Best Dive Bar 2022 | Roadrunner Lounge | Nightlife | Phoenix
Lauren Cusimano

Every hole-in-the-wall bar has an excess of Christmas lights, equally colorful regulars, and cheap booze. The Roadrunner in south Scottsdale has all those aspects on lock, plus a few bonuses that put it over the top as the best dive in town. They've got one of the largest selections of board games we've ever seen. The quirky vibe includes googly eyes randomly arranged throughout the place. And it's also a favorite haunt of local Twitter raconteur and boozehound Clue Heywood, which counts for something. The thing that keeps patrons from all over the Valley coming in, though, is a sense of family. There are photo collages of patrons adorning the colorful walls. The staff goes out of their way to ensure everyone's staying safe while in the throes of their alcohol-fueled bliss. Napkins are placed over drinks if you step away to use the restroom. Bartenders will spot you a buck if you need something salty or sweet from the vending machine. And they'll eagerly arrange a ride if you've had too many. That's how the late Willie and Cassie Franano, the mother and daughter who owned the Roadrunner, ran the joint, and its current proprietors are happy to keep things that way.

Benjamin Leatherman

We fell in love with Valley Bar on our first visit. Because what's not to love? From the well-crafted cocktails named after Arizona politicians past and present, to the iconic shadow mobile telling the story of the infamous Phoenix Trunk Murders of the 1930s and the quirky vintage decor, Valley Bar continues to be an impossibly cool place to hang out. We recommend ordering a classic menu item like the Sandra Day Old Fashioned or a newer drink, the Ground Control to Captain Kelly, made from Singani 63, Giffard's Orgeat, John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum, Montenegro, passionfruit, and lemon. Once you've got a drink in hand, you can play some darts or some Skee-Ball, post up in one of the cozy booths, or head to the other side of the basement space to watch a concert. We also enjoy socializing in the bar's secret library. If you don't know where to find it, well... we're not going to tell you.

Lauren Cusimano

Highball's cocktails are beautiful, topped with fresh sprigs of mint and served in cut-glass coupes. But you can't really see them. You have to let your taste buds do the judging at this impressively dark bar. Very low lighting casts a moody glow over shiny leather chairs and patrons donning their nighttime best. Cocktails, created by Valley bar experts Libby Lingua and Mitch Lyons, rotate with the seasons. As dark as it is, it would make sense if this bar inhabited a basement. But quite the opposite. Find it located on the second floor, up a steep flight of stairs on McDowell Road and Seventh Avenue. Highball welcomes customers to ascend into the darkness.

Chris Malloy

The concept of a pool bar often brings to mind watered-down, unimpressive cocktails, where the goal is for the drinks to be refreshing enough to beat the heat. But Lylo Swim Club breaks free from those boundaries. Located at the Rise Uptown Hotel, Lylo is an inventive cocktail bar that just so happens to be outside and located next to a pool. Colorful tiles decorate the tables, wicker basket lamp shades hang over the bar, and retro patio chairs and sofas give the space a Tulum-meets-midcentury feel. The cocktail menu, created by Ross Simon of award-winning bars Bitter & Twisted and Little Rituals, includes tropical tipples like the passionfruit and vanilla Star Martini, the cucumber-laced Mr. Hendricks, and the mezcal and mango Lazy Daze. Frozen items including the berry daiquiri and the sorbet bellini riff off classic poolside drinks and serve flavors that scream summer vacation all year long.

Cigar bars may have seen their heyday in the 1990s, but there are still plenty of folks who enjoy a nice smoking session with their adult beverage. The two locations of Fox Cigar Bar cater to those who have good taste in cigars and drinks and who like bustling, high-energy drinkeries. The walk-in humidors have a broad selection, and the bars have 14 rotating beer taps plus 400 premium spirits, including more than 200 whiskys, bourbons, and scotches. Add in plenty of TVs showing all the sports you can handle, and big, comfy chairs, and you've got an atmosphere designed for relaxation and fun. And if you prefer to smoke in the comfort of your own home, Fox has got it covered: Its online store will ship you all the stogies you want.

Tirion Boan

First things first: Go to The White Rabbit's website and sign up for the bar's emails so you can obtain the monthly password (one email a month is all they send you). Then, you're ready to go down the rabbit hole. The underground speakeasy is located in downtown Gilbert's historic Heritage Court building. The vibe is a mix of dark academia and Victorian-era apothecary; gallery walls full of antique photos overlook comfy leather sofas, and rows of bottles line the hallway to the entrance. The draw here is the cocktails, which are organized on the menu from least to most sweet. We're fans of the sweet and spicy Lil' Tricky, a blend of Ghost Tequila, Los Vecinos Mezcal, passionfruit, guava, amaro, agave, citrus; and the rich, comforting Hedonist Chic, made from Dos Maderas 5+5 Rum, vanilla, oat milk, baking spice, caramelized banana, brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnut. The cocktails are quite potent, so consider pairing them with one of White Rabbit's flatbreads (we like the chicken pesto) so your adventures in wonderland don't end on a sour note.

Tirion Boan

UnderTow may have moved from its original spot underneath Sip Coffee & Beer to a space next door in the same building as Century Grand, but it'll never leave the place it's held in our hearts since it opened. The cocktail bar designed to look like a 19th-century ship's hold serves up some of the best atmosphere and most inventive drinks in town. The menu reads like a maritime fable, and includes classic tiki drinks and wild creations from the mixology team. Despite the move, some things are still the same at UnderTow: reservations are strongly recommended, and be prepared to disembark the ship after 90 minutes. But we stay there as long as we can to soak up the surroundings. And we're looking forward to when the UnderTow crew adds another ship to the fleet: A second location is scheduled to open in October at Gilbert's Epicenter at Agritopia.

Did someone say pinball? Tucked away in downtown Gilbert's Heritage District is the new nightspot Level 1 Arcade Bar. Inside, it's all retro. The bar is checkered and the bar top glows neon pink. More often than not, throwback jams play over the speakers. Each pinball machine at Level 1 has a camera that displays the game on a TV screen mounted above the machine. Everyone can watch, and pinball becomes the communal experience it was always meant to be. But Level 1 is way more than just pinball. They have more than two dozen other arcade games (think classics like Centipede and Mortal Kombat), a full kitchen, and a bar with on-theme drinks like Jose Dirt, Hadouken, and Son of a Glitch. Level 1 also has rotating weekly features, a happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m., and daily specials such as Token Tuesday and Throwback Thursday.

Best Place to Take a Drink Geek


Behind the dark bungalow that houses local foodie favorite Lom Wong, underneath swinging lanterns, is a small black building with a white tiger. There, you'll find some of the most exciting cocktails in the Valley. Khla is a celebration of Southeast Asian flavors concentrated into a cocktail program built by some of the best in the Valley. Tyka Chheng, Colton Brock, and John Sagasta initially joined forces to create Baby Boy at The Pemberton, and Khla is their latest creation, with Chheng heading the cocktail program. The menu is heavily influenced by his personal life and draws on flavors that aren't typical of Phoenix cocktails. Expect galangal-infused honey, tamarind, ube, a vegan take on fish sauce, and Thai tea-infused bourbon, to name a few. So if a cocktail in a coupe glass with a floating slice of dried citrus is getting boring, Khla is precisely the place to be.

Not too long ago, any discussion about the Valley's best blues bar seemed to center exclusively on either The Rhythm Room or Char's Has the Blues. Both spots are hallowed and esteemed, but once Westside Blues & Jazz in Glendale came along, the conversation changed. Opened in 2021 by Paul Vincent Perez and Cindi Jackson, two lifelong devotees of the genre, the venue has become a favorite spot to catch live blues and R&B four nights a week. It oozes style and class with a speakeasy-like ambiance, a stage backed by a red brick wall, and Chesterfield-style seating. The joint's popularity has only grown since its debut, as has its roster of local blues performers. Legendary bluesman Chuck Hall, Grammy-nominated guitarist/vocalist Charles "Cros" Mack, and R&B/funk act Moe Flavour now gig at Westside Blues & Jazz on the regular, and thanks to the primo acoustics, you'll hear every single riff they play clearly. When you factor in the attentive staff, a deep selection of libations, and the fact there ain't a bad seat in the house, it's likely you'll never sing the blues after spending an evening out here.

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