Believe the hype. ASU Art Museum has catapulted itself into the 21st century with its latest exhibition, "New American City," making Tempe for real a new American city to watch. Curators Heather Lineberry and John Spiak panned the Phoenix metropolitan area for good stuff, and came up with a satisfying collection of shiny nuggets. There are familiar names like painter Sue Chenoweth, whose work here is bigger and bolder than ever, and less familiar names (see photographer Paho Mann's "reinhabited" Circle K series) the combination achieves the kind of synergy that you look for in a major metropolitan museum show. And judging by the enthusiastic, not-the-usual-suspects crowd that flocked to the opening youngish, moneyed and big-city hip we're not the only ones paying attention. It's too late to attend the opening, natch, but the exhibition runs through January 27. And just think, this way you'll actually be able to see the art, instead of the people we were tempted to watch instead.
Urban Cafe
Leave your troubles at the door when entering the Urban Cafe. This Mediterranean eatery and hookah bar is a killer place to chill and enjoy a plate of hummus and baba ghanouj while listening to sitar music. Hookah is treated as a main course, with tobacco flavors ranging from exotic Zaghloul to green apple. Shisha, a blend of tobacco, honey and fruit, is gently heated over natural charcoal, diffused through a glass cylinder and then inhaled through ornate hoses. They say shisha is smoked for the flavor, not for any physical effects it produces, but we tend to disagree here. Somehow when people gather at the Urban Cafe for hookah, it turns into a mini-Woodstock where folks give the peace sign and sing "Kum Ba Yah." As for naysayers who think hookah should be outlawed in public places, all we have to say is dude, stop harshing my mellow.
Julie Hampton's small studio was only open for a few months, but we'll never forget her Art Detour 2006 exhibition. In honor of a show called "Green," Hampton and her co-curators forked over some of their own green to lay the studio with sod, for a few short days. The inspiration came from a conversation about a previous Art Detour exhibition, in which an artist built a house in her studio, then put grass around it. This was quite the ordeal, Hampton recalls. The day of the more recent landscaping, Hampton knowing there was a sod shortage called four Home Depots at 6 a.m., in search. She found it at 75th Avenue and McDowell Road, so she hopped in her Nissan Sentra and drove, as she puts it, like "a mad woman" to get it calling her co-curator, Kriste Peoples, on the way. Peoples met her with a Toyota RAV4. The two crammed 20 rolls of sod (about 220 square feet) into their vehicles it barely fit put air in their tires, and drove to the studio on Grand Avenue, in Beatrice Moore's wedding cake of a building, called La Milgosa. They put plastic on the ground, then rolled out the sod. "Sort of a hack job, but it turned out okay," Hampton says. We recall it as more than okay. In fact, we were entranced, as was our 4-year-old companion, who immediately slipped off her shoes and got down on her hands and knees. Much like the Hanukkah miracle, the grass held up for a full week. "That much wet grass in a small space was a bit humid for my liking, but people seemed to enjoy taking off their shoes and walking around," Hampton says. a.ware's formal space is gone, but the vibe continues with open houses and Tupperware-esque home parties (but much more arty!) thrown by Hampton and Carol Panaro-Smith, who also plan to offer workshops on bookmaking and candlemaking. For more information, e-mail [email protected]
Arizona Doll and Toy Museum
We thought we'd seen it all when it comes to Phoenix, at least until a friend brought us to the Arizona Doll & Toy Museum. This small treasure, tucked into a historic house in downtown's Heritage Square, is a wonderful monument to childhood. Antique dolls from different decades share their home with more modern Betsy Wetsy types. There's even a period school room all set up for the dolls. We won't tell you everything that's there we don't want to ruin the surprise but make sure you go, and take a kindergartner along. You'll both have fun.
You'll have to excuse us if we're a little tired. We've spent the past few nights visiting the Valley's various flesh factories in search of the best strip club. Frankly, they tend to run together, all seemingly offering the same pole-dancing and lap-grinding brand of nearly naked ladies of the night who move and groove to blaring rock and hip-hop jams. Fortunately, the femmes fatales of the Pin-Up Girl Lounge stood out from the rest of the pubic pack. It's a classy joint, with a sultry red color scheme and a seductive series of dancers shaking their moneymakers, most of whom appear to be naturally endowed, with very little silicone in sight. While witnessing all this bumping and grinding, we enjoyed the lounge's seriously swank selection of premium liquors, including cognac and scotch. The cover only ran us $7 (from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily), leaving plenty of greenbacks to partake in lap dances starting at $10 (it's $15 for "up against the wall action" and $20 to get into the VIP room), particularly from that one honey-haired hottie we had our eyes on all night. Do you think she'll really call us, like she promised?
It's crowded, sweaty and packed with college students trying to hook up for the night. So, why do we love the Buzz? Segregation. Yes, it's a political buzz word, but when you're talking nightclubs, having your own space is a godsend. There are three separate dance floors segregated by age and gender. The center of the hive is the aforementioned main floor, a huge, all-ages space pulsing with hip-hop beats. If you're over 21, make a beeline for the upstairs lounge. There's a private dance floor with two adjoining bars the only place alcohol is served on the premises. There's also a separate women's dance floor that hosts "Girls Night Out." It's a comfortable place for queen bees to bump and grind without having to push away a bunch of half-drunk drones.

BEST MUSEUM YOU HAVEN'T BEEN TO SINCE YOU WERE A KID

Heard Museum

Heard Museum
In case you haven't heard, the Heard Museum isn't the place you visited on that Brownie field trip, back in third grade. Sure, the traditional Native American exhibits are still in place (beefed up, in fact), but now you can get modern with other exhibits, like the recent one-man show of the work of Hector Ruiz, a local Mexican artist, or the current "Holy Land: Diaspora and the Desert." The "Holy Land" exhibition's stirred up all kinds of controversy, but isn't that what art's all about? Go see it for yourself. And if you are one of those kids who visited the Heard in third grade, check out the Indian School exhibit, about a Phoenix fixture that's gone, but not forgotten. One more museum improvement: There's now a beautiful cafe, run by Arcadia Farms a nice complement to the gift shop, still the best place in town to find quality Native American jewelry and crafts.
Louise Bourgeois' amazing 90-foot mirror was the talk of the town long before its dedication in August, and Phoenix is right to be proud of the latest project in a rich history of wonderful public art. Funded by the convention center's Percent for the Arts Funds, we can think of no better way to reflect our city's dedication to the arts. The mirror is made of polished steel cut into a spider-web pattern, offering viewers a constantly changing view. Look, it's Phoenix!
Stoudemire's may be the rookie among local sports pubs, but it's got all the makings of a major league player. Great location. Giant televisions. And a celebrity co-owner. The brainchild of Phoenix Suns superstar Amar Stoudemire and renowned chef Eddie Matney, the bar is sleek and modern, with billiards, a large dance floor, and wi-fi access. Hoping to see some stars in Phoenix? Celebrities like Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly have already been spotted sipping late-night cocktails. We love this place because it doesn't look like a shrine to Stoudemire. There are a few token jerseys behind the bar, but that's the extent of the sports memorabilia. It seems stardom hasn't gone to Stoudemire's head, even though he was NBA Rookie of the Year, an Olympic athlete and an NBA All-Star.
We probably shouldn't admit that we always check our hair as we pass by this gorgeously reflective work by local artist Bob Adams, but we do. Our vanity isn't so great, however, that we think we're any prettier than Adams' super-cool installation of circular, convex mirrors lining the walkway between Phoenix Theatre and the Phoenix Art Museum. It's a work that's both a commentary on visual art and a nice reminder that important artists like Adams live among us. And fie on the jokers at Phoenix Theatre who recently tried to have this delightful installation removed. We know good art when we see it.

Best Of Phoenix®

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