Look, getting a sports bar right isn't exactly rocket science. So can you please explain to us why so many places seem to mess it up? For clarity and ease of execution, look to local chain Zipps Sport Grill, which does it right at all 12 locations. There's nothing fussy about Zipps, no complicated menu system, concepts, or experimental "takes" on classics, just the basics done well: cold beer, burgers, wings, fried snacks, and games on HD flat screens positioned all throughout their dining rooms on exposed brick walls, at the bar, and outside on patios. The extra touches, like shuffleboard, pool tables, and darts, are nice accents, but the core of the place is as unpretentious and uncluttered as every sports bar ought to be.

The Rhythm Room

In 2016, the Rhythm Room celebrates its 25th anniversary, a milestone few Valley venues enjoy. Founded in 1991 by harmonica man and blues DJ Bob Corritore, host of KJZZ's long-running blues showcase Those Lowdown Blues, the Rhythm Room has welcomed blues legends like Robert Lockwood Jr., R.L. Burnside, and Jimmy Smith, remaining Phoenix's No. 1 spot for blues, Americana, and jazz. This year, the club's roped in talent like jazz fusion guitarist Matt Schofield and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Steve Forbert, and continues to serve as home base for local roots groups like the Sugar Thieves, Dave Riley, and Bob Corritore's own Rhythm Room All Stars.

Karamba

Neighboring the Coronado Historic District, Karamba Nightclub is a boisterous Latin nightclub and gay bar — though they welcome all kinds. Featuring two large indoor areas and an expansive patio area, you can easily spread out on the dance floor or find a place to post up and drink. High-energy DJs like Jesus Vega and Stixx are there to entertain while you work it out, or you can come for karaoke, drag shows with your favorite local queens, and more risqué performances always on the calendar. There's something going on every night of the week at this festive danceteria, including Cumbia Tuesdays and Tejano Thursdays. Karamba Nightclub liquors up the public daily (and most holidays) from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. — and you're encouraged to stay and dance after the taps are turned off for the dry hours till 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Cash Inn Country

 With a giant dance floor, full bar, plenty of space to mingle, and killer happy hour discounts, there's a reason the Cash Nightclub & Lounge is a favorite hangout spot for the local gay and lesbian community. The vibe is laid-back, the decor is cowboy-western, and the staff and customers are friendly and welcoming. On top of that, there's something fun to do there each night of the week. From free line-dancing classes, to karaoke, dance parties with local DJs, and even the occasional painting class (with drinks, of course), the Cash Nightclub & Lounge is the perfect place to go out dancing with a group of friends or to head out on a solo adventure to meet new people.

The Rock
Lauren Cusimano

An Arizona drag icon, Barbra Seville has been around for a while — but we won't say how long. She's hosted a number of shows in town, mainly in The Rock's showroom in central Phoenix. The weekly Girlie Show — Fridays at 10 p.m. — is a treasure among them, as Seville will cap off your week with raucous lip-sync performances, fantastic comedic timing, and of course, some light-to-hysterical ribbing of the audience. She's got the range, and it goes from impersonating Sue Sylvester from Glee to Gwen Stefani to Julie Brown — singer of that dark 1980s jam, "Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun." Each Girlie Show features a few guests, including other Phoenix drag stars like Tyga Tonic and Kayla Krawford, and if you miss the Friday night show, Seville also hosts The Barbra Seville Show at The Rock on Saturdays at 10 p.m. Reservations for bachelorette parties, special events, and groups of five or more are recommended.

Stand Up Live

Part of the same empire that includes the storied Tempe Improv across town, Stand Up Live is located in the CityScape complex in downtown Phoenix, and the club brings in a roster cool enough to justify that whole drink-minimum thing. Featuring acts like Bill Bellamy, the Dan Band, JB Smoove, and podcasting titan (and Barack Obama interviewer) Marc Maron, Stand Up Live is comfortable hosting alternative comedy types and big names alike, and it's not all touring comics: Local up-and-comers also take the stage to work out new bits, refine their craft, and see what jokes fly and which ones sink. 

Part old-school lounge, part sports bar, part patio hangout, and part outdoor music venue, Shady Park has become a go-to spot for Tempe locals and those seeking some fun on Mill Avenue toward the end of the week. Shady Park's dog-friendly, tree-laden back patio includes a full bar, plenty of seating, a weatherproof sound system, and a small stage backed with a large projector screen. Scott Price, also the owner of C.A.S.A. SunBa a little farther north on Mill, and the Shady Park crew have hosted live bands, DJs, pizza parties, the monthly Shady AF Comedy Night, and, we're sure, more to come.

Pattie's First Avenue Lounge
Lauren Cusimano

If you'd like to spend time soaking up Scottsdale's nightlife scene, but don't really go for the DJ-spun atmosphere of dance clubs or the intimidating check at the finish of a high-end meal, then Pattie's First Avenue Lounge is for you — you know, the place with all the dollar bills stuck to the wall. This establishment is a dive to some and a gem to others, but there's one thing everyone can agree on: It has a killer ping-pong table. Paddles and balls are provided, and the bartender is all of 10 feet away. The ping-pong table at Pattie's is set up in the covered patio area, so though you feel like you're indoors, smoking is allowed, and so are dogs. So light up, grab a sweaty cocktail, and get ready to serve.

Q & Brew

Were one inspired, it would be perfectly easy to spend an entire evening just hanging around the Danelle Plaza on the corner of Southern and Mill avenues. Start off the night browsing records at the Double Nickels collective, grab a coffee at 51 West, take down a couple of craft whiskeys at Yucca Tap Room, and then cross the parking lot over to Q & Brew, the pool hall that has proudly stood for 27 years. There are snacks and pinball, but the main draw is the plentiful pool tables and a (usually packed) smoking table. You might see pool leagues competing or ASU students on a first date, all soundtracked by the familiar crack of the cue against balls and curses over missed shots.

Monkey Pants Bar & Grill

You're out for karaoke, it's finally your turn, and you're not sure whether you should stay seated when handed the microphone or stand awkwardly next to your table and friends — you know, for your diaphragm's sake. Not the case at Monkey Pants Bar & Grill, found in the Huntington Square Shopping Center at Southern and Mill avenues in Tempe. They have a stage — complete with a cozy living room backdrop and two microphones with stands — and you're to get up there when your name is called. Feel the hot lights like a real star during karaoke on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 8 p.m. to close — which includes the infamous One O'Clock Shirtless Shot. And while you wait, there's booze, food, and plenty of regulars belting out everything from Cyndi Lauper to Notorious B.I.G. to Rocky Horror Picture Show classics and, of course, "Love Shack."

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