Nu Towne Saloon
Benjamin Leatherman

Nu-Towne Saloon is sort of a scrappy place, and we're not saying that because of all the rough trade that stops by. This East Phoenix gay bar landmark and grand dame of the scene first opened near the equally historic Tovrea Castle in 1971 and has survived a lot of drama throughout its four-decade lifespan. We're talking recessions, the fickleness of LGBT crowds, and even a massive fire that completely wiped out its interior in 2010. Its proprietors reopened the place a year or so later after restoring the antique-heavy and memorabilia-laden décor of its signature kitschy digs to how things looked before, including the seven-foot plaster rooster statue (insert jokes here, if you must). And the crowd that considers the place its home away from home is still largely male, including bears of every size and their admirers, leather daddies visiting during the twice-weekly beer busts, and dudes looking for some, um, companionship and $1.50 shot specials during the long-running "Cruise Night" on Fridays. Hell, if nuclear war were ever to break out, we're sure Nu-Towne would somehow survive and continue to have the night, despite all the fallout.

Zoan

At Zoan, the drinks are strong, the social scene is busy, and the thrills come cheap. Rhonda Walden, longtime owner of this lesbian-oriented Melrose Curve mainstay, keeps her die-hards and girl groupies happy with daily drink specials and free entertainment four nights a week, including open mic on Mondays and karaoke on Wednesdays. Even livelier times, however, come on the weekends with drag kings, DJs spinning hip-hop and pop, or the notorious theme parties like the "White Trash Nation" or "Come Get Lei'd" affairs. Nobody sits alone for long during such revelry, and no one pays more than $5 to get in. Thing is, Zoan's varied clientele of glamazons, bois, and fembots always seem to do a pretty good job of entertaining themselves too, thank you very much, be it dancing and grinding in the colorful main room to beats or trading cheeky gossip in the posh smoking lounge, where they've spied Mercury star Brittney Griner around town.

Best Place to Find a One-Night Stand

The Mint

The Mint

Daft Punk's newest chart-scorcher, "Get Lucky," gets bumped almost hourly at The Mint, and it's a rather fitting anthem for this Old Town ultra-lounge's libertine vibe. Its busy social rites and the packed milieu of its weekend scene offer ample opportunities for those on the prowl, whether they're looking for some face time or something entirely more carnal. After all, hooking up essentially is a numbers game, right? The Mint's 12 signature cocktails, including the Gold Digger Bubbles and Life Savings Martini, make for some powerful social lubricants, and its crowded patio allows for many easy encounters. Or you could try climbing alongside one of the many ladies dancing on the furniture. Either way, should your pickup artist kung fu prove strong, a few darkened nooks and curtain-covered cabanas provide enough seclusion for private conversations or whatever happens next.

Royale Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman

If things look a little, ahem, cleaner than usual inside the Royale, it's because some changes have been taking place over the past year. Proprietor Mark Bolin, who also owns the equally iconic Do Drop Inn and Wanderin, sprung for new vinyl fixtures around the bar, ditched that old hot nuts dispenser (gasp), and had his staff remove the inch of dust covering all the liquor bottles. Feel free to relax, as everything else you love about the landmark 16th Street dive remains unchanged: the stained pressboard walls, ripped and tattered carpet (said to be as old as the bar itself), and the dented vending machines dispensing condoms with such brand names as "Temptation" or "Hugger" in the men's john. And just because Bolin spruced the place up and began serving cans of San Tan Brewery craft beer doesn't mean he's lost touch with his common man or their price bracket. Draft pints are still $2.50 apiece, Jell-O shots can be had for a buck, and microwaved bar snacks won't run you more than a fiver, allowing Royale's regulars to fill up on brews and belly-bomber eats without emptying their wallets.

Chopper John's
New Times Archives

Motorcycle aficionado John McCormick bought the former home of Warsaw Wally's and 26th Street Blues Bar in 2008 and quickly turned it into an amiable drinking hole. It's in the darkened black-and-red environs where urbane 20-somethings and downtown rocker types comfortably rub shoulders with hard-partying mustachioed bikers and neighborhood barflies. The diverse crowd is just one of many appealing elements of Chopper John's. There's also a great patio for al fresco imbibing, a couple of pool tables, free popcorn, and free live music many nights of the week and always on weekends by out-of-town bands such as Bob Log III and the Shakers and local favorites like Pat Roberts and the Heymakers, as well as various harder-rocking acts like Guns N' Roses tribute Recipe for Disaster. And during Arizona Bike Week, Chopper John's is home to one of the most colorful, booze-soaked scenes this side of Sturgis.

Seamus McCaffrey's Irish Pub & Restaurant
Jacob Tyler Dunn

The convivial vibe at this venerable downtown Irish pub is as intoxicating as the surfeit of firewater behind the antique wooden bar — and just as potent. Laughter and cheery banter spill from Seamus McCaffrey's pub's patio and perpetually open door onto Monroe Street on an almost nightly basis, getting louder as said spirits (including its wealth of imported U.K. brews, Irish whiskeys, and scotches) are quaffed. It's plenty lively, not to be missed, and is the sort of nightly craic that's been taking place at the pub since its beginnings two decades ago. We're fans of the $4 Imperial pints at happy hour, the traditional Irish offerings on the menu, and the social mix of post-work drinkers, ragamuffin artists, college preps, older professionals, younger punks, and other downtowners. The clientele is as colorful as those porcelain leprechaun statues along its walls.

Cactus Jack's
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Everything seems bigger at Cactus Jack's, which is one of its many charms. Well drinks come in pint glasses and aren't stingy on booze, daily happy hour food and alcohol deals offer big-time savings, and the $3.99 brats served on Saturdays are downright hefty. Plus, the digs at this Ahwatukee neighborhood bar not only are spacious but loaded with distractions aplenty, including felt-covered tables for Texas Hold'em sessions, basketball and bowling games, ping-pong, dart machines, and one of the longest shuffleboard tables we've ever seen. So roomy is that particular corner of the bar that it's usually where local bands and musicians perform during Friday night shows, including local blues guitarist Carvin Jones, who's been known to strut around venues while wailing away on his six-string. He'd better bring along one of his extra-long guitar cables.

An amiable neighborhood spot with the soul of a dive bar, Tony's offers its patrons the best of both worlds with heavyweight pours, sporty thrills, and an impressive (for a gin joint, that is) beer selection. And though the Glendale favorite features a spit-and-polish vibe, new-ish carpet, and faux brick from a remodel a few years back, its cocktail lounge roots are still evident via all the pressboard wood paneling peeking out, photos of regulars taped to cracked mirrors, and its $2.50 PBR tallboy cans. It ain't the only trendy brew getting snatched up for cheap by the younger-skewing crowd (which includes students from the Thunderbird School of Global Management across the street), as pints of Stella, Rolling Rock, and Goose Island IPA are $3 apiece, and Peroni and Guinness are among the bottled imports and domestics. Check the whiteboards for other specials (like $3.75 Seagrams Bombers) and apply any dollars saved toward a game of pool, which has a major following here, as evidenced by a wall heavy on league plaques. Should some shark run the table on you, there's an ATM over in one corner.

Blooze Bar

Hang out at the Blooze long enough and eventually you'll cross paths with its enigmatic and unforgettable owner, Tumbleweed. And, yes, most of the wild tales you've heard about this mountain of a man (whose enormous salt-and-pepper beard puts the dudes from Duck Dynasty to shame) are likely true. And his establishment is more or less a monument to his passions in life, including hard rock, motorhead culture, and NASCAR. A row of black-and-white illustrations of famous drivers like Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, and the late Dale Earnhardt hangs alongside the bar, pics of hot rods and explosive crashes are underneath lacquered tabletops, and there are checkered flags everywhere, like the large sign advertising inexpensive beer prices. That includes the PBR that's drunk by the gallon during its famously rowdy rockabilly sessions, held weekly since 2005. "We never have a happy hour. Everything's just cheap," remarks one purple-haired and overly tattooed female bartender. Tumbleweed wouldn't have it any other way.

Closing Soon Saloon

First, the good news: The Closing Soon won't be doing that anytime soon, so there's plenty of time to visit this Scottsdale dive institution. Just head up 68th Street and look for the word "BAR" painted in tall white letters and surrounded by twinkling Christmas lights (natch) on its front window. Second, a few patrons might eyeball you upon entry, but it's nothing personal. They're a tight-knit but fun bunch here, probably because they're packed quite cozily into the short-on-space digs and as salty as the peanuts you can nab for 75 cents. Use the change to pick up one of the used paperbacks for sale, light up the Addams Family pinball machine, or dunk in the "quarter drop" game on the bar. If you're lucky (or skilled) enough to hit the shot glass in the center, the bartender knocks a buck off whatever cocktail or draft you desire. Consider using the discount to buy a stiff one and break the ice with one of the blue-collar regulars, although they'd probably prefer a no-frills cocktail or cold one instead of a pudding shot or drunken gummy bears.

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