Best Neighborhood Bar, West Valley 2009 | Stinger's | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Benjamin Leatherman

It's time to bust some science: Centruroides sculpturatus (a.k.a. the common Arizona bark scorpion) comes out only after dark, constantly on the prowl for places that are cool. Because of this fact, our fearsome arachnid friend is not unlike the patrons at this Glendale watering hole, who tend to flock here during the evening in search of the rampant post-dusk fun. After the sun goes down, Stinger's bartenders serve plenty of $3 Seagram's vodka bombers until 6 p.m., while the live entertainment schedule is loaded with weekend gigs by such punk, alt-rock, and blues outfits as Tell Me About the Rabbits and the J. Powers Band, as well as uproarious karaoke sessions on the nights without live music. Just be sure to slip back under your rock, er, we mean underneath your sheets by morning.

Formerly known as QC Cafe, and Jim's Cantina before that, this bar and restaurant at the center of Queen Creek recently underwent renovations to make it a little more in step with the influx of yuppies making their home in this former cow town. It's still, along with Rudy's, a major landmark in town, though, and a comfortable place to plop yourself down for a drink or three. In an area overrun by chain restaurants and their associated bars, it's a nice little slice of old-time rural Arizona, where all the regulars know a little too much about each other and the happy hour prices cater to folks on a laid-off construction worker's budget.

The term "Cheers-style" gets thrown around a lot in the discussion of neighborhood bars, but we're certain it's not usually as appropriate as it is with Mesa's Pub 'N' Grub. This little corner dive has fryers behind the bar and a selection of cheap domestic beers served in frosted mugs or hearty pitchers. It's a consistently pleasant crowd, mostly folks from the Dobson Ranch neighborhood, but also a few bikers who don't seem to take their badass role too seriously. The bartenders are just a little sassy and there's always somewhere to sit. The food — pretty much all of it fried golden brown — is just what you want from pub fare. Oh, and everyone knows your name. Or will know your name if you come in twice in two weeks.

Lauren Cusimano

So many bars have an informal dress code — a sort of de facto aesthetic agreement rendering anyone who doesn't fit the bill uncomfortable in the establishment, even if they're not, technically, unwelcome. Not Tempe's Time Out Lounge. This is the sort of place where, when a girlfriend asks your advice on what to wear, you can say "anything" and be absolutely and irrefutably right. Some of the regulars wear Stetsons and boots, others are ASU kids in hoodies, and you're bound to see a few hipsters ending their night there any time after midnight. Yet all are welcome in the well-worn booths of this cash-only bar. Seats are comfy, drinks are cheap, patrons are friendly, and bartenders are snarky. What more could you want in a neighborhood bar?

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.

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