Wanderin
Lauren Cusimano
This cash-only gin joint offers no gimmicks and even less attitude. It's simply a place where drinkers go to drink — and maybe enjoy some pool or a $3.75 pizza, too. Though it's scruffy on the outside, the Wanderin's interior may strike first-timers as both unusually big and remarkably clean. But make no mistake. This bar isn't pretending to be a dive; it truly is one. Your first clue: Drink prices are inscribed on liquor bottles with a Sharpie. Your second: A phone number labeled "police" is helpfully taped to the mirror behind the bar, just in a case a fight should break out. The real kicker? Happy hour is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — and the drink special is $2 PBRs, which'll save you a whopping 25 cents per beer. Hey, when you start drinking as early in the morning as the Wanderin's regulars, those savings add up.
Maverick Saloon
It's not a bar — it's a patio. At least, that's the technical term and how owner Alfonso Larriva got the city off his back after an 18-month renovation to allow smoking inside the Maverick Saloon. With slats on the windows allowing air to blow in and cigarette smoke to blow out, patrons can puff away with lively locals bellied up to the dark wooden bar, or they can relax on a corner couch listening to kick-ass country music on the juke, watching TV, or enjoying live entertainment Wednesday through Saturday. And with friendly barkeeps serving up drinks and grub costing less than a pack of cigs, the Maverick Saloon is one smokin' good time.
Chopper John's
New Times Archives
The black exterior and the Harleys parked out front say biker. The back patio's ironworks spelling out the word "welcome" atop an acoustic guitar says hipster. The ocean mural says . . . Well, that one's a head-scratcher. Since 2008, Chopper John's co-owner, John McCormick, has combined his love of motorcycles and music into a biker bar with a hipster sidecar. With Sunday jam sessions and an eclectic mix of local bands on Friday and Saturday nights, leather-clad riders and skinny-jean-wearing trendies may not always agree on the evening's sounds, but the drink specials and lively scene keep both groups coming together for another round.
Amsterdam
Most bars' designated smoking areas seem like afterthoughts — small, sad patches of parking lot concrete with a butt bucket bought at Home Depot. Not at Amsterdam. Puffers can pick a martini from one of the bar's 10 menu pages, then stroll the swanky outdoor scene, lighting up alongside the here-to-be-seen set, bouncing to techno beats on the patio's dance floor, or lounging diva-like on overstuffed leather couches, taking long drags in spacious comfort and soft lighting. With an extra bar outside, Amsterdam's smoking patio is tailor-made for tokers, because the party never has to move indoors.
Cafe Istanbul
Kyle Lamb
Café Istanbul's hookah lounge sits on the second floor above a Middle Eastern market, providing an exclusive feel for its many patrons. The furniture is stylish and comfortable — ornate, carved-wood tables and black leather couches lined with pillows. The décor feels authentically Middle Eastern, with colorful, cone-shaped lamps providing decorative light, Moroccan wall mirrors, and a plasma TV that's usually showing some Arabic soap opera or drama. Each hookah is high-quality, boasting a large glass base, sturdy wire hoses wrapped in vinyl, and clay tobacco bowls so deep they'll burn for hours. There are more than 50 flavors of hookah tobacco on the menu, ranging from traditional favorites like apple, strawberry, and pineapple to more unusual tastes like cardamom, guava, and rose. Servers here are attentive, constantly replacing the hookah coals and checking on customers' contentedness. Price-wise, Café Istanbul is competitive — hookahs with one flavor cost $10.95 to $13.95 each, which is less than what some other hookah lounges charge. And when it comes to atmosphere and ethnic flavor, Café Istanbul's got everybody in the Valley beat.
Shane Kennedy is crusty. We mean that in the nicest possible way. The fixture of CenPho nightlife and longtime Bikini Lounge DJ is the sort of rough-around-the-edges scenester Phoenix desperately needs. He doesn't wear tight pants, and he had his beard before it was cool, which makes him the sort of old-school, record-store-clerk-type hipster that's quickly disappearing from its natural habitat. Seemingly oblivious to trends, Kennedy is the sort of DJ we could imagine refusing to play a new bride's favorite song at her wedding if he found it just too insufferable to spin. He plays old stuff we love and old stuff we ought to love and will love once he exposes us to it.
Anthony Hart, a.k.a. DJ Hartbreaks, titled his first mixtape The Long Goodbye. If he's departing the scene, we hope it's a long goodbye. He's our favorite kind of young hipster DJ, the kind who has the impeccable taste necessary to back up the too-cool-for-school act. Spinning at The Lost Leaf and the Civic Space Jam, he's known to play everything from Common to Animal Collective to Florence and the Machine to Chromeo. It's all artfully blended in a style we don't call mash-up, given the stigma surrounding that term. But you'll hear several songs you love simultaneously, so that's cool. You can download his mixes for free or just wait for him to be the next Z-Trip and appear in a videogame.
Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano
To quote Nas on his 2002 track "Nothing Lasts Forever," everything will come to an end. When it comes to the Valley's volatile nightlife scene, that means your favorite club night — no matter how popular it may seem — will someday call it quits. Well, except for the Blunt Club, that is. The venerated hip-hop night launched in '02 and has stayed strong for eight effin' years, with no signs of pulling a Jam-Master Jay (RIP) anytime soon. Debuting at the Priceless Inn in Tempe, it began as a combination spoken-word/live-art event hosted by Bionic Jive mic man Emerg McVay and graf artist Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper. Evolving into a DJ-based weekly and lyrical launching pad for local ciphers like Random and Drunken Immortals, it's not only outlasted the P.I. itself, but it's survived four location changes. The DJ duo of Pickster One and turntablist Element are packing the house at its latest home, Yucca Tap Room, offering a fly selection of underground and alternative hip-hop, reggae jams, and classic cuts. Much like the long-running career of KRS-One, there's no end in sight for the Blunt.
The Twisted Peacock (formerly Ice Pics Video Bar)
Valley drag diva Pandora's about as sassy as they come, whether she's flipping a Barbarella wig or singing "Don't go breaking a fart" while covering an Elton John and Kiki Dee duet. So it's not surprising that she's launched an outrageously funny and often cheesy drag comedy show, "The Follies," at Ice Pics Video Bar (formerly Nasty Habits). Performances take place on Saturday nights starting at 10 and include drag queens from all over the Valley, and various theme show nights like "knights," "disco," and Spam-A-Little, a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But whatever Pandora's serving up, it's sure to be a wallop of laughs, right down to the lipstick-smeared feather boas.
Bar 1
For casual gay nightlife — we're not talking pumped-up leather bars or bumping discotheques here — Bar 1 is a chill hang that still knows how to have fun. The bar's interior is clean and candlelit, with a fireplace, sofas, and a couple of pool tables that are in tip-top condition. The outside patio is a cozy, tree-lined, and dimly lit space that feels private but still party-ready, thanks to a window that opens up to the bar inside. Don't look for a raging scene at Bar 1. Instead, look for a quiet — you know, a place where can still use your (gasp!) indoor voice — friendly place to unwind and socialize in a low-pressure setting.

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