Best Bathroom 2017 | Barrio Café Gran Reserva | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix
Evie Carpenter

Based on conventional wisdom, it's just not cool to interrupt a dinner date with a trip to the bathroom. But your date will understand when you're dining at Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's Barrio Café Gran Reserva, located inside the historic Bragg's Pie Factory in the Grand Avenue Arts District. Before Esparza opened the restaurant in 2016, she had some of the Valley's best-loved muralists cover not only the interior walls of the dining area, but the bathrooms as well. Our favorite is a unisex bathroom painted by Angel Diaz, who chose a revolution theme complete with a figure dubbed El Soldado painted on the interior of the door. Pablo Luna painted the ladies' room, and Lalo Cota's work fills a nearby nook. So, at least one trip to the bathroom is a must, your dinner date be damned.

Parking lots are pretty utilitarian: Find a spot, leave your car, head out again. Which is why we love the lot at Uptown Plaza, the increasingly hip strip mall located on the northeastern corner of Camelback Road and Central Avenue. We don't know who spray-painted references to cult-classic movies on random parking spots throughout the property, but we're certainly glad they did. Time, weather, and traffic have started to fade the sayings, but drive around and look closely, and you can see "Bye Felicia" from the 1995 Chris Tucker/Ice Cube comedy Friday, "Rule #1: Cardio" from the 2009 horror comedy Zombieland, and our personal favorite, "8:30 Res @ Dorcia," a reference to the restaurant Patrick Bateman can never get into in 2000's American Psycho. Of course, once you park at Uptown Plaza, you've got plenty of great dining and shopping options to choose from, including Local Nomad, West Elm, Shake Shack, and Lou Malnati's, which makes finding a space in the lot all the more desirable.

Your car's navigation will never, ever, ever route you to the 303. That's because, based purely on mileage, it is always out of the way. But here's the thing: If you ever dare to venture the 10-15 miles out of your way, ignore the incessant route recalculations on your navigation system, and take the lovely, practically brand-new stretch, you'll discover that it takes exactly the same amount of time to get to where you were going as if you had taken the 101 or Grand Avenue. The only difference is, you'll be cruising along at top speed, without any traffic to distract you from your car karaoke. If your route should take you north, the section from Interstate 17 westward is an especially beautiful drive, the empty stretch lined with saguaros and jagged mountain peaks. Sure, you'll put more mileage on your car, but it's a hell of a lot nicer than watching taillights during rush hour, and sometimes, an even faster way to get to where you're going.

Call us traditionalists: On Halloween, we're less about topical yet sexy costumes and overpriced cover charges at bars, and more into some good, old-fashioned spookiness. Which is why we love PoeFest, an annual event in downtown Phoenix that pays homage to the creepy genius of the original master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe. For much of the month of October, PoeFest puts on live renditions of some of the author's most beloved works at the very haunted San Carlos Hotel; local actors dress up as asylum patients and perform dramatic readings of works like "The Tell-Tale Heart." The 2016 iteration, the festival's eighth, even included a seance where participants tried to make contact with Poe himself. The festival culminates with multiple readings of Poe's "The Raven" at the turn-of-the-century Rosson House on October 31. The poem is pretty short, so you can get a strong dose of Halloween spirit before donning your costume and heading off to the bar.

This is Phoenix. When Christmas rolls around, there's no winter wonderland, no riding in one-horse open sleighs, and no roasting chestnuts on an open fire (it's probably a no-burn day, anyway). What we've got, though, are mild evenings perfect for driving around and looking at holiday light displays, and the Moon Valley Neighborhood Association's 12 Homes of Christmas event in north central Phoenix is our favorite way to do it. The 29 subdivisions that comprise the MVNA include plenty of homeowners who go all out on the decorating front, including sound, light, and motion displays. Judges come through in early December to pick the delightful dozen, then produce a guide to the winners (along with winners in several other categories like the Spirit of Christmas award and the Santa's Helper award). Print out a map, pick up a hot cocoa (or an iced coffee, depending on the forecast), and get ready to light up the night.

A good Christmas lights display is equal parts awe, merriment, and pity for one's neighbors. The Sepanek home, south of the intersection of 44th Street and Camelback Road, makes you wonder if the rest of the people in the neighborhood simply take December off. Go to Fiji? Hibernate? It must be damn near impossible for the Sepaneks' neighbors to muster up the Christmas spirit to deal with the steady flow of cars come holiday time, not to mention the sleep-deprivation chambers their own houses must become, with millions of watts' worth of twinkle shining through their windows at all hours of the night. But that's not our problem. We silently thank those poor sods as we walk the grounds of the Christmas extravaganza on their block. Kids will love the bubbles, hot chocolate, and animatronic reindeers. Adults will love the fact that it's free. And everyone can get on board with the care and attention that has gone into each crèche, character, and carol singer; the display's tradition has carried on for over 30 years. Ho-ho-holy electric bill!

The Willo Historic Home Tour is our favorite see-and-be-seen old-house extravaganza. Every February, we head to downtown Phoenix to play lookie-loo at a dozen or more beautifully restored historic homes representing a variety of styles and eras: bungalows from the '20s, modified ranches from the '50s, Tudors and Craftsmans and adobes. After checking out crown moldings and wood floors and neat old furnishings, we head to the street fair featuring local vendors. Unlike some historic home tours, this one features a trolley that will take us to and fro, and an all-day pass lets us revisit our favorites, too.

This historic neighborhood sandwiches the Interstate 10 and serves up 20th-century charm. Founded by Francis Quarles Story in 1920 (hence the name), this 602-home hood features an assortment of Tudors, bungalows, and Spanish revivals — a good majority of which have been lovingly restored to their architectural heyday. Despite the slightly patchy surroundings, F.Q. delivers a serious draw: downtown proximity, pedestrian-friendly streets, and some serious curb appeal. So although homes in this area are of modest size, the real estate is pricey. No matter, we're fine oohing and aahing at the neighborhood's annual home tour in December.

We've got two words for why the Modern Phoenix Home Tour keeps returning to Paradise Gardens: Beadle Mania. The north Phoenix neighborhood nestled near Shea Boulevard and 32nd Street has some of the best examples of Midcentury Modern aesthetic in town, thanks to acclaimed architect Al Beadle, who had a hand in the initial design of the area. Whether the houses are genuinely his, however, is up for debate (supposedly, Beadle did not want his name associated with the project in the end). Regardless, the '60s-style concrete block homes are breezy and balanced thanks to curated desert landscapes and color accents that pop against earthy undertones. It's an unassuming area of town for sure, but its restaurant scene is improving, and from the right angle, it could rival a residential area in Palm Springs.

There's a little pocket of houses on the west side, bounded by Dunlap and Northern avenues and 35th and 43rd avenues, and a bunch of them are true-blue Ralph Haver homes. The renowned midcentury architect's low-slung designs are unmistakable with their slanted rooflines, clerestory windows, massive mantle-less chimneys, and tidy cinder block construction. They're also much sought after, and with fewer than 20,000 Havers in all of Arizona, we're sure this pocket tract will be hot real estate any day now. Grab one while you can, before this neighborhood even has a nickname.

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