Best Last- Minute Save 2022 | The Lost Leaf | Nightlife | Phoenix
The Lost Leaf

At the beginning of February, Eric and Lauren Dahl, the former owners of The Lost Leaf, made an announcement: The beloved bar and music venue would be shutting its doors in just six weeks. The pandemic — plus a rent hike — had left the couple with few choices but to let go of their longtime business. The news was a shock to the arts community. The Lost Leaf, which lives in a charming abode on Fifth Street in Roosevelt Row, is a longtime staple in the arts scene — hosting a neverending lineup of free shows, selling local brews, and giving funk bands and experimental DJs an audience and a stage. The reaction was swift. At one February show, a DJ led the crowd in a chant of "Save the Leaf." The slogan was graffitied and hashtagged for weeks — until, at last, in a truly cinematic save, local developer David Cameron announced he would buy the venue and keep its doors open. So far, The Lost Leaf has retained its familiar, quirky character, and a consistent slate of stellar artists.

We're way past the time when something like MTV is still valid. Without sounding too crotchety, the internet has taken over as the vessel for musical exploration. But curation is still a good thing, and even if it isn't as marketable on a global/national level, it's nice to have someone show you good music. In this case, it's Sam Means (of Hello Merch and The Format fame) who, with a team of collaborators, has created Wastoids. It's a one-stop local media conglomerate, doling out performance videos and podcasts from local and regional acts. So, whether you're looking for rap (like MC Magic), hardcore punk, or psych-jazz — not to mention visual arts — Wastoids delivers it in a delightfully DIY capacity. It's like stumbling on some music video program circa 1987 — if all the production was top-notch and the VJs knew their stuff like Greil Marcus. It's places like Wastoids that both promote and reflect the culture of the Valley, and demonstrate just how much great art happens in the city if you just pay attention. And, on the plus side, they're always on, direct from some extra kooky corner of the World Wide Web.

Jennifer Goldberg

In the constantly evolving metro Phoenix nightlife scene, there's something comforting about walking into a bar that never changes. For as long as we've been bar-legal, Casey Moore's has been a go-to hangout. We love the building, a house built for the Moeur family in 1910 that's purported to be haunted (we're still waiting to see a ghost, though). We love the expansive patio area with its table and bar seating, twinkle lights, and shade trees. And we love the menu; the food side is stocked with tried-and-true dishes including the eponymous oysters and our favorite, the cajun cream linguine with chicken, while the drink side has everything we need for a raucous night with friends. Casey's has the unique ability to be familiar and comforting without succumbing to monotony. To that end, we hope it always stays the same.

Tirion Boan

If you're interested in agave spirits, why not go to a self-described "back-alley mezcal bar"? The two-story concept from David Tyda starts with a ground-floor cantina where a staircase descends into a dark, upscale cocktail parlor where everything is rooted in agave. The downstairs menu is one of the most comprehensive crash courses in agave in the Valley: It delves into the differences, histories, and descriptions of each agave spirit available at the bar. The cocktails and mezcal selections are top-notch and use high-quality and exciting ingredients. Favorites include the clarified HorChaiChata, Elote Moda with Mezcal Vago Elote and ancestral corn whiskey, and Rosemary's Ofrenda. New bars in downtown Phoenix seem to pop up constantly, but we hope Barcoa's unique concept helps it stick around for a long time to come.

Tirion Morris

When Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin of Tacos Chiwas and Rene Andrade of Bacanora teamed up to open Espiritu Cocktails + Comida on Mesa's Main Street, they wanted cocktails to show off their Mexican heritage — and they wanted Adrian Galindo heading it up. "He's that guy," says Hernandez, referring to Galindo's rare ability to be chemist, psychiatrist, best friend, and showman all at once, a master at making intoxicating drinks in an intoxicating way. Galindo, who helped run Ghost Ranch and Bacanora's drinking programs, got into bartending because he loves to be the center of attention, but he's much more than a spotlight-seeker. Sit at the bar, and Galindo can wax poetic about the finer points of mezcal or geek out on the terroir of raicilla, all while lighting things on fire — sugar cubes are a fave — and dripping blood-red bitters down a clay skull mug. It's a full sensory experience. Stay till last call for his Chante Power Hour. It's worth it.

There's usually something fun going on at Boondocks in Tempe. It could be trivia night, rowdy ASU fans packing the place after a game, live tunes by local musicians, or a UFC fight on pay-per-view. But even on the slowest of evenings, we always feel welcome and content. While its sister location in Old Town Scottsdale is more of a party bar, the Tempe outpost is typically more mellow, the kind of place you hit up for lunch or to catch up with an old friend over a couple of beers. Show up regularly, and it won't take long for the bartenders and waitstaff to start recognizing you. You'll get familiar with the menu, which offers top-notch bar food like garlic fries and a lineup of creative burgers. And you'll start thinking of Boondocks Tempe as your go-to bar, a place where the staff and regulars may not know your name, but they'll smile when they see your face.

For all its faults, Scottsdale's entertainment district doesn't tend to dwell on the past. When a particular nightspot fizzles out, its owners — and the clubgoer crowd — typically move on to something new. So when the bygone Cake Nightclub was resurrected earlier this year after a five-year absence, it was notable, particularly since it was a tremendous upgrade from its original location just up Saddlebag Trail. Version 2.0 of Cake is larger, louder, and more decadent than before. The glow-up included tripling its size and doubling down on its over-the-top amenities. Now, there are even more posh VIP areas, a bigger outdoor patio, and a massive video wall. The club's licentious and libertine vibe has become more potent as locals come to drink, dance, and debauch as aerialists perform from rings hanging from the ceiling and big beats come from the sound system. Subtlety has never been Cake's style. Heck, it's never been a thing in Scottsdale, period.

It's been a rough couple of years for downtown Tempe nightlife. First, the pandemic wiped out a number of DJ-friendly spots along Mill Avenue. Then, popular electronic dance music hub Shady Park went dark earlier this year after losing a legal battle over noise issues with neighboring senior adult community Mirabella at ASU. So when Darkstar launched in April, it was quickly embraced by clubgoers and EDM fans eager for a new place to get down and go hard. The two-story, 4,500-square-foot dancing and drinking haven features amenities geared toward the party crowd, including some not found at other Mill Avenue bars. A mezzanine level is perched above the enormous dance floor, allowing people-watching and great views of the DJs. The A/V setup boasts a PK Sound system and multiple large-scale HD video screens behind the stage. And local concert promoter Relentless Beats books a wide variety of EDM superstars here, ranging from legends like Bad Boy Bill to such festival-quality artists as JAUZ, Cut Snake, and Mat Zo. Looking for the Valley's best new nightspot? Set course for Darkstar in Tempe.

Luckys Indoor Outdoor

Inside, Luckys feels like a vintage dive bar you went to once but can't remember. There's an antler chandelier when you walk in, the walls are paneled in wood, some barstools are red, and there's a pool table. Of course, plenty of details make it not your parents' dive bar, like how clean it is. But outside, there's a beautiful, expansive patio — and that's where the magic happens (or maybe it's just the Jell-O shots kicking in). The lights strung overhead are red, and the twilight glow makes it too easy to lose track of time when the weather is fine, and the company is good. Luckys has swings, long tables on a covered deck, bocce ball, a skyline view, and a food truck that says no more than "Hot Food." When it's midnight and you're six Cold Snacks in, you don't need more details than that. It also doesn't hurt that the Luckys patio is dog-friendly and the drinks are deceptively strong.

Tirion Boan

Those of us who don't drink are no longer settling for "mocktails" composed of nothing more than fizzy water and juice. Garden Bar PHX is an incredible new spot for nonalcoholic cocktails; Kim Haasarud, owner and palate wizard, gives Garden Bar's virgin drinks the same attention as everything else on her award-winning menu. Haasarud stocks the bar with alcohol-free, distilled spirits that mimic spirits' properties or create an entirely new experience. There are a few ways to drink NA at Garden Bar. First, many of their cocktails can be made NA by swapping for a spirit alternative by their profoundly knowledgable mixologists. Otherwise, Garden Bar has a spirit-free cocktail section with standalone cocktails made with CBD tincture and spirit alternatives. A blackberry vanilla margarita, whiskey smash, and a gin alternative drink called Green Bee were featured this summer, but whatever beverages are on seasonal menus to come, we know they're going to be great.

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