BEST DIVE BAR 2007 | The Fox Hole | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
We haven't been to every dive in Phoenix, but we're getting close. The Fox Hole sure seems like the real deal to us — sometimes you walk into a place and it just feels right. The Hole is a typical dive in a bad part of town, complete with an abandoned, dumpy-looking empty lot behind it. Walking around to the front (don't ask what we were doing in the empty lot) there are large letters on the wall that say, simply, COCKTAILS. And above the door it reads, "Welcome to the Fox Hole."

We open the door to crinkled, old, sodden carpet, and through the doorway we spot two mangy pool tables to the left, and to the right a shuffleboard table and a brass-plated bar — the whole thing is this old, pounded brass plate, like gold-colored tin all over the bar. Awesome.

Dee the bartender is seasoned and just hired from the defunct Thunderbird Lounge up the road; she's from Ohio and brings some personality and warmth to the place.

We settle in and order a beer, which shows up quickly in a subzero frosty mug. We notice the centerpiece of the bar, a nice fish tank with a half a dozen or so of the little guys looking out at us. We ask Dee if she names them and she says, "Nah, but the big one on the bottom is the prettiest." The big guy next to us chimes in loudly, "Yeah, the shit-sucker!" Dee laughs and the big guy says, "Why is it that the prettiest one in there is the one that just sits around and eats shit all day... I don't get it."

Well, as we look around at these folks and the drunken grins and swaggers in this place, we get it loud and clear: This is the prettiest place we've found ourselves, in a long time.

But, perhaps, not for long. You'd better get over to The Fox Hole soon — word is the place has new owners, and they already made the men's room "nice," and we guess they're looking to add new carpet soon... Giddy up before they ruin the charm up in the joint.

We've been to a lot of bars and had some great food. Our personal all-time favorite snack was a batch of homemade pickled eggs the owner would bring to the bar in Beloit, Wisconsin — they were great with mustard. A close second were the Tater Tots at the long-gone original Long Wong's on Mill Avenue. But we think the best snack selection (maybe most disturbing) we've seen at a dive is at Kay's Lounge.

The bartenders at Kay's are sweet but sadistic. They fire up everything from chicken pot pies to corndogs, and even pretzels with gooey cheese. The real kicker at Kay's is the food that's soaked in our favorite pickling ingredient: alcohol. Everclear isn't just good for blacking out teenage girls anymore! We had to try the Olive Bomb, which is a big batch of jumbo olives passed out in a pool of Everclear joy. It's close to eating a flaming goat testicle and probably accounts for the clogged toilet we've seen in this joint . . . But no need to worry, you can wash it down with the Everclear-soaked Cherry Bomb to really cleanse the palate!

If you want to win a cute, little pink elephant with a dildo tied to its back, then this is the place for you. The Toy House (we like to call it simply The Crane Game) is a staple at many dives across the country. We really don't get it. What's the allure? We're going to "win" something after spending five hours and $40 at the bar when really, we should have been picking up Junior from band practice? Damn, we're in the dog house, but wait, a pink elephant will change all of this and we won't have to work so hard on the missus if we can untie the dildo off its back. (Hey! two gifts in one. She'll love it.)

The Crane Game at Westside is chock-full of stuffed animals, but most have a thong tied to them, or at least a titty keychain. If you're childless, don't despair! For you, there's an adult DVD called Be Cumming a Teenager, or, since you forgot the Fixodent, you can win a cock nose and glasses that lights up and blinks for Grandma.

Seriously, if you think bringing a cheesy gift to your wife, girlfriend, or kid is going to make them forgive you for being an alcoholic . . . Well, then you are one! Better off getting drunk and not going home — fuck it all! Are you really happy there, anyway?

What goes up must come down; what goes in must go out. One of the great ravages of drinking is, of course, the deterioration of the body. There's a lot of extra stress put on major organs — most notably, the liver and kidneys. Sometimes we feel like we're just a great big filter. We're not sure about you, but when we're drinking, we pee a lot, and when it's time to release, we gotta do it quick.

So where's the best place to go? If you're really stuck, we suggest just letting it rip in the pants — it's warm and feels great for the first couple of minutes until it starts to get cold and sticky. Otherwise, make your way pronto to the Playa off Bethany Home and 16th Street to saddle up to their 4-foot-long piss trough. It's complete with a screen from someone's window that fits in the bottom to serve as a cover, so no one will steal the precious urinal cakes, and to serve as a sieve for who knows what might end up in there.

At the Playa, the "trough" is just the topper to this stark, stinky-ass loo. There's a little ledge near the ceiling that has — count 'em — seven air fresheners . . . they must all be broken or used up. There is a lone commode; it even has a door on it! And when you go to wash up, there's a bottle of dish detergent, and the broken soap dispenser and old paper towel holder are tied down with hose clamps and nailed to the wall so they can't be stolen, like the missing door knob on the entrance that now shows off a 3-inch square for peepers who want to catch a glimpse of the pig getting out of the barn door.

Lauren Cusimano
Late night at a dive bar is great fun — unless you happen to be of the gender that pees sitting down. And while ladies across the land have certainly mastered the hover (for you men who need an explanation, use your imaginations), it's much tougher to pull off such a balancing act after a night of cheap booze.

We have found a dive bar that has a women's bathroom so clean and beautiful, your cheeks will be happy to rest on the sparkling porcelain. Not only does the Swizzle Inn take pride in their restroom hygiene, but they make the experience all the more luxurious with two whole stalls made from attractive stained wood with decorative locks that actually work.

To add to the lavishness, the sink has both soap and hand lotion. And you won't have to fight for mirror space with any biker hos to redo your lipstick because this place has a full-on vanity with stools. Take your sweet time to muster up your limited motor skills for a mascara touchup. But the very best part is the beautiful basket of free tampons overflowing with varying absorbencies — unbelievably decadent.



No scuzzy, butt-scattered patio at this dive. We call the smoking section at Jake's-O-Mine the party cage, because there's always a party in this small, makeshift smoking area. And, well, it looks like a cage.

If the new anti-smoking law was meant to make you feel humiliated while smoking, then the Arizona voters who passed that thing have done their job. And Jake's seals the deal. You actually feel like a caged animal with chain link all around you. The only thing missing is kids throwing Nicorette at you and pointing.

At any rate, the small area is outfitted with a swamp cooler that spews out cool, watery air. The walls are lacquered with plenty of NASCAR and beer posters to make it feel like an actual 15-by-20-foot inbred hick's garage. We guess new laws bring about creativity and the need to adapt, and we have to hand it to Jake's: They've done a pretty good job... if you don't mind feeling like you've been incarcerated (but for most of us here, it's not that far of a stretch).

Martini Ranch solves the smoker's problem by having a full-service bar outside on its huge smoking patio, allowing patrons to drink and smoke in peace. Best of all, there's a movable wall behind the indoor stage at Martini Ranch that, when lifted, allows folks on the patio to see the shows from outside (albeit from behind the musicians). And several loudspeakers pour music onto the patio. There's also a massive, big-screen TV on the outside wall, a misting system to keep folks cool during the hot summers, and ample outside seating. With accommodations like this, Martini Ranch almost makes smokers feel welcome again.
It seems like every place we go, owners are scrambling to come up with some sort of outdoor pit stop for the smoker patrons to light up. Meanwhile, smokers are often forced to hang in scummy parking lots, praying that no one roofies the drink they had to leave inside. But at Bar Smith, there are no such worries because this spot has a beautiful big balcony for everyone to puff away in the night's breeze. It's so much more than a smoker's den, complete with a full bar and room enough for dancing. Almost makes us want to light up.
It makes sense that within a few square miles of ASU in Tempe there are seven hookah bars to choose from. Where else are underage college freshmen supposed to sit on the floor and regurgitate ideas from Intro to Philosophy? If you're not of the frat-party persuasion, there's not a whole lot going on near campus until you turn 21 (or score a fake . . .).

But in spite of the variety of newer chi-chi spots, we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for Tut's. It's one of the few Tempe college spots that hasn't been demolished for high-rise condos, probably because of its location along Apache Boulevard, out of the way of the city's major redevelopment plan (for now.) The restaurant is a little tricky to get to thanks to light-rail construction, but the food — especially the fail-safe, veggie-friendly appetizer menu — and the hookah are worth the struggle. For about $10, you can puff the night away on a pillow, something we find especially rewarding now that we can't legally smoke cigarettes indoors anymore. The young crowd makes for some interesting, and hilarious, people watching — we don't remember the last time we saw so many white college-boy 'fros in one place.

Casa Blanca's got something for everyone — there's a sports bar, where patrons can knock back a few brews while watching the game on the big screens, and there's the rock club, which usually sees the most action. We've yet to hit a show at Casa Blanca that wasn't packed to the gills, whether a national name like Bad Brains singer HR is onstage, or locals like NunZilla and Dephinger are rocking the house.

On some nights, the club is so jammed that people are resigned to using the club's two pool tables for seats. Notably, the bands who share bills at Casa Blanca help each other out — setting up and breaking down equipment, and staying for each others' sets. When there's nobody onstage, Casa Blanca plays the coolest in-house mix of music, jamming out perennial faves like Fugazi and the Ramones.

Leave your rave glow sticks in the car — this is a rock nightclub, right down to the décor, which features mosaic tabletops and original surrealist paintings. The only thing it needs now is more space.

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