Best Neighborhood Bar, Scottsdale 2009 | El Dorado Bar & Grill | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

There aren't any high-stakes Texas hold 'em poker games to be had at the El Dorado. The same goes for goldfish races, "name that tune" competitions, or any other kind of bar game or nonsense. Just a bunch of surly regulars downing alcohol, and lots of it. So why are we highlighting this dour-sounding booze bunker? Because it's an under-the-radar kinda place at the ass-end of Scottsdale where one can slip off from work for some undisturbed day-drinking amongst fellow barflies. Bottled domestic beers and well drinks are sold for $2.50 each on weekdays from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. (just in case you really wanna get an early start). The bartenders also are known to bring in free pizza from time to time, so if there's a daytime Diamondbacks game or some re-runs of Law & Order on, it just might be a perfect afternoon of playing hooky from the rat race. (We promise not to tell the boss.)

Jennifer Goldberg

Everyone knows that Casey Moore's is a great place to down a brew and eat delicious pub grub, but did you know it's haunted? The story is that an ex-ASU student was murdered on the second story. Now her ghost throws the occasional plate or two at guests who disturb her in the afterlife. As long as those plates contain fresh oysters or a tasty burger, we don't mind. In fact, if it will keep her from possessing our mortal souls, we'll even buy a happy hour pint for the dear old ghoul.

Now, let's be clear about one thing: Nobody here is promoting the idea of excessive drinking while children are in your care. But anyone with small kids knows that the typical dining experience is about as much fun as a visit from the IRS. So what a welcome change it is to have a relaxing time sipping, say, a nice frosty margarita while the kiddos are happily occupied for more than five minutes. Thanks to a big patio, a not-too-stuffy atmosphere, kid-friendly food, a pond, and some very tolerant ducks, Aunt Chilada's has the perfect setting to enjoy your own personal happy hour, plus they serve a pretty decent margarita. Until Makutu's Island gets a liquor license, your options are limited. So give it a shot . . . maybe two.

When you're getting a little long in the tooth, it's all about strategy. You've gotta embrace your age during the day (mostly because there's no other choice with that damn sun highlighting your wrinkles) by playing it classy and conservative. Then at night, go away from the light — get as far away as you can and stay there. Black Forest Mill Restaurant understands. It's a nice German restaurant by day, but transforms every Saturday night into a dark, debaucherous club with DJ Jared Alan's biggest weekly DJ night to date, Cheap Thrills.

Those of us who are pushing 30 (or even 40) love it there. The lights are way, way low and the club is big. Keeping your face veiled by darkness and distance, Cheap Thrills provides a perfect combo to hide your age.

Then, by the time everyone's good and sauced, you can lure a young fawn to a darkened booth for a little ageless make-out. Not to mention, the music is current and so danceable that you'll be shaking it as if you're 25 again. Or even 35, depending. Just make sure you catch a cab before the house lights come on at 2 a.m. and expose your shame.

Bar and club owners have a love affair with the underage crowd during these threadbare times. Though barely legal types cant pop bottles or down a few drams of Stoli, they can clean a place out of Red Bull and other non-alcoholic drinks. No one knows this better than the cats of Platinum Nightlife, whove seen big turnouts at their weekly 18-and‑over shindig at Myst. DJ Breez and his partner Slippe rain down electro hits and Top 40 songs for the hundreds who cough up $15 of mommy and daddys money for the chance to hang out at the Scottsdale nightclub each and every Thump Day. Guest DJs like Swerve and the party monsters of Silver Medallion occasionally drop to help add to the raucous, off-the-hook atmosphere. Party on post-adolescents!

Best Rock Club Without a Liquor License

Chyro Arts

Chyro Arts has booked some amazing shows in the past year — including an unforgettable night with banjo-playing bluesman William Elliot Whitmore — and it has a cool vibe. Plus, the sound is great in this dark and cozy room. Oh, and we love the collection of mismatched couches and futons lining the walls, which tend to make seeing a show a lot like hanging out in your friend's basement as a teenager. Because Chyro makes its home at the dark end of Papago Plaza, there are plenty of bar options nearby, including Papago Brewing and British Open Pub, a fantastic tavern just two doors down and crawling with folks from the show.

Tucson's Calexico, a Western- and Latin-tinged rock act that's arguably the biggest indie band in the state, plays Phoenix only every few years. When they do, though, they go all out, as evidenced by their April concert at Heritage Square. The show was promoted by Stateside Presents and Chris Bianco, proprietor of the famous pizzeria next to the wooden structure that sheltered the crowd. Everything from the candle-lit merch tables to the high-end beer to the gorgeous custom tapestry behind the stage was first-class, and Calexico, along with their opener, a classic Latin Big Band called Sergio Mendoza y la Orkestra, put on a magical show. After a night like that, it's a shame we don't see more of Calexico, and more shows at Heritage Square, probably the most beautiful outdoor concert space in town.

When a band's latest album is less than a half-hour long (as Los Angeles-based noise-pop act No Age's is), it's not surprising when their headlining set comes in under an hour. Actually, the band behind Nouns — one of the best-reviewed releases of 2008 — played only 45 minutes in Phoenix. But, oh, what a 45 minutes it was, packed with Dean Allen Spunt's largely unintelligible but still effective vocals and Randy Randall's rattling guitar. It was short, sweet and very, very memorable — the way great club shows should be.

Charlie Brand works the self-deprecating-artist shtick better than any other musician we've met. Where most artists may brag about touring with marquee-level acts or getting their faces on TV, the soft-spoken guitarist/vocalist for indie quirk-poppers Miniature Tigers tends to shrug off their numerous successes. So we estimate that Brand's been shrugging a lot over the past 12 months, as he and bandmate Rick Schaier have been on a major roll since last fall. After having the infectiously catchy songs as "Cannibal Queen" and "Dino Damage" broadcast on taste-making SoCal college station KCRW, the Mini T's (who are signed to Sony-funded indie label Modern Art Records) performed to packed houses at October's CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Earlier this year, they were chosen by Ben Folds to accompany him on an East Coast tour, and they followed that up with an appearance at South by Southwest and by winning an online contest that got their videos played on MTVu. We're betting that if you're a frustrated musician in an unsigned Valley band, chances are you hate Brand even more than he detests himself.

Hundreds of Valley bands toured this year, but no one did it with as much panache as Jimmy Eat World, who played their 1999 magnum opus Clarity front-to-back in 10 cities across the country. Sure, those confused, lovelorn teenage anthems like "Can You Still Feel the Butterflies?" sounded great in the suburban bedrooms of a typical Millennial's childhood, but the record that forever linked "Arizona" and "emo" has also aged surprisingly gracefully. We were the tour's last stop, a sold-out Marquee show where Jim Adkins and Company tapped the same opening bands as they did for the CD release party 10 years earlier at the now defunct Green Room. That's classy. The show was nothing short of phenomenal, making many folks who are probably a little too old to lose their inhibitions at a rock show sing along like Gorbachev-era Russian teens seeing Bon Jovi for the first time.

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