Best Rockabilly Bar 2014 | Rips Ales & Cocktails | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Lauren Cusimano

Bust out the Bettie Page bangs and tack on the tattoo art, because you're going to want to blend in with the best of them at Rips Ales & Cocktails. Although this Central Phoenix dive bar doesn't do much to draw attention from the mainstream masses, the acutely concave roof and retro signage reels in a specific type of local with a particular sense of style. On a regular basis, Rips puts the "rock" in rockabilly with must-see musical acts, alternative dance parties, proms, and promotional giveaways. Since its mid-century beginnings, Rips has remained a hotbed for hipsters and hot rodders alike. Consider it the pin-up that doesn't give up.

As much as we love our two-stepping and country tunes, we don't always want the full honky-tonk experience on a night out. Sometimes we want a place that splits the difference between being a regular nightclub and a spot where you can let our inner cowboy show. That's when we head to Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row. Nestled in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale's nightlife district, this bar keeps you in the middle of the action but embraces boots, hats, and other Western apparel. The dance floor isn't the biggest, but it's always crowded with guys and gals who know how to bust a country move. Best of all, there's live music nearly every Thursday and Friday night.

Jennifer Goldberg

Blunt Club is a proud gem of Phoenix's hip-hop scene. Since 2002, Blunt Club has showcased local and touring rappers every week at various venues around Phoenix. Though the location has changed over the years (the Yucca Tap Room recently has become its permanent host), the founders' vision of an open showcase for underground hip-hop has not. Throughout the years, organizers have brought in marquee talent, like (jaw-dropping) Public Enemy at Hollywood Alley, a secret Z-Trip show at Yucca Tap Room, and Afrika Bambaata and Digable Planets, and for the 12th anniversary celebration this year, world-champion DJ Chris Karns brought his mind-melting turntablism. Hip-hop is strong in Phoenix, thanks in large part to the DJs and rappers behind Blunt Club. 

Sean Watson owes his DJ career to having a whole lotta talent and a little bit of luck. Chance encounters with certain movers and shakers at The Vig shortly after his debut in 2007, for instance, led to a breakthrough residency at the trendy Arcadia spot that launched him into local prominence. It's entirely possible that Watson's late-night Saturday dance party, Kismet, has become as popular as it has over the past two years due to, well, kismet. His substantial music knowledge and talents at building an epic set probably helped, too, as does the fact there's no DJ-style posturing, no attitude, and no cover involved. Just him having a blast slinging whatever sort of nu-disco, electro, and '80s remixes that suit the moment while visual artist Matt Castleberry conjures up an ever-evolving mural of video art projections. Both creatives attract the weekend party crowd and entice Crescent concertgoers to stick around after a show with promises of a great time. "Something good might happen when you walk through the door," Watson says. Sounds like kismet to us.

Tongue Tied promoter Michele Roya Chinichian says she is a "big goofball at heart" with a soft spot for anything corny. And that's readily apparent at the monthly "crazy fun" dance parties she throws every first Saturday at Apollo's with DJ Funkfinger. To wit: Playthings like lightsabers, a stuffed unicorn, and superhero masks are the norm, cinematic cheese like Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo is on every TV, and Ace of Base and Montell Jordan pepper the indie-heavy playlist. There's a different theme each month (one party lampooned the Olympics while another was inspired by the Technicolor world of Lisa Frank) and free Otter Pops, to boot. Plus, writhing alongside the DJ booth is the neon spandex-clad spazzoid and resident interpretive dancer The Dave Driscoll Dance Machine. It all adds up to one of the most memorable club nights around, one that's more dippy fun than hipster irony. "Tongue Tied's more about having fun than being cool, which I think is lacking at a lot of hipster parties," Chinichian says. Well, that, and a dude in an electric pink bodysuit thrusting his crotch at you.

Okay, so maybe when you hear the name "Monarch Theatre," spelled with the very regal-looking "-re" instead of the pedestrian "-er," you think of a grand, historic venue. While Monarch Theatre has history, a stiff, traditional theater it is not. Rather, it's downtown Phoenix's best and most happening dance floor on any given weekend, featuring everything from touring electronic dance music producers to fashion shows. The dance floor is central to the experience here, and the warehouse-like feel to the room invokes a rave-type dance mania, making you feel so anonymous that you have no fear cutting loose to whatever music happens to be playing that night. Occasionally, it'll open its spooky basement and put on events down there, like the infamous Fight Club Sadisco*, which saw the already eerie underground adorned with stark, spray-painted cardboard bearing intimidating phrases from the movie. Whatever the event, the Monarch Theatre is just classy enough to make you want to dress up, while mysterious and exciting enough to make you want to get down.


When it comes to saying which stereotype can shake it more, we tango back and forth between the gay and Latin communities. Conveniently enough, however, there's one place in town where these two troops turn the dance floor into a tour de force. Karamba Night Club in Phoenix is a cultural fusion of fabulous, fast-paced flamenco and Latin sounds, featuring drinking and dancing specials throughout the week, including Salsa Tuesdays and Top 40 Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On any given night inside this colorful club, LGBT locals party to the beat of Latin pop and pulsating lights while they pick up cocktails and dance partners at either one of the club's full bars or generous patio. Novice high-heel wearers, beware: Your fancy feet may not be able to keep up with all this Latin flair.

Matt Hennie

Trust the well-toned, denim-clad cowboys behind the rustic bar at Charlie's — there are more than a handful of reasons to get there early and stay late. Beyond afternoon volleyball, evening dance classes and nightly drink specials, this downtown staple is home to regular entertainment from a cast of characters, after-hours parties and drink specials including "undie Mondays" and "half off with your pants off." Drink to your line-dancing heart's desire and soak it up with a plate of tacos and quesadillas from the regular taco truck, Taqueria Los Yaquis (with a very convenient service window into Charlie's back patio). You'll thank the cowboys in the morning.

Prepare to see and be seen when you walk through the unassuming doors of what regulars call "The Cash," a longtime favorite of local gays and lesbians. At the Western-themed bar, line dancing, dart-throwing, pool-shooting, and karaoke-ing are queen — and can all be the center of attention from the barstools that line the dimly lit bar and dance floor. The Cash is home to regular (and free!) dance lessons and an eclectic playlist, which make for an entertaining view.

Mountain views and resort bars go together like gin and tonic, but BLT Steak is more than just a pretty face. Classy digs and a comfy lounge area make you feel right at home — you know, if your home were a pricey resort. Add to that those cheesy, warm, and gooey popovers, some herbaceous escargot, and bright, citrusy hamachi and you have some fancy eats to match the atmosphere. Local and national craft brews on draft are available, but chances are you won't be able to pass up cocktail creations like the fig-infused Old Fashioned, apricot pie sidecar, or the mango Moscow Mule. For those looking for a romantic spot that's sure to woo, BLT Steak is the place.

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