Bar Smith

To most people, the term "BFF" stands for "best friends forever." At Sean Watson's Friday night dance affair, BFF, the acronym could mean anything, depending on the whims of its DJs. "We've had all these different names for it," Watson says, laughing. "It's been Big Fun Fridays, Best Friends Forever, or even Big Fucking Fantastic. We've changed it up a bunch of times." The name isn't the only thing that's changed at the event, which has gone down at Bar Smith almost every weekend for six years. BFF's soundtrack, setting, and DJ lineup constantly have evolved, going from a house and techno night on the venue's rooftop to a diverse dance party on both floors of the club with a mix of local DJs. (Watson, Cormac, and Klu are its current residents.) "We started getting into deeper stuff, indie dance, and future bass," Watson says. "And then downstairs has everything now: trance nights, bass nights, underground stuff ... all these different genres." One constant, though, has been the vibe. "It's always been this intimate experience where you're always close with other people, everyone knows your name, and everyone's dancing together and having a good time," Watson says. You know, just like some BFFs.

For nocturnal dance fiends looking to sink their fangs into a dark groove on a weekly basis, LILITH is the place to be. Over the last few years, DJ Tristan Iseult has hosted a no-cover goth night at Stacy's @ Melrose. The event, like the venue itself (formerly known as Sanctum), has gone through name changes over the years. It was called Sour Times, but Iseult has rechristened his dance party with the name of the great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of goth: Lillith, first wife of Adam, and mother of all things that go bump in the night. Going to a LILITH night, it's plain to see why this Wednesday show has been a late-night Valley staple for so long. The place is regularly packed, the venue's general decor and ambience fit the music perfectly, and DJ Tristan brings the jams. His sets run the gamut of dark music, going from the early post-punk days to modern acts like Cold Cave and Tamaryn. And while you can expect to hear a few familiar gems each time, Iseult varies his music constantly, so you can always expect to get a few new earworms stuck in your head after a night of getting your goth-stomp on at LILITH.

Let's set the scene here — paint a picture, if you will. You walk up to the bouncer; he checks your ID. It's a fake — oh no, the cops are called. Just kidding. (That's probably been the experience of plenty of people, though.) After you get the go-ahead from the bouncer, you walk in, see the intimate (code for tiny) space filled with couples of all ages grinding. Okay, the usual, besides some questionable age gaps. You push through the crowd. Oh, there's a dance circle? Oh, no. You see a couple awfully close, too close. Are they allowed to be doing that? Are his pants down? Is she ...? Time to move on. You've been out for a minute, so it's time to check out the facilities. Not your usual restroom, or your average restroom attendant. We'll leave it to you to check out what they're selling. Time for a drink that takes a little too long to make. You spot an open seat at a booth toward the back. Finally, a minute to relax, sip on your drink, and process what you've seen (or watch The Green Mile on the TV above the bar — true story).

The beauty of 12 West is part beer — an array that can satisfy both the craft newbie and wonk — and part location. Inside, at the 12 West bar, you have a view across the room at the wood-fueled Fire and Brimstone Pizza oven; a baked potato pizza is never more than a few steps away. Out on the patio, you can soak up rays and admire Barnone, the complex housing the brewery. Beers have enough range to keep you drinking. Co-founder and head brewer Noel Garcia can nail crushable classics, like pilsner (see Zona Pils). His standby New England-style IPA is lush and dank, with some tropicality. Lately, too, the brewery has ventured into experimental territory: a line of mixed-culture sours. Like a long day filled with all kinds of wild beers, this brewery just keeps getting better with age.

Best Place to Have a Drink and Watch the Sunset

Orange Sky

Orange Sky at Talking Stick Resort

If you are looking for a place to treat yourself and feel fancy AF, go to Orange Sky at Talking Stick Resort and knock back a few pricey but delicious cocktails while watching the sun set over some of the beautiful mountains that surround the Valley. Orange Sky is a great place to go if you have something to celebrate, want to impress friends or family from out of town, or are just having the worst week ever and prefer to lick your wounds by dropping a bunch of money like you actually have it. The service is great, the view is unbeatable, and the food is incredible. Unlike many high-end restaurants, the portion sizes at Orange Sky match the price, and it feels pretty cool to be literally guided behind a velvet rope to the outside portion of the restaurant and seated near a shallow reflection pool. Space is limited outside, so if you'd like to get a sunset view, be sure to make a reservation. And bring a sweater for when the sun sets — it's windy all the way up there.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Lauren Saria

If your parents, like many, are suburbanites, and you'd like to give them a taste of downtown Phoenix — as well as a wild craft cocktail — there's no better place than Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour. This is for two reasons: One, it's a full-on operation, complete with team members with headsets, waiting outside even if there are open tables, and the annually released Book o' Cocktails. For 2019, the 18-page menu lists more than 60 craft cocktails with a big-top theme — think the Three-Ring Circus, Irish Passport, Bourbon Butter Cloud, and Peachy Keen. The second reason doesn't concern alcohol at all. If mom or dad is designated as driver, or doesn't partake, there's a full page of mocktails — like the Nada Colada and Storms a Brewin'.

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano

From the vantage point of Mill and Southern avenues, all you can see of Yucca Tap Room is the smokers' patio. There's something poetic about this (in a quintessentially Tempe sense of poetic). Yucca has given live music a dependable home in Tempe for 40 years and remains one of the true old-guard stalwarts from the days of (cue Jimmy Eat World song) Nita's Hideaway and Long Wong's. In the last year, Yucca added to its identity as bar and music venue two vital elements: Bao Chow and the Electric Bat Arcade. Bao Chow's sandwiches are available to the hungry of all ages before 7 p.m., when the Tap Room puts on its party hat. After that, the dozens of drafts and the affordable back room of pinball machines and classic arcade games give Yucca a Hotel California-type persona of becoming quite difficult to leave. With all this, plus live music onstage almost 365 days a year (often at no cover), you can guarantee that Yucca will give you a great night to sleep off in the morning.

Casey Moore's Oyster House
Tom Carlson

The afternoon temperature could be well beyond 100 degrees, but that won't deter many from posting up on the wraparound patio at Casey Moore's Oyster House. The Tempe bar and eatery, but mostly bar, is a go-to for many Tempeans — either for pregame, post-game, or the game. And for many, the open-air seating and back bar of Casey's is a haven for a couple of reasons. You can drink, order food, bring your dog till 5 p.m., and smoke 'em if you got 'em — even if you have to bum one (no judgment). And you can see the little illuminated cherries, especially at night, flying around as someone recounts a hopefully hilarious story after a couple of tall cold ones.

Palo Verde Lounge
Jacob Tyler Dunn

There are dive bars, and then there's the Palo Verde in Tempe. A place where obnoxious graffiti covers both restrooms, the default aroma is a hybrid of body odor and old cigarettes, and filth is caked on every surface like stucco on a tract home. Frankly, we wouldn't change a single thing about the Dirty Verde. It's a scrappy little shithole (and we say that with love) that's been a go-to spot for slumming for several decades now. The drinks are cheap and sometimes amusingly named (like the "Hammjob," for instance), hard-rock shows and fun DJ nights happen frequently, and its mix of neighborhood regulars and the young and hip equals nonstop people-watching. Plus, flushing the men's room toilet involves tugging on a Rube Goldberg-like setup consisting of pulleys, bandanas, and a dog leash. The PV might be skeevy, but she's always a good time.

Big Daddy's Sports Lounge

Big Daddy's was everything a sports bar should be: The beer was cold, the lighting dim, the TVs always on. There was vinyl upholstery on the booths, mismatched chairs at the tables, and karaoke every Saturday night. Then, it almost went away last summer after more than 30 years in north Phoenix. Dave "Big Daddy" Smith retired and sold his beloved Sunnyslope neighborhood joint. Apparently, the new owners tried to turn it into yet another barbecue eatery, eschewing the expansive menu of burgers, wings, pizzas, hot dogs, deep-fried everything, and, oh, those Wisconsin cheese curds that had made Big Daddy's the place to stuff your face during big games and horse racing (yes, it has off-track-betting windows, too). But never fear. Like the Cleveland Browns, whose diehard fans make their home there every Sunday, Big Daddy's is back. Smith came off the sidelines and regained control last January, restoring everything as it was, even re-hanging his collection of sports memorabilia that had been removed from the walls. Not that Big Daddy's is totally a creature of the 20th century. You can now order online for pickup or delivery. So if you don't like to watch the game outside the comfort of your man cave, you can have the Big Daddy's Special, a 26-inch pizza and 50 wings, brought to your front door.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of