture of Scottsdale native George Mang on his own Web site, but you will see a bevy of the hottest stars in Hollywood -- and they're all wearing Mang. In the last year, the self-taught shoe designer has shod everyone from Halle Berry to Kate Bosworth, and he's got the press clips to prove it. Not many designers launch their line for the first time at age 50, and not many have the chutzpah to feature only stilettos. ("There's not a low heel in the bunch," he told Zink magazine. "That's not where I'm going with this.") But then again, most fledgling designers don't wind up with Desperate Housewives wearing their shoes in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, either.

BEST PLACE TO DRINK WITH BIKERS WITHOUT GETTING YOUR ASS KICKED

Hardtailz Bar and Grill

Check your attitude at the door. Hardtailz caters to bikers, but it's no place for assholes. You don't have to have tattoos or grease under your fingernails to get a fresh drink as soon as yours runs dry. Unlike some other places where strange faces are greeted with suspicion or indifference, everyone is welcome here, whether they get around on a Harley, a Honda, or in a BMW. There are parking spaces reserved for bikes next to the entrance, and the obligatory closed-circuit television camera, so you can keep an eye on your ride as you sip. If you don't want your scooter out of sight, you can sit in the outdoor beer garden, which misters keep cool in the summer. The bar is spacious, with room enough for billiard and Ping-Pong tables. There's live music most nights (classic rock dominates -- this is, after all, a biker place), and the kitchen serves up great cheeseburgers and fries. So hop on your hog and head to Hardtailz.

BEST BAR IN TEMPE THAT (SHHH!) ALLOWS SMOKING

Yucca Tap Room

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano
Kudos to the Yucca Tap Room for a courageous common-sense approach to the anti-smoking Nazis. At considerable financial risk (establishments that allow smoking can be fined up to $500 by the city, and snitches can rat to the police online), the Yucca keeps a healthy supply of Altoids tins behind the bar. They are not there to cure bad breath. Rather, the tins make dandy ashtrays, which can be quickly closed in case the cops show up. The tins are not available during live music performances or when it gets busy. They are for slow, lazy afternoons, when everyone in the place either smokes or doesn't object if others light up. Which is exactly the way it should be.
Perky and blonde, Holly Dunlap could easily pass for a Scottsdale soccer mom with a taste for cute shoes. But while she's a Scottsdale native, and while the shoes are adorable (hey, don't take our word for it -- ask the editors at Vogue), Dunlap is actually one of the hottest young designers in Manhattan. (Once again, see Vogue.) The Saguaro High grad's company, Hollywould, started with bags and shoes to die for, and made the big leap last fall into clothing with a line of flippy, sexy dresses made exclusively for Saks Fifth Avenue. Dunlap's inspiration? The dresses her mom wore in the 1970s while entertaining poolside, back in Scottsdale.

If we could afford them, Holly, we certainly would.

Sail Inn
One of the last surviving old Tempe bars, the Sail Inn regularly hosts Grateful Dead cover bands like The Noodles and Xtra Ticket. Both bands kick out mind-reeling jams, much to the delight of Deadheads who come from miles around and are still kicking up the dirt 10 years after Jerry Garcia's death. Even former Grateful Dead keyboard player Vince Welnick occasionally drops in and brings his keyboard magic to the Sail Inn's inside and outdoor stages. The Noodles play every Sunday beginning at 4:20 p.m. and jam until about 9 p.m. Xtra Ticket makes appearances once in a while and adds a few of its own high-energy jams to the Dead's massive library of music. And think again if you're expecting a crowd of aging hippies out spinning on the dance floor -- there's a steady stream of youngsters letting their freak flag fly, some of whom never saw the Grateful Dead play. We hope the music never stops at the Sail Inn.
Everybody from Target to Home Depot sells plants, but only Tera Vessels can tell you the secrets to making them thrive here in the world's most populated oven. Vessels runs a nursery in an old downtown bungalow, selling plants, gardening accessories and art. But it's the garden surrounding the house that signals you're in the presence of someone who could grow coreopsis in concrete --- an apt metaphor for gardening in Phoenix.

Butterflies and hummingbirds flit through towering Maximilian sunflowers. Drifts of blanket flowers surround wands of hollyhocks, and koi swim in cool ponds. Vessels, wiry and tan from spending so much time working in her beloved garden, is a veritable plant whisperer. Have some coffee with her and tell her your garden troubles. Penstemons stunted? Tera can help. Aphids gobbling your hibiscus? Tera can help. Worried about the state of the world? Tera can't help you with that, but remember, growing something -- or trying to, at least -- always makes you feel better.

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