Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano

What better way to start the workweek than to watch people get onstage and share their talent? Whether it's a longhaired hippie dude with a guitar doing a Simon & Garfunkel cover, a disgruntled college kid performing a spoken-word piece about the war in Iraq, or two inebriated girls just giggling at each other because they signed up on a dare, the open mic night at Yucca Tap Room offers a bit of entertainment for everyone. People can kick back and enjoy the low-pressure atmosphere while others try their hands at being performers, or they can participate instead of observe. (Everybody's got something they want to say, right?) The open mic night begins at 9 p.m.; we recommend signing up early so you hit the stage before Yucca's potent drinks kick in.

R.T. O'Sullivan's Sports Grill

Midway games can humble one's pride. We've had our egos bruised many a time while seeking victory at impossible-to-win contests involving catapulting frogs or coins flipped at dishes. Particularly humiliating are games that require objects (be it baseballs or beanbags) flung through holes. Our throwing arm and hand-eye coordination are both weak, so we usually walk away empty-handed. But our luck is going to change this year because we've been practicing our pitching skills at R.T. O'Sullivan's weekly cornhole nights on Sundays.

For those unfamiliar with cornhole (other than as the slang word for sodomy), the game challenges players to toss small cloth bags (usually filled with ground-up corn kernels) into the hole on a rectangular ramp-like platform that sits about 20 feet away from the contestant. If your aim is true, you get three points for tossing your bag through the hole, or one point for just landing on the board.

If you're feeling up to the challenge, ask the friendly staff at this West Valley bar and grill to set up the game for you on the outdoor patio. Games consist of six "innings," during which excited players (either in singles or doubles) take turns tossing their bags.

And starting in January (i.e., when football is over), the place will feature a weekly single-elimination tournament for such prizes as free drinks or gift certificates. But whatever you do, try not to snicker when players start bragging about how good they are at cornholing.

Best Place for Guitar Hero Tournaments

Uncle Monkeys

Uncle Monkey's

Don't tell your professor we told you, but now Mesa Community College and ASU students have an excuse to ditch class on Tuesday nights. This strip mall bar across the street from MCC and just a few miles from ASU's Tempe campus hosts competitions for the play-along, interactive guitar-shredding video game. The place is definitely a dive that's known for some roughhousing — someone was stabbed outside the joint back in January — so keep the riffing on point and the funny business to a minimum.

Sandbar

The latest craze among Valley bars and clubs these days isn't some overpriced fruity martini or even playing host to the hottest DJs around. Nope, it's Rock Band nights, where patrons test their mettle at the ultra-hot video game (which involves groups of three or four playing simulated instruments and singing in time to chart-busting songs like Foo Fighters' "Learn to Fly" or Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive") for fun and the admiration of their fellow drunks. None of the trend-following nightspots offers the chance to perform like an actual rock star the way Sandbar does. Every Wednesday night, at the Peoria location, this beach-themed bar encourage groups to turn out dressed in their finest rock 'n' roll wear and engage in vampish, Steven Tyler-style onstage antics. Bar credit is awarded to the combo that gets the highest score each week. And if there are 30 or more bands competing during the event, the best-dressed act nabs $300 in cash. Groupies are optional, however.

Layalena reigns supreme in indulging your Middle Eastern fantasies. It's a far cry from Tempe's swath of seedy college hookah hangouts. Think belly dancing, gourmet Lebanese-inspired eats, and a sumptuous interior with brick columns and stained-glass lanterns. There's an upscale-casual dress code, which scares off most of the students, and a separate hookah lounge with full bar for guests over 21. Layalena offers nearly a dozen high-quality imported tobacco brands, including Al-Fakber, in mouthwatering flavors like pomegranate and guava. Prices range from just $3 a person to $20 for specialty blends. If you can spare the extra dough, opt for their signature blend served on fresh grapefruit. One hit of the delish citrus-flavored shisha will rock your Kasbah!

Papago Brewing Company
Meagan Simmons

Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale is everything a brew pub (and your date) should be — comfortable, relaxed, and completely loaded. Beer oozes from every corner. There are beer taps decorating the lodgepole bar, beer signs on the walls, and a beer engine for cask-conditioned ales. No shit, a beer engine! The bar food's pretty decent — especially the wraps and design-your-own pizza — which is good, because you'll need something to soak up the lake of beer churning in your gut. The bar stocks a rotating selection of 30 brews on tap, including house beers like Hop Dog pale ale and El Robusto porter. Beer goggles, anyone?

Best Neighborhood Bar, Downtown Phoenix

The Roosevelt

The Roosevelt Tavern

Every good neighborhood bar has a few key things — a great selection of drinks, a fair pour, a great staff, and maybe a snack or three to help pace yourself. The Roosevelt has those essentials in spades, plus a couple of others for good measure, like a gorgeous building, lovingly restored, and the most wicked music choices around. We're not sure what we like more, the House Beer, brewed by Four Peaks and chilled with an argon cooling system so effective it'll bring tears to your eyes, or the deviled eggs that are so delicious they might trigger a war to see who gets the last one. These are important things, to be sure, so we'll be content to ponder them as we listen to old Radiohead songs that make us long for the carefree days of youth. Good thing the staff always remembers our names; they'll need them to nudge us out of our nostalgic haze. No matter, because The Roosevelt is, most importantly, a neighborhood bar, and a reminder that downtown is for livin', not just driving through. We'll ponder that, too, as we ride our bikes home from our favorite local bar.

Best Neighborhood Bar, Central Phoenix

Shady's

Shady's
Lauren Cusimano

Who'd have thought a tiny bar with a sign that gives a nod to '80s and ska scenesters would be such a friendly, welcoming spot? Usually, a bar that dips its toe in the too-cool pool will pack an attitudinal wallop. Instead, Shady's '60s interior is retro and relaxed. Pick a drink, any drink, and their engaging bartenders will remember it the next time you visit, even if it's months later. How do they do it? We don't know, but we're sure they've harnessed some of that mojo to stock a cool jukebox. From The Police to The Clash, this collection hits every disaffected teenage music fan's faux-nostalgic spot. We're not kidding about the friendly vibe. At Shady's, flying solo isn't an anomaly or prelude to a hookup; it's an invitation to make new friends. Good neighbors, indeed.

Coach House
Lauren Cusimano

Coach House is an anomaly among the glitz and glamour of Scottsdale's nightlife scene. It doesn't boast an ample dance floor or a million-dollar sound system or even bottle-flipping bartenders who pour the latest designer drink. What this tiny, wooden-walled roadhouse, circa 1959, does have is plenty of homespun allure and old-school Scottsdale cool. So much so that after knocking back a few beers here, you'll feel like heading over to the Pink Pony for a juicy porterhouse and then poking around the Winfield Place Condos in search of Bob Crane's ghost. Speaking of spirits, Coach House also serves up plenty of great barfly standards like boilermakers, screwdrivers, and a mean Jack and Coke. It's a no-frills kinda place that draws in hardscrabble blue-collar types who kill their livers alongside the high-stylers.

J.T.'s Bar & Grill

Ah, the typical Arcadian. If you live in the neighborhood, and you want breakfast, you hit La Grande Orange. Light lunch? It's all about Pita Jungle. For your swankier dining needs, radioMILANO, the Vig, and Postino fit the bill. Coffee time? Stop by Mama Java's. And when you want to slum it up for some cheap cocktails, it's time for the Dilly Dally. But there's one spot we love to hit that's a little off the radar — as all great neighborhood bars should be.

Keep your eyes peeled when you drive on Indian School east of 44th Street, because you might miss this little jewel if you blink. JT's Bar & Grill is tucked away, marked by a small patio adorned year-round with Christmas lights. Step in and prepare yourself: The place is so little it overflows if just 40 people show up. But that makes things cozy as you settle up to the bar and order a few rounds of reasonably priced drinks. The smell of deep-fried goodness and cooking burgers fills the place as you watch your favorite sports game and relax. The place is a fave with the locals, and after one visit, it's easy to see why.

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