Best Neighborhood Bar, Southeast Valley 2013 | Jupe's | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

Best Neighborhood Bar, Southeast Valley


Lauren Cusimano

Jupe's isn't exactly what you'd call stylish, but it's certainly charming as hell. A homespun and comfortably shabby townie bar serving Mesa drinkers since 1982, it's operated by an amiable clan of Midwestern transplants who keep the lighting low, the drink prices even lower, and a freezer stocked with frosty mugs. Named for the family's dearly departed patriarch, whose portrait graces one wall, Jupe's features a downright folksy and come-as-you-are atmosphere, as illustrated by the occasional regular wearing pajama pants. There's also a vintage Marlboro Man clock above the bar that never seems to work and at least one TV perpetually tuned to CMT. Well, unless it's pigskin season, which means every screen in the house showcases the jocks of either the Minnesota Vikings or the University of North Dakota. And if you decide to visit during the game in your jammies, be sure you're wearing the purple and gold variety.

As is widely thought in some circles, Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest. That obviously doesn't include the party fiends that cram into Scottsdale's El Hefe every week for one final fete before the weekend's done. Kicking off in the afternoon, 4-2-10 Sundays are five-alarm ragers of beats, booze, and scandalous behavior that typically go past midnight and fill the Saddlebag Trail taquería to capacity. As a result, the SRO situation includes tabletops and booths becoming improvised dance floors as DJs like resident Thomas James sling Top 40 and electro-house from a catwalk. Hits aren't the only thing raining down, as go-go girls fire off CO2 cannons and confetti poppers while standing atop El Hefe's bar. And at one off-the-hook party 4-2-10 party last month, a number of inflatable zebras were dropped from the ceiling, adding a touch of wildlife to an already wild scene.


It's last call, which typically means hitting the bricks, hitting up fast food, then hitting the sack, right? Maybe for you, quitter, but we're not letting the state-mandated buzzkill end our night. We're bound for Karamba, where after-hours adventures await and the party keeps going up until 4 a.m. on weekends. And once the taps are turned off and the booze bottles get stowed, the mood, music, and energy level at the popular discoteca (which has offered wee-hour wingdings for Valley insomniacs for more than a decade now) begins to change. DJ Jesus Vega holsters all the cumbias, salsas, and other Latin sounds in his extensive arsenal in favor of Top 40 music videos and uptempo EDM mixes. Meanwhile, 18-and-over types (who are allowed in after the liquor service ceases) begin to deluge the place, drain its energy drink supply dry, and get in some late-night booty-shaking alongside Karamba's always-colorful Latino clientele. Who says youth is wasted on the young?

It never fails. Every single weekend, Swift Rides manager Matt Simon gets asked the same annoying question by potential fares and inebriated coeds: Do you go all the way to North Scottsdale? And the answer, as always, is no. Same for Tempe, Mesa, or any other location more than a few miles away from Old Town Scottsdale or the entire entertainment district. "When I get that question, I usually start joking about how it'll take four hours and I don't have the gas," he says. Per city code, each of the company's fleet of gas-fueld or electrically powered golf carts is verboten from most major thoroughfares and sticks to side roads. (According to Simon, the area of coverage runs from Hayden Road west to 68th Street, and from Earll Drive north to Chaparral Road.) For most of the operating hours (which run from the early afternoon until 3 a.m. daily), Swift Rides drivers are running entire entourages between bars, taking tourists from their hotels to the hottest restaurants, or spiriting folks to a drive-thru for late-night eats. Then comes last call, when the mass exodus begins and every single cart is packed. Because who in their right mind wants to endure the walk of shame?

Speakeasies are totally awesome and all, but when it comes to getting our hands on an old-school drink that doesn't require a top secret password or a 30-minute wait, our go-to spot is Mabel's on Main. From the outside, the nondescript patio and building do nothing to indicate what you'll find inside: wingback chairs, dark wooden bar, and leather booths — in fact, the only thing keeping you from feeling totally lost in time might be the flat-screen televisions mounted on the walls. And the retro vibe doesn't stop there. The cocktail menu always includes at least one back-from-the-dead cocktail (think, a French 75 or a classic Hemingway), as well as plenty of other vintage beverage options. It also doesn't hurt that the barkeeps usually sport old-school attire like buttoned-up vests or suspenders and always are ready to chat up a storm or give you the history behind the drinks.

Luigi Richie

As old-school gamers at heart, we're partial to any sort of quarter-fed thrills of a throwback nature. So when The Little Woody opened its side room filled with retro bar games last November, it gave us yet another reason to be twitterpated with the place. It does for old, wood-paneled rec rooms what the Arcadia bar did for slummy dives, remixing a vintage lowbrow concept with highbrow verve. The result is a cozy gaming den that's as charming as it is infectiously fun. Whacking at virtual golf balls or shot-gunning pixelated deer seems dull when compared to flinging pucks on a refurbished mid-century shuffleboard machine while downing one of The Little Woody's many craft cocktails or getting into epic matches with friends on the foosball table. Other lo-fi pursuits include an Etch A Sketch, board games and puzzles, darts, and (our favorite part) the two Beer Ball-brand skeeball machines. Both offer handy drink holders and spit out coupons for complimentary cocktails to those whose aim is true. There even are the occasional organized skeeball battles, like a Deschutes-sponsored tournament in April that saw the winner score a golden growler filled with River Ale. Forget about trying to cheat your way to either a free Old Codger or a massive beer-filled trophy, since both games have Plexiglas preventing such nonsense. Besides, your friends would probably wind up razzing the crap outta you.

Now that iPods have themselves been obsolete for almost five years, it's important to know exactly why you're still looking for a jukebox. It's definitely not the selection, though the selection is important. It's not the sound quality, either, though the warmth of vinyl probably would take your mind off all the MP3s on your phone. The point of a jukebox, in 2013, is to give yourself over completely to the past, or at least your conception of the past. That makes MacAlpine's Soda Fountain the obvious pick. Sit down and have an ice cream soda — maybe after you ask what an ice cream soda is — and then mosey on over to the jukebox-est looking jukebox you'll see in Phoenix, filled with vintage, hissing 45s. Fifty years from now, your grandkids will probably reserve the same awe for your cassette boombox, but in the meantime this is as good as it gets.

Hans Olson arrived in Phoenix from San Bernadino, California, in the late '60s, not long after many of the town's musical rising stars — like Alice Cooper and Mike Condello — had departed for bigger cities. With self-deprecating wit, the guitarist, songwriter, and blues harp-blower says there was no one else around to keep him from becoming the city's biggest musical name. Since that time, Olson has shared stages with Muddy Waters, offered Tom Waits a couch to crash on when the hobo-like singer bummed into town in the '70s, and helped open the Sun Club, which would become instrumental in launching acts like the Gin Blossoms. Olson himself has kept busy recording, too: His 2013 album, Dust to Dust, simmers with a distilled variation of the blues energy he's put to tape since arriving in Phoenix. It's a record that sounds very "Phoenix," from a man who's furthered the legacy of his adopted hometown.

God, we love this job. It seems obvious now that there's an online history of greater Phoenix gay bars (other than our Facebook friends list), but we never thought about it before. Inspired by a random remark at a party a couple of years ago, we were able to confirm, at, not only that what is now Apollo's Lounge (and has been since 1985) was a gay bar even before that, but also when (in the 1970s, if not earlier) and what it was called (Mr. Fat Fingers and, later, Tommy and Clyde's "cruise 'n' boozery"). It matters not what a tacky old dump a place might be when it's a beloved neighborhood fixture like this, where you can visit with buddies on the patio, enjoy bingo, drag shows, dance nights, and special events, and give thanks for barkeeps with a generous pour.

When your parents were just gleams in your grandparents' eyes, Phoenix had few venues for popular music concerts. (This was also when pop encompassed just about every genre.) There was the Coliseum, Sun Devil Stadium, the original Compton Terrace (eventually), and, since 1963, Celebrity Theatre, which was — and still is — the classy hall with the rotating stage.

The legroom for the 2,650 seats is based on stumpy midcentury Arizonans, but no one's ever more than 70 feet away from the entertainment. Jerry Riopelle still plays the Celebrity every New Year's Eve, a tradition he started in 1974. And you never know what's up next (we also saw Michael Moore there in 2004 and KC & the Sunshine Band a bit before that), but at this point, it's safe to say it'll probably be retro or adult contemporary music, comedy, martial arts, or something on the urban side.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of