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.

Time Out Lounge
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?

El Dorado Bar & Grill

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.)

Casey Moore's Oyster House
Tom Carlson

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.

Aunt Chilada's Restaurant

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.

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