Paradise Lounge

So you go to a dive bar and you have your choice of darts, pool, or electronic trivia. With those generic options, you're bored out of your mind. No wonder you're such a drunk. Find alternative stimulation at Paradise Lounge, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it dive bar that has a selection of board games unlike any other. Once inside, you'll find a mountain of games like Pictionary, Taboo, Loaded Questions, Skip-Bo, and just about every version of Trivial Pursuit on the market. It's free and it's fun, as long as you can keep your wits as you drink. And if you're in the mood for an old standby, they have darts galore, too.

Boulders on Broadway

Though it looks a little like a barn from the outside, Tempe's Boulders on Broadway is pure class inside, with a sophisticated brick-floored lobby and a cozy, ski lodge-like loft upstairs. They've got great beers on tap, a well-placed tabletop Ms. Pac-Man game, and a Tuesday night team trivia competition that's our pick for the best in town. First, obviously, the confines are comfy; then there are the questions, which aren't too hard or too easy. Toss in some great people from the grad-student-and-above age group in that area of Tempe, and you've got the makings of an enjoyable evening of head-scratching, whispering, and cheering.

Stinger's Sports Bar
Benjamin Leatherman

Imbibing copious amounts of alcohol while throwing sharp, pointy things usually ends with someone at the hospital with a dart lodged in his or her ass. So it was no surprise when most of Arizona's pubs and clubs started ripping down their dartboards. Stinger's Sports Bar in Glendale compromised, eschewing lawsuit-provoking metal darts for plastic ones and a traditional board for four electronic ones. We come here because dart games are cheap, and the bar isn't too dive-y, despite the $2 beer specials and free breakfast from 6 to 9 a.m. If you're serious about darts, Troy Vending hosts a seasonal league at Stinger's on Wednesdays and Sundays. Though you'll likely miss the feel of sharp steel in your trembling functional drunk hands, at least with the electronic boards you don't have to keep score. Or hear how your buddy got "nailed in the ass" by a stranger.

Okay, so one of our favorite nightlife offerings starts before it gets dark, but the party often goes far into the night. Close enough. The DJ duo of Jared Alan and William Fucking Reed are two of the biggest party monsters Phoenix has to offer. Their respective Saturday night wingdings Cheap Thrills and Shake! have drawn in the hipsters and big-sunglasses crowd like stylish moths to a flame. So it seemed only natural when these two nightlife kings joined forces last year to create the popular summertime pool party series. Every Sunday afternoon from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, Alan and Reed spun scintillating mixes of indie rock, electro, and hip-hop for the swanky and tattooed masses at downtown Phoenix hotels. Organized by socialite maven Jen Dev­eroux, the swimming soirees (which were originally held at the Hotel San Carlos before moving to the Wyndham this year) became the place to be seen for hipster boys or funky, bikini-wearing femmes. Guests DJs also visited every week (ranging from local mixmasters like Benjamin Cutswell and Tricky T to such marquee-level names as Deee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier and UK breakbeat legend Adam Freeland) helping give the parties an extra aura of cool. Call us crazy, but Adult Swim makes us wish summer lasted all year long.

Main Street Billiards

Most of Phoenix's seedy pool places pale in comparison to this Mesa billiards establishment, since it's (gasp) clean, safe, and well lit. It's ruled by tough-looking bouncers and counter help, so you'll never worry about a cut-throat game of eight-ball resulting in your throat actually getting slit by some shark. All jokes aside, Main Street Billiards offers 42 tables (the most in the Valley) where you can rack, chalk, and break by the hour for $4 per person (or $8 per hour for two or more), with the quarter-munchers running for a 75 cents a game. Adult refreshment is offered in the form of beers and mixed drinks, with mugs of draft brews like Shock Top or Amber Bock and Budweiser for $3.50. Just remember to use a coaster, ace, as your brewski might eff up the pristine green felt.

Best Neighborhood Bar, Downtown Phoenix

Philthy Phil's

Philthy Phil's

Don't let the name fool you, as this watering hole on the edge of downtown Phoenix is actually pretty clean (well, as far as dive bars go). Frankly, the dirtiest thing here is the longshoreman-grade obscenities we've heard coming from regulars who are as colorful as the décor. Besides a few murals depicting an array of funky blues artists lining the walls, there are also numerous neon beer signs, an ancient Simpsons pinball machine, and even a deer head wearing a thrift store-worthy neck noose. Speaking of tying something on, we do just that at Philthy Phil's with regularity since the drinks get poured pretty strong and are dirt cheap to boot (including $1.50 Busch cans and $2 well drinks during the daily happy hour).

But no matter how inebriated we may get, we always keep one eye on the security monitor above the bar to make sure our car doesn't get jacked.

Great Escape Lounge

If you haven't been to the Great Escape anytime in the past year or so, be prepared for a huge shock. The rough-and-tumble dive you'd grudgingly grown to love is completely gone. As in 86'd. Vamoosed. Even the free popcorn machine that spat out wilted, tasteless kernels, you ask? Yup, it went away when the bar was sold last year to Dilip Bansal, who changed the name slightly and remodeled the place with more upscale furnishings and a posh décor scheme. (He even managed to squeeze an upholstered chair or two in the closet-size establishment). If you don't mind the new Z Gallerie-esque look, the good news is plenty of high-octane booze and brews are still available (including Guinness and Heineken on tap) just as cheap as before: $3 wells and call drinks, $2.50 mugs, and $2 pints.

Stinger's Sports Bar
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.

Queen Creek Cafe

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.

Pub 'N' Grub

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.

Best Of Phoenix®

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