BEST PLACE TO GET COFFEE WITH A POLITICO

Starbucks

Starbucks
Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot has long been seen as a civic booster, advocate of the local arts scene, and patron of mom-and-pop businesses. So why the heck does the friendly official, who represents Phoenix's District 4, regularly grab a mid-morning java jolt at the Starbucks outlet located in Park Central Mall? Don't worry, Simplot hasn't sold out to the corporate coffee-house chain (at least not yet) in exchange for a year's supply of Frappuccinos. In reality, he's there to grip 'n' grin with numerous local pols who've also come for some overpriced Joe. While waiting in a lengthy line for a straight-up cup of decaffeinated coffee, Simplot conducts unofficial business with folks like former state attorney general Grant Woods (we think this place is Woods' official business address -- quick, someone check his card) and state Senator Ken Cheuvront. He also gets a few words in with officials from the Phoenix Unified school district who've stopped by. "This place is great," Simplot says. "I return 10 calls just by coming in here."
At $179 for a year's subscription, former state senator Stan Barnes' biweekly newsletter is no bargain. But the deftly titled West Washington is a good source for inside-the-statehouse gossip, particularly if you're looking for the skinny on Barnes' GOP pals and the political minutiae of who voted which way, and why. Barnes, who most recently lost a bid to take out fellow Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, currently runs the Copper State Consulting Group, which means lobbying for everyone from the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association to Philip Morris. And while his newsletter occasionally strains a bit too hard to crack wise, considering the tedious political coverage we're used to, that's something we can forgive. We've also gotta give the guy props for his Q&As: Somehow, he makes our state legislators sound human.
Ra Sushi Bar & Restaurant
Hey, you! Yeah, we're talking to you. You got a Godzilla-size appetite? Then get your fill of Japanese food and stiff cocktails during Tokyo Tuesdays at Ra Sushi Bar. From 8 p.m. to midnight, Ra serves up monster-themed drinks and menu offerings while screening classic Godzilla and martial arts films. Come give your best impersonation of those cheesy voice-overs and catch a Godzilla flick and a variety of Sonny Chiba kung fu movies. Get tipsy off seven specialty drinks, including a Skyy Spice and Kahlúa concoction known as the Smog Monster that will leave you roaring for more. Among one of the four menu items honoring the amphibious creature is the Mega Monster Sampler, which comes with chicken skewers, two varieties of won tons and lobster spring rolls, and is perfect to share with friends.

There's no cover charge, so what are you waiting for?

Susie's Mexican Cafe
We've had a long, hard day of keeping our noses to the grindstone, but now it's quitting time and we're plenty parched. We need a place to quench our thirst and drown our sorrows, cheap. While nearly every local bar, tavern and saloon offers the ubiquitous happy hour, few are as inexpensive as this popular cantina-style Mexican eatery located on University Drive near Loop 101. We're familiar with the joint, having spent many a noontime hour enjoying its dozen or so $5 lunch specials as well as its penny beers. But now we're making the trip out to east Tempe every weekday from 4 until 7 p.m. to whet our whistle with 95-cent pints of Miller Lite, Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra. We're not the only ones looking to satisfy our dual cravings for refreshment and savings, as plenty of cotton-mouthed ASU college kids and businessmen are also in the house, both drinking it up and yukking it up. With apologies to the people at Circle K, Susie's offers the best thirst buster in town.
Sure, we've picked on Governor Janet in the past, but only because we have such high expectations for our favorite daughter. The 47-year-old University of Virginia law school graduate is on track to become the next major national political figure to emerge from our fair state. She's already served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and was elected as Arizona Attorney General in 1998. Last year, she scored points with Senator John Kerry during the presidential campaign. Since she was elected governor in November 2002 -- no small feat for a woman with a D after her name -- the maven of moderates has made mincemeat of the state's GOP-ized Legislature. Her supercharged intellect, quick wit and take-no-prisoners style has scared off any serious contender to challenge her bid for reelection in 2006. We won't be surprised to find her in the U.S. Senate one day soon. With Sandra Day O'Connor retiring from the Supreme Court and Senator John McCain entering into the twilight of his career, Napolitano is Arizona's best bet to carry forward the Grand Canyon State's long and impressive performance on the national political stage. Go, Janet! We'll be watching.
Find a penny, buy a drink: Every Friday and Saturday night, Blaze hosts "1 Cent Night," where lushes can enjoy penny U-Call-Its from 8 to 11 p.m. The special includes top-shelf liquors like Hennessy, Hypnotiq, and Kahlúa, so your dates will think you're spending lots of moola for them to imbibe, when you're really not spending any more than you would spend on, say, one of those "prizes" from the quarter machines at retail stores. So bring a dime, have 10 drinks, and be a dancin' fool. At the end of the night, you should have more than enough to spring for a cab ride home.
Is Phil Gordon really the mayor of the fifth-largest city in the nation? If so, why does his "vision" for downtown look strangely like Ahwatukee? Whether it's making sure Phoenix library computers are filtered, the endorsement of wing-nut County Attorney Andy Thomas, or the addition of "front porch" benches at Sky Harbor Airport -- part of his cornball campaign for a family-friendly utopia where we all sit on our benches in the 100-degree heat and keep an eye on our neighborhoods -- it's all about turning Phoenix into Mayberry, RFD. Doesn't Mayor Goober, er, we mean Gordon, realize that many of us would rather live in a real city than in the kind of Podunk paradise he prefers? Apparently not.
Giuseppe's on 28th
Jamie Peachey
We don't like whining about wine, but the vino prices at restaurants these days are through the roof! All we want is a little bottle of Chianti or a nice Pinot Noir to slurp with our meal, but the bottle that costs you $12 at Cost Plus might go for two or three times that much in the most modest of grub shacks. Fortunately, there are still some places around that'll let you schlep in your own fermented grape juice for a small fee. At Giuseppe's, it's a mere $3, whether you're chugging Boone's Farm or sipping a fine Bordeaux. Owned by Richard Bock, principal cellist for the Phoenix Symphony, this storefront Eye-tie eatery has long established itself as a place where you can buy a plate of pasta that's better than most, as well as enjoy above-average bruschetta, baked ziti, lasagna, fried eggplant and so on, all for very reasonable prices. His BYOB policy seems an extension of this democratic attitude toward food and drink, and we love him for it. So cop a quart of Manischewitz or Château Mouton Rothschild, get down to Giuseppe's and start guzzling, y'all.
Halfway through our huevos rancheros, he walked through the door, like a prune-faced version of Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter: a ghost of Christmas past embodying all the corruption, avarice and prudish anti-porn politics of the Reagan years. Could it be, out from whatever rock he'd been hiding under since serving four and a half years in the federal pen for chiseling elderly investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars, that here was Charles Keating in the flesh? The same swindler who stuck the American people with a bill of billions when his Lincoln Savings went belly up in 1989 as part of the S&L scandal? The guy who had U.S. senators in his pocket back in the day, and spent his free time in futile crusades against porn magnates such as Larry Flynt? Hey, who knew he liked rice and beans? Come to find out, Keating wasn't just there to pick up a few tacos to go. According to a recent column by our own John Dougherty, Keating is helping powerful Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, the owner of El Portal, to develop a parcel of land near her restaurant, which she and hubby Earl bought at fire-sale prices from the Arizona Public Service Company. You never know, with all of the real estate speculation in downtown these days, maybe the Keating-Wilcox partnership is a harbinger of those bad old times being new again. Care for some real estate shenanigans with your machaca? Well, I don't mind if I do . . .
Durant's
With the ghosts of such renowned tipplers of yore like John Wayne and Jack Durant roaming the place, it's no wonder that this Phoenix classic serves what we regard as the best drunk food ever conceived on the face of the planet. Indeed, after our fifth or sixth Crown and Coke, what we want is a plate or two of "Durant's debris." Rumored to be the leftovers of all the fine steaks served at Durant's -- hence the title "debris" -- these come as two skewers of mesquite-broiled cubes of filet mignon, rib eye, and New York strip, separated by scallions, with garlic aioli as a condiment. This Atkins-friendly appetizer soaks up quite a bit of that John Barleycorn in our tummy-tum-tums, making room for more firewater yet! Sure, you don't necessarily have to be drunk to order the debris, but where would be the fun in that?

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of