Padre Murphy's
Phoenicians who are convinced that the only thing north of Greenway Road is car dealerships and cookie-cutter housing tracts will be surprised to find a sports bar like Padre Murphy's. With 50 TVs, off-track betting, and a slamming menu, Padre Murphy's is all about sports, sports, sports, and caters to everyone. There are family-friendly booths and a misted patio for casual diners, and the bar for the quiet drinker looking to make a few bets on the dog races. Tired of burgers and fries? Try the Herbed Chicken Spiedie and the "Tommy Shea" sandwich (a cheesy bundle of peppers) with an Irish Car Bomb (a potent concoction made with Guinness, Bailey's and Jameson). Forget about going anywhere else on St. Paddy's Day the party pours out into the parking lot every year under a giant-size tent. Best of all, Padre Murphy's isn't a "status" sports bar no one cares about what kind of car you drive or how many Benjamins you have in your pocket (well, maybe that honey at the bar might) at Murph's, it's all about you.
Guadalupe Market
Next time you take a pass through the tiny town of Guadalupe, stop at the Guadalupe Market. Not for the fresh vegetables, which are pretty damn good, but to do a little urban sightseeing. The large mural on the side of the building is a window into the local culture. The mission-style Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is at the center of the painting, surrounded by children playing the piata game. A troupe of folklorico dancers floats on the painted dirt, and in one corner a large hand cradles the white dove of peace. It's not that we love the artwork, per se. The figures are little more than basic shapes, and the proportions are fantastical. But it does what a community mural should it makes locals proud to be who they are.
Dillon's Restaurant
Just the thought of pecan-smoked anything sends us through the roof. This friendly barbecue joint at Thunderbird Road and Loop 101 does the 'cue just right, slow-cooking the tender meats in a big vat in front of everyone. The great sight lines to the strategically placed TV screens naturally please the sports junkies in the house, and an encyclopedic piano player on the weekends adds yet another dimension. Try the brisket, a ball game and a beer at this popular northwest Valley spot, and you won't budge from your seat for hours.
If you have never traveled the 101 between Shea and Frank Lloyd Wright boulevards in Scottsdale, put your pedal gently to the metal and go there now. We say gently because there is a three-mile stretch of spectacular you don't want to miss. Both retaining walls display Southwestern relief sculptures showing off mammoth cactuses, lizards and desert landscapes in hues of sage, red, gold and desert purple. Even the overpasses are worth a glance, with sculptural Native American-inspired metal railings. A bonus for slowing down and enjoying this refreshing use of tax dollars is that you'll avoid the four photo radar speed traps recently strategically located within this artery oasis. This striking surprise on an otherwise boring thoroughfare has proven to be a surefire way to impress out-of-town guests. The view is free, as long as you don't get a ticket.
Crabby Don's doesn't cater to former high school football stars or diehard fans who shave team logos into their back hair. This is the everyman's sports bar a comfortable, neighborhood joint where you can munch on hot wings while watching Sunday Night Football or bring in the kids for a post-Little League game celebration. Unlike other local sports bars, Crabby's isn't just about sitting on your ass knocking back a couple of beers while drooling in front of the big-screen TV. It's interactive. There's pool, video games and a bowling simulation to keep your jock brain entertained. It's also one of the few places around where you can play shuffleboard. The bar's flat-screen TVs are usually tuned to sports, whether baseball or snowboarding, but the friendly staff is just as happy to turn on Desperate Housewives if that's what the customers want.
Maybe it's just us, but a majority of the front yards found around town are really quite boring. Sure, some folks might try livening things up by plunking down such cheap-ass tchotchkes as windmills or garden gnomes in front of their homes, but for the most part, the Valley's lawns bring nothing but yawns. Not so with Gary Parsel's place. This 55-year-old artist has transformed the swatch of desert landscaping in front of his vintage residence located near Seventh Street and McDowell Road into a feast for the eyes. More than a dozen surreal stucco sculptures and attention-grabbing objets d'art adorn his yard and front porch, such as a gigantic flame-spewing head, a pair of bodacious beach bums kicking back in Adirondack chairs, and a ridiculous robot cobbled together from a collection of electronic components. There's also a virtual dog-and-pony show on display, with a few concrete canines and a horrendous-looking horse dotting the premises. Let's hope his neighbors don't mind.
Located half a mile from the ASU sporting facilities in the Cornerstone Mall is this roomy and chill-out watering hole and grill that shoots down the sports bar competition. Rub shoulders with fellow sports fans and cheer on your favorite team while sipping from your choice of 26 beers on tap and chowing on pub grub from shrimp cocktail and Buffalo wings appetizers to under-$8 entrees, including seven styles of burgers, a variety of chicken sandwiches, and health-conscious wraps. The main room houses five large high-definition televisions, and there are 30 smaller sets dispersed throughout the dining area, a pool room with 12 six-foot billiards tables, and a game room with dartboards, a shuffleboard table, and a Golden Tee video game. Friday nights feature the Eastside Shootout Dart Tournament, while Saturday nights showcase live rock and blues bands, and Six Shooters partners with The Snap Lounge, Dilly Dally, and 4 Kings for pool leagues during weeknights. Smoking hot like guns a-blazing.
Shemer Art Center & Museum
This lovely stucco home with the breathtaking mountain view was built in the 1920s and donated to the City of Phoenix as an arts center in 1984. Its historic/pastoral/funky/luxurious vibe is unique in a part of the city that's better known for big houses and expensive resorts than for serene public areas. Whether you're looking at exhibits in the front room, taking an art class in the sunny kitchen, or strolling the sculpture garden, you'll be nurtured and inspired. Even the glistening tiled bathroom, with a jungle of pothos draped over the window and tub, evokes an enchanted, dreamy ambiance. Not that it's always quiet November's annual Sunday at Shemer festival kicks things up a notch, and we have friends who got married one spring on the rolling green lawn but it just feels so good having the Shemer Center in our town.
FOX Sports Grill
Ever since we've been in the Valley, friends have been telling us about this great sports bar or that cool sports bar. It seems that everybody's got a favorite sports bar like everyone's got a favorite college football team. But most of these joints smell like beer and piss and have patrons who're butt-ugly and need a bath. A lot of those so-called bars even have little ol' TVs where you can barely make out who's just scored that touchdown or hit that three-pointer. So when we first entered Fox Sports Grill, we though we'd died and gone to sports bar heaven. The place is immaculate, a virtual shrine to sports, exotic cocktails and hot babes. If your team is winning, you can glue yourself to one of the giant screens that can be seen from any vantage point. (We like sitting at the gigantic, rectangular bar, but you can reserve a table if you desire a more intimate setting.) But if your team is losing, you can eyeball all the hot gals who are usually there only to pick up on studly, sports-loving dudes. The women at Fox actually seem to love being stared at. What a perfect place! There should be a man rule that if a woman enters a sports bar, she must enjoy the leering of horny males. The thing is, most of the women we observed at Fox were bored shitless by the games, but they were certainly more than willing to strike up a conversation if a guy's willing to buy them a Manhattan Iced Tea or three. A couple of them were even willing to join us in the parking lot. (Calm down, mom, we're just kidding.) On any special occasion say, Super Bowl Sunday or game seven of the NBA Finals fuhgedaboutit! Unless you reserve months in advance, you'll have to shoehorn into the place. But even standing around streets-of-Hong Kong-style at Fox is a trip you'll enjoy taking. Like we say, the drinks are plentiful, the scenery's tremendous, and the games are on, baby! Oh, and if you're looking for bar food that doesn't bite back, Fox has among the best in the sports bar business.
Marquee Theatre
You've still got to pay five bucks to park there, but at least you don't have to fight downtown Phoenix traffic. There are other benefits to seeing national acts at the Marquee, too. The venue often hosts bands just before they blow up big (H.I.M., The Darkness), so it's a great place to catch "the next big thing" before they're too big for you to afford tickets to their arena shows the following year. And there are no "nosebleed seats" at the Marquee. With a capacity of around 1,000, you've got more than an ant's chance of actually seeing the performers without the aid of a big projection screen. And the venue books a wide range of hot national acts in the past year, Marquee Theatre's hosted shows by everyone from hip-hop act Jurassic 5 to old-school punks Social Distortion to Jack White's red-hot new band, The Raconteurs. Makes it worth the price of admission plus the five bucks to park.

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