V.A. Market Liquors

Hobo wine is shockingly hard to come by these days. In search of the perfect gag gift, we scoured the landscape for the self-proclaimed "American Classic," but were running on fumes 'til we stumbled on a Web site called bumwine.com. In addition to profiles of the tramp-booze clan (T-Bird relations include Night Train, Cisco, Wild Irish Rose, Buckfast Tonic, and Boone's Farm) and little-known facts (Ripple is defunct!), the site directed us to two locations in Phoenix where Thunderbird is shelved. The second is DD Liquors at 50th Street and Van Buren, but V.A. gets the nod based on the following factors: 1) It rests within easy shambling distance of the Van Buren/Hobo Land strip. 2) It's a ramshackle-shack kinda place with an utter lack of charm (see the photo at www.bumwine.com/buy.html). 3) The dude behind the counter at V.A. wrapped up our bottle real chaste-like in a brown paper bag. The DD guy didn't even offer. That's the last $3.56 we spend there. Huff.

Total Wine & More

We thought we knew the meaning of "jaw-dropping" until we set foot inside Total Wine, the sprawling Dionysian temple whose name pretty much says it all. In the past year, the national retailer has opened two locations in the Valley, and both have become to wine lovers what IKEA is to compulsive home decorators: destination shopping. Total Wine is gargantuan, to be sure, but it's got a comfortable layout that feels less like a warehouse and more like a high-end grocery store, with displays arranged by region and varietal, and wines displayed alphabetically, along with tasting notes and Wine Spectator ratings. For as much inventory as they have — around 8,000 different wines at every store, along with an amazing variety of beers, spirits, and drink-centric accessories — bottles are so easy to track down that you may as well bring along a checklist. (Actually, it would be easier to bring a highlighter marker to mark up a copy of the store's free shopping guide.) Not to mention, there are plenty of employees roaming the aisles, ready to help you in your search. Weekdays are good for unhindered leisurely browsing, but it's even more fun to stop by on a weekend afternoon for one of the regularly scheduled wine tastings. You'll never have to twist our arm to sample these goods.

Sun Devil Liquors

If you live near downtown Mesa, you have no idea how much we envy you. Because Sun Devil Liquors, that unassuming, ordinary-looking little joint on Country Club happens to be one of our favorite haunts — and we don't even live in the neighborhood. Yes, we're shamelessly devoted to this den of delicious drinks, especially for its outstanding selection of suds. Sure, there's plenty of wine and liquor, but have you seen the shelves at the far end of the store? Packed from floor to ceiling with so many beers we've never even heard of, and definitely can't wait to try. They have all of our favorite microbrews here, as well as imports from around the world. Clearly, somebody at Sun Devil is a big fan of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, as the shop happens to be a treasure trove for fans of those bold, distinctive Lambics and Trappist ales. Cooler still is the tiny in-house bar, where you never know what kind of brew they might introduce you to. Who knew that the Valley's best place to buy beer would also be one of its coolest hidden watering holes?

Top's Liquor

In addition to carrying more than 1,700 wines and 600 beers, Top's has also been staying on top of the latest imported trend drinks. It was one of the first locations to offer absinthe when the lucid, weaker American version was legalized, and it was the first location we found Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur, weeks before the drink came to the attention of the general public. While the more potent European version of Agwa is still unavailable in the states, Top's carries the American version at a decent price — around $50 for a liter. And for the uninitiated, the clerks and cashiers at Top's can offer drink tips. We also picked up a free Agwa drink recipe pamphlet at the register. Happy debauchery.

Jerry's Liquors

The government can take away our right to privacy, free speech, and reproductive choice, but damn if they'll stop us from grabbing a 40 for the road. With its colossal teal-and-white sign and red flashing marquee arrow, Jerry's Liquors is like a time warp back to the days of bobby socks and bubblegum music — complete with all the booze and none of the social responsibility. Its location just across the street from the ASU Main campus ensures a huge selection and college-cheap prices. And these guys aim to please. Pull up to the ancient drive-up window to order domestic and imported beers, wine, or hard liquor and they'll grab a bottle, take your credit card or cash and have you driving away with brown bag in hand faster than you can chug an Irish Car Bomb. Despite their good-guy rep for turning away drunks and minors, anyplace that's willing to sell you a jug of 100-proof single malt Scotch while you're in a moving vehicle without batting an eye is pretty effin' cool in our book.

Los Olivos Car Wash

Like Sonny and Cher used to sing, "It's the little things that mean a lot." We couldn't agree more, and that's why we've made Los Olivos our one and only — car wash, that is. Besides getting a great wash and wax, Los Olivos offers a long list of "little things," like more-than-friendly service, a comfortable waiting room, and a shoeshine booth right on the premises, so we can kill two birds with one stone while we're there, leaving with a clean car and newly polished shoes. We love that the friendly owners remember us and greet us with a warm smile each time we pull up, even if it's been a couple of months and our car is disgracefully dirty.

And we're grateful that they're just as courteous when we're in a hurry and have time only for a $6 Quick Wash as they are when we stick around for a regular hand wash (only $9.99!) or The Works, which includes Armor All, Poly Clear-Coat, and an air freshener of our choice all for only $17.99. Los Olivos' fast, friendly brushless washes and waxes are enough to keep us coming back, but the extras are a nice touch we haven't found elsewhere in town. And speaking of Sonny and Cher, that dynamic duo filmed part of one of their movies on Los Olivos' property in 1967 — another reason we love going there.

It doesn't take a lot to be the best cab company in Phoenix. Valley bar hoppers and newcomers alike can tell horror stories about Phoenix cabs. One such baby Phoenician says she called for a cab and was picked up by two non-English speakers in an unmarked minivan. When she asked to go to the aeropuerto, the driver had no idea where Sky Harbor was.

Alas, all it takes to be the best cab company in Phoenix is a fleet of reliable cabs, driven by drivers who are on time and know their way around town. Yellow Cab fits that bill. Whether your car breaks down or you're making a late-night call from a bar, Yellow Cab usually arrives within 15 minutes. Drivers know their way around town and even drive in yellow cabs. Not too shabby.

So you're afraid of Arizona's insanely strict DUI laws? Join the club. But there's good news. Now you can go drinking and get a free ride home. That is, if you're willing to intoxicate yourself at a growing roster of high-end Scottsdale bars, restaurants, and resorts.

Those destinations will foot the bill for your luxury transportation to and from the watering hole. And not just any transportation — a "five diamond" experience in a brand-new Mercedes. It's courtesy of local entrepreneur Tony Christofellis' Idle Inc. Exclusive Chauffeur Service. (Yes, he gets paid by the restaurant you go to.)

Idle's current list of locations with courtesy chauffer service include: Camelback Inn, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Mastro's Steakhouse, Par Exsolance Salon and Day Spa, Sol y Sombra Mexican eatery, and the JW Marriott golf courses at Desert Ridge.

Heck, with gas prices what they are, you might wanna call for the Idle chauffeur even if you're not getting sloshed.

Scottsdale Ferrari/Maseratti

Browsing or buying? What's a car junkie like you to do when the Barrett-Jackson auction is months away and you're desperate for some auto lust? We've got just the glory land, with your fill of Ferrari, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Maybach and other $200,000-plus rides. This gem of a dealership sits kitty-corner from a less-pretentious Jaguar/Land Rover dealership.

But don't let that deceive you. Scottsdale Ferrari/Maseratti houses a great collection of Ferraris (duh), both brand-new and classic. It usually stocks a few dozen other non-Ferrari rides priced between $100,000 to $300,000.

Unless you're paying with cash, prepare for a car payment on par with the typical mortgage payment ($2,000/month and up) for these rides. Then again, most serious buyers here have private jets. For the rest of us, it never hurts to dream.

Scottsdale Pavilions

The law of entropy says that energy dissipates if not contained. But humans like to localize their energies, and thankfully so because some of us have some pretty sweet cars. There's no better place to see a hundred or so collector cars than the free Scottsdale Pavilion car show, every Saturday night. The Pavilions Car Show is a weekly gathering of gearheads from across the Valley; the show's Web site says it's the "the largest consistently run car show in the United States."

The cars start rumbling in around 4 p.m. every Saturday, but it takes a couple of hours to fill the parking lot near Best Buy and McDonald's on the north side of Indian Bend Road (just off Loop 101).

By 6 or 7 p.m., the parking lot is usually stocked with hundreds of cars, from vintage classics to modern-day imports with coffee-can exhaust tips. Clusters of make/model and year form naturally.

You'll find rows of 1950s Chevy Bel Aires, followed by 1960s Camaros, and, across the way, vintage Mustangs and '32 Fords. You'll also find a few rows of newer rice-burners, including tricked-out Toyota Supras and Acura NSXs, as well as the usual wanna-be Honda Civics and Volkswagen Jettas with crappy fiberglass ground effects.

If you work up an appetite or just want a milkshake, that McDonald's is a few paces away, and a 5 & Diner is across the street.

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