BEST WOMEN'S ROOM AT A DIVE BAR 2007 | Swizzle Inn | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
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.

If you're big into the Valley party scene, after a while you start to feel like if you've been on one dance floor, you've been on every dance floor. It's all just very monotonous — the strangers spilling drinks on you, the same songs over and over. Not quite the case at Glam. Yeah, there's still plenty of drink-spilling, but it's not as irritating here because the dance floor lights up.

Yes, lights up, as seen in Saturday Night Fever — and your wildest dance floor dreams. We're not sure what it is, but something about the checkered floor flashing at us all night makes us want to dance, even when we hate the song. It makes us feel just a little, um, glamorous, while still allowing us to lurk around the dark corners of a dive bar. It certainly doesn't hurt that Glam (formerly Ky's Place) has spent the past several months building a pretty solid weekly lineup. So, the dance floor is usually packed, but not uncomfortably so, most nights of the week.

Here's what we love about Burn: it's a gay bar that's not totally gay. Don't take that the wrong way — we get the message the buckets of free condoms, the black-and-white photos of hot chiseled abs, and the shirtless man wearing a bow tie and passing out paper towels in the unisex bathroom are sending. We do realize why the bar's slogan is "crave it, want it, get it."

But the place doesn't scream "I love Cher" or any other yucky gay bar stereotype and we like that.

In a city where a lot of the gay clubs follow the same Top 40, Britney- and Madonna-heavy soundtrack, we're also into the fact that the owner is savvy enough to mix things up with a different theme for each night. On a given weekday, you might run into some of the Pussy Posse doing a suspension show (Thursday's Club Mistress) or an out of town "celebrity" DJ (Friday night's French Kiss).

Oh, and did we mention the place is nice? With one wall lined with private, extremely cushy bed-like cabanas (champagne service included) and an enormous dance floor (go-go dancers on the podium included), Burn has quickly become one of our favorites.

A lot has changed since zGirl Club was known as Misty's. Once a haven for butch-looking Phoenix Mercury fans and middle-aged, mullet-headed mamas, zGirl Club now packs its dance floor with some of the hottest honeys in Phoenix, from lipstick lesbians in carefully coordinated outfits to soft butches who are dressed to impress. And where the DJ used to bump old Janet Jackson songs, Sapphic spinners like DJ Domenica are now playing the hottest hip-hop and Top 40 tunes. zGirl's special events and wild weeklies are hard to beat, too, from amateur pole dancing and "Drag King Idol" competitions to "Bikini Top Martini" Mondays, where ladies who show up in a bikini top get $3 fruit-flavored 'tinis all night. And there's live music, too, as sexy sirens like Nels and Julie Lloyd frequently pop in to perform.
This suave lounge has long been a favorite of Phoenix gays because it hosts "female illusionists" (a high-society-sounding way of saying "drag queens"), male revues, and the flamboyant karaoke that's a staple of Valley gay bars. But Amsterdam's Monday weekly, "Martinis & Manicures" — where patrons can get each for $5 — has been drawing in lots of ladies (lesbian and otherwise) for the past year. As if to prove they don't mind all the gals coming 'round, the folks at Amsterdam also launched "Ladies Happy Hour" every third Friday, with drink specials extending until 8 p.m.

But it isn't just the cheap drinks and pampering that draw in the lesbian crowd: With such a small, circular scene, Amsterdam is one of the few places in Phoenix where longtime lesbian clubbers aren't guaranteed to run into an ex or some form of drama. And for lesbians who just want to have a good time and aren't necessarily looking to hook up, Amsterdam is the perfect environment for laid-back conversation and boozing without the brawling and bruising.

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