Castle Megastore
For those of you who don't play blackjack often and who've never seen the buddy flick Swingers, wherein this gambling maneuver is much discussed, doubling down is essentially doubling your bet in mid-play because the odds are in your favor. And what's the best time and place to double down in Casino Phoenix? Tuesdays and Thursdays at any of the Valley's six Castle Megastores, where the management runs a rent-two-DVDs-for-the-price-of-one special, allowing you twice the XXX viewing pleasure with twice the adult film stars at the beck and call of your remote control. This is an important offer for pornophiles because the majority of adult films are not quite as, er, stimulating as you'd like 'em to be, if you catch our drift. But by doubling your "bet," and taking home, say, Italian stallion Rocco Siffredi's latest release along with a compilation of steamy seductress Tera Patrick's best work, you're more likely to precipitate a jackpot worthy of your wager. Plus, let's face it, what we're alluding to is a hell of a lot more fun than gambling, right?
St. Daniel's Catholic Church
Long before the Valley began blowing its collective wad out on the reservations, bingo was king. While some might call it a quaint throwback, a few local venues still offer up the old-school game of chance, with St. Daniel's being the best. This Scottsdale house of worship, which offers games at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 1 p.m. on Sundays, offers jackpots ranging from $48 to $1,000, with more than 100 players turning out. They're a memorable bunch to boot, like one elderly English expatriate who's been dubbed "Queen Elizabeth" by organizers (because of her resemblance to the matronly monarch). It's not all members of the septuagenarian set, though -- a few ASU hotties have come with their grandmothers, as have one youngish Hispanic couple dressed in some ghetto-fabulous gear. So if you're up for trying to beat the pants of the elderly, give it a shot. Just remember, the big J.C. is watching you.
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
In casino terms, a whale is a big fish with money to burn: a Shamu-size gambler who can afford the fickle fortunes of wagering, while staying in a posh money pit and enjoying all the amenities due someone of his or her stature. If we think of PHX as a Vegas-style casino, then the best "whale" watching is at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, where true players chill in old-school environs wrought by Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Albert Chase McArthur. McArthur eventually hired Wright on to the project, too, and the style echoes the principles of America's most illustrious architect. This "Jewel of the Desert," as it's been called, has more than 700 guest accommodations, nearly 80 of which are one- or two-bedroom villas. In addition, there are seven tennis courts, an 18-hole putting green, eight pools, and so on. The "whales" who've reportedly beached here have included such luminaries as Clark Gable, Harry Cohn, Irving Berlin, Marlon Brando, both Clintons, both Reagans, and U2. Now if they could only fit a real orca into one of the Biltmore's ce-ment ponds, then we'd really be impressed.
Willo rules as a trash-picking destination because it has become a neighborhood of upper-middle-class strivers who repeatedly replace their old stuff with new, more upscale stuff. Their grail: turning enough of a profit from the eventual sale of their remodeled Willo house to move across Seventh Avenue to tonier Encanto-Palmcroft. Luckily for the poorer among us, the path of Willo's upward mobility is littered with household goods cast aside for no other reason than they didn't come from Pottery Barn. Recent trips through Willo alleys yielded a solid wood front door and an oak table. For best pickings, go the week before Willo's quarterly bulk trash pickup, the last weeks of February, May, August and November. Oh yeah -- technically speaking, Dumpster diving is illegal. And nothing pisses off Willo residents like people trolling through their trash. Watch your back, and don't pull items out of bins and throw them in the alley. Courtesy counts, even for Dumpster divers.
Bikini Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman
In the parlance of gaming, a sawdust joint is a no-frills, lower-end gambling parlor, the kind of place where they might even have sawdust on the floor, but where you can still catch that betting buzz. Now, there's no sawdust on the floor of the Bikini Lounge, and there's not even gambling, unless you're wagering on when the cat next to you is going to try to light his cigarette the wrong way around. But if Phoenix is a player's paradise, then it follows that there are both sawdust juke joints of renown like Bikini for the common folk, just as there are "carpet joints" for the swells and pretty people. Actually, the 58-year-old Bikini caters to a wide array of PHX characters -- from First Friday revelers and penny-pinching Picassos on the make to brazen betties in low-cut tops and snooker aficionados from around the way making use of Bikini's one pool table in the back. The decor is old-school tiki, with a grass-skirted wahine on black velvet behind the bar. And the drinks are dead cheap. What else could you ask for in a sawdust joint? Oh, yeah, gambling . . .
Pussycat Lounge
Picture the polar opposite of the sawdust joint, and that's a carpet joint, the sort of plush, swank spot that caters to the moneyed and dissolute, the terminally hot, who want nothing more than to rub up on one another while sipping their cosmos. The Pussycat Lounge is the best carpet joint in a city of carpet joints -- Scottsdale, where everyone's young and good-looking, with loads of disposable cash. On either side of the large open space before the bar are the requisite couches for them to chill at, because their lives are too effin' hard -- standing around, being beautiful, maxing out daddy's MasterCard. There's even a sex swing to one side where the "pay attention to me" babes curl up, eventually to be joined by other Prada-wearin' pretties. Once the alcohol or whatever they're doing in the restrooms takes effect, they'll be making out with each other. And if you're a dood on the prowl in your shiny shirt, and wait around 'til last call, you might be able to offer one of them a ride. See, most of them have done a DUI stint or two in Tent City, and one more time could mean they'll have to do six months with the ankle bracelet. So you're their knight in shining armor, studly. Just be sure you've got plenty of Trojans on hand.
CityBakery
This is what Phoenix has been waiting for. When Bentley Projects opened its doors a while back, we knew something special was happening. If you haven't been yet, go immediately. Don't be swayed by the "un-Phoenix" location, so far off the beaten path it's actually south of Bank One Ballpark. The Bentley folks wisely enclosed their small enclave and provided plenty of parking. Particularly in the light of day, you'll laugh at yourself for worrying about your Benz, once you arrive. And once you arrive, make sure you first walk through the airy, industrial gallery space, home to some of the most insightful, sophisticated (and expensive, but don't worry, you're just looking) art in the Valley. Then head through Poisoned Pen bookstore (again, don't worry -- the managers have wisely included non-mysteries among their collection, as well as kids' books and a small stationery section) to City Bakery, Arcadia Farms' latest outpost. Arcadia Farms is everywhere in Phoenix -- including the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Art Museum, and the Heard Museum. But that hasn't diluted the quality of operations, at least not at City Bakery, where the staff is friendly even as the line reaches out the door, which has started to happen at lunchtime. City Bakery is wireless, so if you can find a table, you can park with a laptop and a bottomless glass of apricot iced tea. When it's time to eat, your biggest challenge will be choosing between the curry chicken salad and the PLT (prosciutto, lettuce and tomato). Be sure to leave room for a cupcake or another treat from the bakery case. And knock yourself upside the head, hard, when you leave. Yes, you're really in Phoenix!
Bacchanal Greek Restaurant
Introverts, you've been warned. If you're the wallflower type, stay the hell away from Bacchanal. In addition to gourmet Grecian cuisine -- like succulent lamb capama and mouth-watering moussaka -- this east Phoenix ethnic eatery is famous for its big, fat Greek wedding of food and festivities. A spirited slate of entertainment runs Tuesdays through Saturdays, where patrons, including fraidy-cats like yourself, are encouraged to participate. The eats get in on the show, too, as waiters will occasionally rush to tables carrying flaming dishes of saganaki, consisting of baked kefalograviera cheese that's set afire by a thin coating of brandy and snuffed out by a fresh-squeezed lemon. Each night a live folk band performs, followed by the sultry undulations of a belly dancer or two. Customers can either join in the dancing or show their appreciation by purchasing plates for $1 each and smashing them on the ground. Of course, you can simply stand by the sidelines and watch, but get enough ouzo in you and we're sure you'll Greek out like everyone else. Opa!

BEST DOWNTOWN BUILDING TO POKE YOUR HEAD IN

First Studio

First Studio
Built in 1949, the "first television studio in Arizona" was once home to KPHO-TV and is headquarters for the most creative collective in town. The building currently houses 15 businesses, including Forsmo Design Works, True Story Films, Rhonda Graphics, and Randy Murray Productions. Lookee-loos are welcome to wander the halls, which are painted a deep red and adorned with original artwork, including the "abstract feminist" paintings of resident artist Jenny Ignaszewski. (Check out her work in the La Vida section of "Best of.") Our favorite stop -- a peek in the window of the colorfully decorated office of Darlene Wyatt Casting, in Suite 106, which looks just like we've always imagined a casting agent's office would look.
You might be pimpin' all over the world, like Ludacris, or you might be pimpin' in Old Town as a $30,000-per-annum "millionaire" with a Lexus on lease and a wardrobe by MasterCard. Either way, if you're young, hot and stylish, chances are the glamorous new Scottsdale club e4 is calling your name. The brainchild of founder/CEO Aron Mezo, e4 is really four clubs in one, each representing one of the basic elements of fire, water, air or earth. It's a veritable adult Disneyland, with alcohol vaporizers allowing you to breathe in your favorite shot on the misted "air" patio; a medieval, S&M dungeon scene for the "fire" chamber; a laid-back couch-laden lounge for "earth"; and a gurgling, blue danceteria for "water." Like in other Scottsdale party zones, e4 has plenty of chicks with fake boobs and doods with fake bank accounts. But here the eye candy gets competition from the environs, which is always imaginative and intriguing, even when the clientele is not.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of