Best Lounge 2010 | T. Cook's at The Royal Palms | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Royal Palms Resort and Spa
We've always loved the patio at the Royal Palms, where you can sip champagne under the stars. But, lately, we've been pledging fidelity to the graceful lounge just inside the front door. Choose either a comfy couch or a seat at the curved bar, settle in with a craft cocktail, and let pianist Dwight Brewer sweep your heart away. This is the rare bar in town where you would not feel out of place in a little black dress. or even a big one; this is a lounge for adults, not club kids.
Lauren Cusimano
Looking for the piss-quality beer special of the night? It ain't happening at Taste of Tops, and that's completely fine by us. The casual bar and lounge, open for business since October 2009, is an incarnation of longtime fave Tops Liquors, which pretty much sells every beer ever. However, at Taste of Tops, you're not going to find Piss Lite or even Guinness and Newcastle. Instead, the bar offers an insane amount of bottled beer (more than 500 selections), so, like a vinyl nerd in a record shop, connoisseurs of fine beers can scavenge for their favorite brewski oddities and/or discover suds unknown to their palates. If you're famished, the place offers nibbles, or you can bring in takeout food from neighboring restaurants such as Thai Basil. Taste of Tops also showcases beer and wine tastings about 10 to 15 times a month, as well as hosts a monthly art opening.
Meagan Simmons
Some people say that beer is an acquired taste. We're inclined to agree, but only if they mean the same way breathing is. Beer is one of the greatest gifts mankind has bestowed upon himself, which is why its popularity has endured for millennia. But for you oddballs who feel that you need to slowly dip your toes in the serene and blissful pool that is beer, rather than diving in with your mouths wide open, there is Papago Brewing Company's Orange Blossom Beer. This is the perfect brew for the soulless prudes who "just aren't beer people" or "don't like the taste of beer" or "are in a 12-step program" (good for you!). From the first sip, Papago's Orange Blossom covers you in a blanket of creamy, orange-flavored goodness that will change your life forever. You're welcome.
As Phoenix's beer culture continues to grow in size and refinement, it seems more and more seasonal brews are hitting taps around town each season. SanTan Brewing's Winter Warmer is the gold standard. You can get the dark, malty brew only when the mercury dips into the 50s, but it's worth waiting all year for. Robust, thick, and sweet, like some of the best Belgian imports, this beer nevertheless has enough hoppiness to taste like an American microbrew. It's served chilled, of course, but it lives up to its name, causing a mild and pleasant warming sensation. The Winter Warmer is served in a fancy glass and paired with a gingersnap, which adds a little something. If having a cookie with your beer sounds silly to you, it's obvious you haven't had this one.
Best place to drink PBR that isn't behind the trash bin in an alley? Yes, it's true, we've got a different fave spot for sucking some PBR down — the Old Skool 50 Cent PBR Night at The Rogue Bar. This dive bar (turned hipster dance club turned rock venue) still knows how to treat its guests to a night of cheap consumption of booze. And, after reading this little blurb, you can impress fellow patrons with your knowledge of its origins: They call it "Blue Ribbon" because, according to its makers, the brew was named America's Best at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. And if the local ruffians aren't impressed by your useless knowledge, make amends by buying a round — it's not gonna break you.
Every day before 5 p.m., you can sample any wine on the list at Postino for just $5 a glass. And though we know plenty of establishments that offer similar weekday deals on house wines, Postino's offer really is the best for two reasons. One, the offer also is good on weekends, when the patio is a great spot for lunch, a mid-afternoon nosh, or early happy hour. Two, this wine list is incredibly well curated; there's not a dog on it. We've discovered many a new favorite simply by trusting our waiter. (Unlike at lesser places, Postino makes the waiters try everything on the list, so you really can trust their judgment.) And there's another great option for people who hate day drinking: On Mondays and Tuesdays after 8 p.m., you can get a bottle of any wine on the list, plus a giant board of Postino's signature bruschetta, for just $20.
Happy hour is happy hour is happy hour, right? At Fez, it's a celebration that takes place seven days a week, 4 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight. Its principal features are pretty standard: two-for-one well, draft, and bottled beer and signature margaritas, $3 house wine, and $6 small plates. Not so ordinary are Fez's insanely tasty daily food specials, served at the bar and yanked right from the daily menu, so we can have all our favorites for less than half-price as we savor our post-work cocktails. On the second and fourth Sundays of every month, happy hour gets transformed into a "Fez Foodies" party — with tasting plates and boutique drink specials — from 5 'til 8 p.m. Happy hour here also lets us try new Fez foods (which is how we discovered how much we love their garlic and rosemary fries). Who's not happy?
Orange trees and Japanese flower stands hugged a quiet two-lane road in the early years of South Phoenix. On that same road today, in a still-quiet lot across from a lone gas station, Amano Pizza Bistro is working to make some noise. Eric and Katy Bower opened their neighborhood bistro as a place where locals and foodies can chat over a glass or two of wine in the shadow of South Mountain. But enough relaxing: It's happy hour. Tuesday nights are half-off bottles of wine, Thursday nights are ladies nights (girls get $3 glasses of reds and whites), and on Sundays, kids eat free. If the Bowers keep it up, that lot may not be so quiet much longer.
A friend of ours is in love, and it's not with a girl or even with his cat. No, this guy is besotted with District, the swanky restaurant bar at the downtown Sheraton. He loves the long, curvy bar where he can cozy up to a tart Sage Julep (Maker's Mark and lemon juice with limes and tiny sage leaves), a house specialty and one of a long list of muddled drinks on the drink menu. Pretty much everything on the bar's food menu (we love the house-baked bread served with olive oil from Queen Creek) is locally grown — another reason to love District. But what our pal loves most is that all this stuff — the bread, the hooch, the tasty bar plates — is marked way down, twice a day: once in the late afternoon and again during reverse happy hour at night. In other words, our friend's true love is a cheap date.
We're prone to weeping because happy hour at Tuscan Oven doesn't take place 24 hours a day. True, it keeps us occupied and blissful Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., with $4 domestic and imported beers and all signature drinks and wines by the glass priced at $3 off. But why can't it just go on and on? Why must we wait 'til late afternoon for specials like fried green beans or calamari, both available for a wee fee of $5 from the bar's small-plate menu? Why can't the mixologists come home with us to blend Pama pomegranate liqueur and Bacardi with fresh lime, club soda, and raw sugar, so that we don't have to go to them for a happy hour special called a Pamajito, which has changed both our tiny lives and our idea of what makes a great happy hour?

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