Vision Gallery
Want an original piece of art but can't afford the hefty price tag? Enter the Art-o-mat, a restored vintage cigarette machine that poops out handcrafted art pieces as if they were gumball-machine trinkets. The project began in 1997, when North Carolina artist Clark Whittington displayed his black-and-white photos like old-school ciggies. People loved them so much that the display became a permanent fixture and the idea blossomed into a national network of machines (though this is the only one in Arizona). Pop your cash in the slot, pull the old-timey plastic knob and out comes a work of art from the project's huge roster. Most are pretty amusing. Recent sightings at the slick chrome machine include Bearded Bunnies by William Hessian, Victorian vignettes, and Julie Graces' "Peep Show" secret spy mini-telescopes. You're obviously not going to get a Van Gogh-quality oil painting here, but for $5, any piece of art better than a line drawing is a steal.
Blue Martini Lounge
So you've had a couple of drinks and someone hands you a microphone while a canned instrumental track of your favorite '80s song starts to play. You're ready to tear it up, but it's hard to feel like a rock star when you're following a bouncing dot across a TV screen. If you really want to feel like a superstar (or just a glorified drunk), get onstage at Blue Martini Lounge on a Monday night, when local cover band The Instant Classics will back you up. This solid, seven-piece band has an extensive repertoire of songs, from Lady Ga Ga and Pat Benatar to Bob Seger and Snoop Dogg. They even have a keytar player with a mohawk, so you can rock that Flock of Seagulls song. The audience at Blue Martini is generally very enthusiastic and supportive, and they'll cheer for you whether you burp into the microphone or not. And if you get up there to croon Sinatra's "My Way" and find yourself frozen with stage fright, never fear — there are three singers in The Instant Classics who'll be happy to make it sound like you're just, uh, harmonizing.
Those Christian Louboutin kicks looked damn cute when you saw them on sale at Barney's — and even cuter when you wore 'em — but honestly, that's hardly practical footwear for an evening of walking around Old Town. Easy on the eyes, murder on the feet. Since your pocketbook's emptier than Lady Gaga's head, following your latest shoe-gasm, we've got a suggestion that's equally chic and cheap: Hop aboard one of the four Bunny Rides street-legal golf carts puttering from club to club. Operated by entrepreneur Aaron Lipson, these eight-passenger rides provide complimentary jaunts (although tips are appreciated) from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. every Thursday through Saturday night. Decorated in electric pink livery and pumping out Top 40 tracks via built-in stereos, Bunny Rides are hard to miss, even after dark. Lipson's crew cruises a service area encompassing Old Town (which stretches south from Chaparral to Thomas roads, and east between 68th Street and Hayden Road), which means schlepping slews of drunken divas and dudes to danceterias, as well as back to nearby hotels. "People get loud and crazy, girls show their boobs, you name it," Lipson says. "It's like a party on wheels." Some caveats: They won't take you home, and those appearing to be overintoxicated aren't permitted to ride. "We don't wanna get sued if people fall out," he says. Besides, why risk the chance of scuffing up your $500 babies? Reach Bunny Rides at 602-405-2106.

RESTAURANTS

Best (Smoothie) Boost: Jamba Juice

Best New Restaurant: Jimmy's of Chicago

Best Mexican Restaurant: Los Dos Molinos

Best Italian Restaurant: Oregano's Pizza Bistro

Best Thai Restaurant: Thai Basil

Best Indian Restaurant: Delhi Palace

Best Japanese Restaurant: Ra Sushi

Best Chinese Restaurant: Flo's

Best Vietnamese Restaurant: Little Saigon

Best German Restaurant: Haus Murphy's

Best French Restaurant: Vincent on Camelback

Best Mediterranean Restaurant: Pita Jungle

Best Brewery: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Best English Pub: George & Dragon Pub

Best Irish Pub: Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub

Best Pizza: Oregano's Pizza Bistro

Best Chocolate: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Best Gourmet Bakery: Sprinkles Cupcakes

Best Place for a Frozen Treat: Cold Stone Creamery

Best Coffee House: Lux Coffee Bar

Best Seafood: The Salt Cellar Restaurant

Best Sushi: Ra Sushi

Best Deli: Chompie's

Best Steak House: Durant's

Best Fine Dining: Durant's

Best Wings: Native New Yorker

Best BBQ: Honey Bear's BBQ

Best Hamburger: Five Guys Burgers & Fries

Best Hot Dog: Ted's Hot Dogs

Best Sunday Brunch: The Farm at South Mountain

Best Downtown Lunch: My Florist Café

Best Place for a First Date: House of Tricks

Best Place for a Twilight Drink: Sanctuary

Best Wine Selection: Postino Winecafé

Best Margarita: Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill

Best Martini: Blue Martini

Best Hangover Breakfast: Matt's Big Breakfast

Best View: Rustler's Rooste

Best Patio Dining: The Farm at South Mountain

Best Restaurant for Kids: Rainforest Cafe

Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Udupi Café

Best Vegan Restaurant: Green


PHOENIX LIFESTYLE

Best Protector of Our City: Phoenix Police Department

Best Superhero: Steve Nash

Best Fight for Justice: New Times

Best Costume Shop: Easley's Fun Shop

Best Place to Tone Up: LA Fitness

Best Place to Soup Up a Getaway Car: Vivid Racing

Best Place to Sharpen Your Fighting Skills: AZ Combat Sports

Best TV Newscaster: Mark Curtis

Best News Station: KSAZ Fox 10

Best Alternative/Rock Radio Station: X103.9 FM

Best Country Radio Station: KMLE Country 108

Best R&B/Hip-Hop Radio Station: 104.7 KISS FM

Best Blues/Jazz Radio Station: 95.5 KYOT

Best Radio Morning Show: Johnjay and Rich

Best Golf Course: Biltmore Golf Club

Best Spa: Dolce Salon & Spa

Best Salon: Dolce Salon & Spa

Best Bookstore: Changing Hands Bookstore

Best Hiking Trail: Echo Canyon -- Camelback Mountain

Best Hotel Pool: JW Marriott Desert Ridge

Best Independent Film Theater: Harkins Camelview 5

Best Place to Get Pierced: Club Tattoo

Best Tattoo Shop: Club Tattoo

Best Paintball: Tempe Paintball

Best First Friday Hangout: The Roosevelt

Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing: Buffalo Exchange

Best Place to Buy Antiques: Brass Armadillo

Best Place to Buy Wine by the Bottle: Total Wine & More

Best Casino: Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino

Best Annual Event: Arizona Renaissance Festival

Best Pet Groomer: Wag N' Wash

Best Health Food Store: Sprouts

Best Med-Spa: Red Mountain Med Spa

Best Mall or Shopping Center: Scottsdale Fashion Square

Best Yoga Studio: Urban Yoga

Best Comic Book Shop: Atomic Comics


MUSIC and NIGHTLIFE

Best Place to Find a Damsel in Distress: Dos Gringos

Best Place to Witness a Costumed Pub Crawl: Mill Avenue

Best Rooftop View: Clarendon Hotel

Best Bar Concept: Sandbar

Best Nightclub: Axis/Radius

Best Local DJ: DJ Rocko

Best Weekly Dance Night: Thursdays at Margarita Rocks

Best Dance Floor: Devil's Martini

Best Latin Club: Sky Lounge

Best Blues or Jazz Club: The Rhythm Room

Best Place to Buy Local Music: Zia Records

Best Venue for National Acts: Dodge Theatre

Best Venue for Local Acts: Marquee Theatre

Best Music Festival: Country Thunder

Best Place to See a Comedy Show: The Comedy Spot

Best After-Hours: Charlie's

Best Country and Western Nightspot: Harold's Cave Creek Corral

Best Bar for Watching the Game: Zipps Sports Grill

Best Sports Bar: Zipps Sports Grill

Best Dive Bar: Bikini Lounge

Best Gay Bar: Amsterdam

Best Lesbian Bar: zGirl Club

Best CD Store: Zia Records

Best Pool Hall: Mill Cue Club

Best Local Band: Whiskey Six

Best Bar for Conversation: Casey Moore's Oyster House

Best Beer Selection: The Lost Leaf

Best Specialty Cocktail: White Rabbit at SideBar

Best Wine Bar: Postino Winecafe

Best Place to Be Seen: W Hotel

Best-Looking Bar Staff: Tilted Kilt

Best Place to Find a One-Night Stand: Dos Gringos


MOST POPULAR WRITE-IN CATEGORIES

Best Happy Hour: R Bar at Camelback Inn

Best Art Supply Store: Arizona Art Supply

Best Sunday Omelet: Buzzberry

Best Gluten-Free Restaurant: Nourish

Best Country Club: Arizona Country Club

Barrio Cafe
Barrio Cafe chef Silvana Salcido Esparza turned 50 this year, and she was pissed. It wasn't the number of candles on her cake or years she's spent building her restaurant business on 16th Street — it was Arizona Senate Bill 1070. Esparza's been glued to the news and images of Arizona's Mexican community in all its lackluster glory on the big screen. "Oh, we have a vibrant community here," she says. "We just need a center for that community to really shine." So she started with her back wall. Esparza brought in El Moises to paint a mural, and then she was struck with a vision: a Calle of Murals. She set up a Facebook page, then an e-mail address, then a website. She has almost 20 artists and 500 Facebook fans. The first official "Calle 16" mural will go up in October. "They can't stop us," says Esparza. "I want the city to crawl back to us and ask where they can help."
The Valley's a real valley, in case you never noticed, and it's surrounded by numerous, picturesque desert mountains. Most are contained within governmental recreation areas, making them easy to park near and hike up. But not Red Mountain, located on the eastern side of the Salt River Pima- Maricopa Indian Community. The eye-pleasing reddish hue and steep, weather-worn cliffs make Red Mountain (a.k.a. Mount McDowell, FireRock, and Gunsight Butte) one of the area's most beautiful crags. At 2,830 feet in elevation, it stands higher than either Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak. Since the early 1980s, though, the mountain has been off-limits for hikers, climbers, and photographers who want something more than a shot from the Beeline Highway. Tribal officials tell us that local law prohibits even Salt River residents from walking the summit trail, thanks to punks who descrecated some of the mountain's centuries-old petrogylphs. No permits for hiking are issued, and those caught sneaking in for an illicit adventure should expect to be prosecuted if caught. Like it or not, some things are sacred.
Chase Tower
We've long thought Phoenix's skyline was pretty — if a little odd. Why do there appear to be two downtowns, and why does one lone skyscraper — the building formerly known as the Dial Tower — rise up from the earth between them? Then we learned something about our skyline that got us asking another question. Why are we so short? Here's a telling fact: At 483 feet, Chase Tower is Arizona's tallest building. Okay, maybe that number doesn't mean anything to you, so let's put it in perspective. Arkansas has a building that's 546 feet high. We're talking about Arkansas, the land of Walmart and rampant shoelessness. Actually, such less-urbanized and less-populous states as Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Nebraska all have buildings taller than the biggest and best of Arizona. Chase Tower wouldn't be one of the 20 tallest buildings in Texas, and that state isn't exactly known for passionate urban planning. Actually, of the country's 10 largest cities, only San Jose, California, has a tallest building shorter than Chase Tower, and, let's be honest: No one knows how or why San Jose is one of the country's 10 largest cities.
Red Revolver Lounge
Before its unveiling in January, Revolver Lounge was hyped as one of the hottest new clubs to hit Old Town. Thanks to an air-conditioning eff-up on opening night, that literally was the case. The sheer number of tanned and toned bodies crammed inside the Western-themed Stetson Drive swanketeria caused things to get steamy. (Guess everyone had to cowboy up.) While the snafu was fixed double-quick, the place hasn't cooled off since. Formerly home to the similarly stylish SIX, it's just as in vogue as its predecessor. Conceived by owner Steve McDonald as an upscale dancehall with a Scottsdale twist (hence, antique chandeliers sharing space with posh couches), it's had packed weekends all year, hosted a SMoCA shindig in the spring, and welcomed pop star Rhianna on her 22nd birthday. Revolver's proved so popular, in fact, that Southern-style Shotgun Betty's opened up down the block mere months later. Those copycat cowboys!
FnB Restaurant
Debby Wolvos
This is the little restaurant that could.Amid a sour economy — and even in the middle of the summer slowdown — this is the place that had locals buzzing on Twitter, Facebook, and good old-fashioned word of mouth in 2010.The excitement started with a trifecta: rustic, comforting American eats by chef-owner Charleen Badman; cozy, bustling atmosphere; and rock star treatment for regulars and newbies alike, courtesy of co-owners Pavle Milic and his wife Emily Pullen. Soon, the Stetson Drive gin joint became the Valley's go-to place for top-notch Arizona wines (still a rarity — but not for long, we predict, thanks to Milic's pioneering efforts) and affordable late-night eats as well. Comforting dishes like braised leeks with mozzarella and fried egg, and perfectly crispy jidori chicken have come and gone with the seasons, but Badman has only continued to delight us with new dishes along the way. Cheers to a new classic in the middle of Old Town.
Sweets & Beats
In the summer of 2009, husband-and-wife team Liam James T. Murtagh and Emily Spetrino-Murtagh took over the old Art One space and opened this novelty shop that fuses two sweet things: vinyl records and candy. The Murtaghs, who play in a number of punk and ska bands, focus their records on those two genres as well as new wave. And there are all sorts of sugar-loaded confections, ranging from jars of eye-popping candy to edible mustaches. The space doubles as the couple's living quarters, so they're open only in the evening when they get home from their day jobs. BTW, don't be alarmed to see the Murtaghs' 2-year-old son, Iggy, running around the shop and being crazy playful. He won't bite.

Best Of Phoenix®