Driving around in this dusty, strip-mall metropolis, the bars have a tendency to look the same. We are here to tell you: They are not. Phoenix's drinking scene is deeply varied and constantly evolving. Of late, we've seen a surge of craft-cocktail lounges and breweries — places where imagination and adventure are valued above all else, whether in the form of creative historical design motifs or a bonkers combination of ingredients that adds up to a truly delicious beer. Just as essential, though, are the old standbys: The comfortable but confident neighborhood bars and dives that make it seem like a Coors Light, air conditioning, and some friendly conversation are all you could ever need in this world. Ultimately, every bar in the Phoenix area — every good one, at least — has its own personality, its own virtues. Good for a first date. A place to make new friends. A satisfying post-hike stop. And on and on. These joints — listed alphabetically, not ranked — are the 100 best drinking destinations in metropolitan Phoenix, according to us. And we would know. We've gone drinking in all of 'em. By Lauren Cusimano, Benjamin Leatherman, David Hudnall, Chris Malloy, and Jennifer Goldberg
Dreamy Draw is arguably one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the Valley, so it makes sense that it would also boast one of the sleekest beer bars in town. Formerly Irene’s Tap Room, 1227 is located in a funky, easily accessible (as in, plenty of parking and bike-rack space) strip mall that’s also home to a T-shirt shop, tattoo parlor, thrift store, and the Zombi World Market & Occult. Inside, you’ll find tables, chairs and a long, L-shaped cement bar from which to order beers and ciders on tap from Wren House Brewing Co., Helton, and Cider Corps. (You can also peruse the cans and bottles at one of three large fridges in the back.) Food-wise, 1227 serves small pizzas but also encourages patrons to bring in their own food. And if you’re feeling frisky, ask for a mystery beer: a brown-bagged can of who-knows craft beer for $3.
Know before you go: The entrance to Aguila's Hidaway is located behind Dysart Liquor in Avondale. That’s the first “hidaway” part. The second part is that this neighborhood bar — once Wendy Jack’s Hideaway, then just Hideaway, now owned by Javier Aguila, who decided to drop the “e” — is a former bomb shelter that opened as an underground bar in 1962, back when Avondale was a dry city. (Aguila says the bar got away with serving booze in those days on the technicality that alcohol was being served below the premises.) An above-ground bar and kitchen, where pool, darts, karaoke, arcade games, and drinks are in supply, was built in 2006. But the underground lives on, too, as the bar-nightclub The Bunker.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. opened its downtown Phoenix beer garden (the original’s in Gilbert) in 2019 with the goal of becoming the living room of Roosevelt Row. To say it has succeeded would be an understatement. The massive patio, sun-shaded and full of native plants meant to attract local birds and bugs, is a major draw in the neighborhood, to the point that the crowds sometimes spill over into a line down the sidewalk. Popular beers include Refuge, the “flagship IPA incepted in our founder’s garage,” or so the menu states, as well as the DON'T F#%K IT UP Blonde Ale and the Belgian-style witbier Sonora White. The food rocks, too: We like the PB&J Burger and the duck fat fries.
People come from all over Phoenix (all over the world, really) to eat at Pizzeria Bianco, which famously serves some of the finest pizza in the United States. The wait times can be long. Rather than asking diners to mill around Heritage Square for an hour (or more, on the weekends), the Bianco folks converted a historic home next door to the pizzeria into a pre-dinner drinks destination called Bar Bianco. The quaint charms of this creaky house bar are such that the waiting actually enhances the overall dining experience. The bartenders, who keep a smart collection of spirits behind the bar, can make you pretty much anything. Take your drink out to the front porch and see if you can get one of the cats that roam the grounds to give you a nuzzle. Your table will be ready soon enough.
The original Cornish Pasty Co., at Hardy and University drives in Tempe is a lovely place to enjoy hearty food and thick beers from the U.K. But it’s more of a restaurant than a bar; it’s even family-friendly to some degree. Do a little exploring inside Cornish, though, and you’ll stumble upon The Beast, which is where you can get some real drinking done. The Beast can be accessed by either the dark front entrance, the trash-piled back entrance, or by weaving through the Cornish, past the bathrooms, and toward the red, glowing light on the other end of the restaurant. You might also follow the sound of blaring metal, even a live show, though you’ll have to let your eyes adjust to discover which. At the bar, you may order food, a frothy Guinness, or any number of house cocktails, and watch the cooks prepare dishes using the warped, worn, and charred pots and pans (presumably Cornish’s secret sauce). There’s pool and darts, too. The Beast is so named in honor of the now-gone 6 East Lounge that was on 7th Street east of Mill Avenue, which everyone called The Beast because the 6 looked like B.
In a town as young as Phoenix, a bar that’s been around since 1947 certainly counts as a grande dame of the local drinking scene. Long before Interstate 10 connected us to California, The Bikini Lounge welcomed visitors from the west into town as they exited the U.S. 60. Today, there are divier dive bars and tiki-er tiki bars, but there’s no other establishment in the Valley with The Bikini’s exact flavor of lowbrow kitsch. The bar has no windows, so the place is always as dark as a confessional, conferring intimacy on the most casual of interactions. Thatched coverings, vintage paintings, and tiki masks watch over the patrons, who are a mix of grizzled regulars and hipsters dropping in after First Fridays or a show at The Van Buren. Drinks aren’t fancy, but they’re strong and cheap — just how we like them (make sure you bring cash, though). Over the decades, The Bikini has seen plenty of growth around its Grand Avenue location, but we love it best because, despite the passing of the years, it never seems to change.
A self-described “cocktailian,” Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted is known for his tome-like illustrated menus that offer studied riffs on legions of classics, resulting in libations that are proudly “whimsical as fuck.” Among those are a chocolate Sazerac and the coldest old-school martini in town, which can be sipped in expansive booths upholstered in red leather under sky-high ceilings.
This lesbian-leaning Melrose District spot has cold beers, well-mixed cocktails, dancing, drag shows, and good people. Boycott also maintains a varied and thoughtful event calendar: patrons can expect everything from Pride-related events to Latin and country dance nights. It’s a solid stop while bar-hopping along the Melrose curve — but a sturdy local watering hole as well. Look for the pink light.
BS West is a rarity among Scottsdale bars. It’s the only LGBT spot in the city, a distinction it's enjoyed for the better part of 30 years. In that time, the two-story bar, dance joint, and drag club just off Craftsman Court has established a loyal following that’s spanned generations. (Historically, its been more of a gay male crowd, but everyone’s invited, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.) BS West’s appeal lies in its electric atmosphere and a combo of live entertainment (drag shows, go-go boys, rowdy karaoke sessions), music selection (ranging from club hits to Latin), sex appeal (the male bartenders go shirtless), and nightly drink deals. Plus, you gotta love a place where the staff occasionally answers the phone with “This is BS.”
This good-times country bar and grill brims with Stetson hats, neon beer signs, and caddies full of barbecue sauce. It’s an ideal spot for watching a Packers game, taking free dancing lessons on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and catching some live country music and cover rock. It is also huge: 6,000 square feet, with multiple bars and a small rodeo arena out back. The amateur bull riders are in the bullpen on Wednesday nights.
Bull Shooters in north Phoenix has a bevy of billiards tables – 48 of ‘em, to be exact – on which you can put your skills to the test. The felt-topped tables (each in tip-top condition with no rips, wrinkles, or wobbles) inside this spacious pool hall and sports bar take center stage for northsiders in search of stick ’n’ sip action. Owners Mike and Julie Bates have kept things largely the same since opening in 2008, including offering ping-pong, shuffleboard, poker, dart games (both electronic and otherwise), karaoke, and various distractions in an adjacent game room. They also offer 44 beers and daily specials (such as $2 PBR bottles). Just keep your drink far away from the pristine felt (or use a coaster, dammit!), since you’ll get hard looks or harsh words from the staff. And that ain’t no bull.
Cactus Jack’s brings a rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere to an otherwise sleepy strip mall in Ahwatukee. Credit co-owner Gina Lombardi, who bought a stake in the neighborhood bar in 2014 after her landmark rock venue The Sail Inn was pushed out of Tempe by gentrification. She installed a stage, a sound system, a lighting rig, and a dance floor within its cavernous main room before bringing in local bands, DJs, and performers across multiple genres that frequented the Sail. Tribute acts, party bands, and jam sessions have also found a home here. And since every good rock ‘n’ roll tale involves alcohol, the bar and cocktail selection also got a revamp. Ahwatukee won’t become the next live music hotbed anytime soon, but it's at least a little more interesting thanks to Cactus Jack’s.
For 15 years, diners have been lining up to order salads and sandwiches at Carla Wade Logan’s café on Roosevelt Street. But the cocktails here are first-rate, too — and many are the kinds of concoctions you just can’t get anywhere else in the Valley. The Prickly Pear Margarita is hot pink and ice-cold, a must-try for visitors to the desert or those just bar-hopping on a hot day. The Whiskey Sangria is sought after by many a happy hour patron. And poetry could be written about Carly's Colada: horchata liqueur, banana liqueur, and pineapple juice, a mix that’s somehow simultaneously summertime and Christmassy. Don’t sleep on the classics, either: We’re big fans of the mojito and the bloody mary here. Carly’s was an early RoRo spot, and it’s still one of the best in the neighborhood.
Casey Moore's Oyster House is a Tempe mainstay, known for its sprawling patio surrounding the former home of William A. and Mary Moeur, built circa 1910. The bar itself is named after an Irish woman who was born even earlier, in 1886, and who was known for singing, playing the piano, and hosting frequent gatherings. (She is said to still haunt the place.) The home was rehabilitated in 1973, and a few bars came and went in the space until 1986, when it became Casey’s. The bar attracts students from nearby ASU, as well as neighborhood regulars, cyclists, tourists, and service industry types. Indoors, you’ll find neon décor, some seating, and a cozy bar; on the patio, you may smoke, bring your dog till 5 p.m., or bend elbows at the always-packed outdoor bar. (Pro tip: Men may pee on the Blarney Stone tucked behind a wooden privacy fence near the outdoor bar.) The beer selection is nothing special but good enough, and the pub fare is above average. Go with the oysters or the neighborhood favorite, French onion soup.
Glare on the TVs? Not a problem in this sports bar: They ain’t got no windows at Catalina for the sun to shine through. Still, this 16th Street joint and former home of Philthy Phil's is a fine place to catch a Cardinals game and munch on the daily special, whatever it may be: enchiladas, flautas, tacos, tostadas. The Catalina’s got darts, a long bar with a lot of seats, and micheladas served in tall mason jars. Pop by later in the evening, and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter karaoke crooners or DJs set up on a small stage in the side room. Be warned: This place gets loud.
For years, Jason Asher and Rich Furnari have defined the cutting edge of local cocktail culture, and Century Grand and Undertow are the culmination of their efforts. Highly stylized and themed, conceived with the help of a Disney engineer to conjure a dim Prohibition-era train station, the creative cocktails at Century Grand relate to stops on once-mighty American railways. Cocktails are studied and heavily imaginative, weaving in ingredients like kefir and smoked tea, banana-infused cream, and toasted sesame oil. Century Grand’s two distinct parts are all excellent. First, there’s the Grey Hen, which has an absurd selection of small-batch and high-end whiskeys in a room with an old-time New Orleans apothecary motif. Second, there’s Platform 18 — a Pullman car outfit like a train that creates the sensation of motion using TVs. The duo’s tiki concept, Undertow, uses sound, tropical decor, and menu descriptions to tell the ever-evolving story of a fictional sea voyage. Cocktails range from wild riffs to classics first concocted by Don the Beachcomber, godfather of tiki.
Champions Sports Saloon has been some sort of bar on the main drag in downtown Gilbert since the 1940s. It’s a roomy place, with a bar, tables and chairs, twinkling pinball machines lined along the right-hand wall, and an enclosed patio out back. The “sports” in the name takes the form of lots of games on the TVs, poker and dart leagues, and an abundance of Arizona sports team posters on the walls. They also have snacks cooked in a deep fryer and a pizza over, though you’re welcome to bring in food from nearby restaurants.The pennies underneath epoxy on the bar (once a fixture of the décor here) may be gone, but the stiff drinks the bartenders slide over them remain.
This northwest Valley joint — you can find it in the back of a plaza on the west side of Loop 101 and Union Hills Drive, near Arrowhead Towne Center — is many things: a bar, a lunch counter, a place to get some off-track betting done. The front room has a fireplace, there’s a back room with a few dozen TVs tuned to sports, and the patio’s nice when the weather’s nice. They serve any domestic beer you can name and breakfast all day. Not in the mood for eggs? Charley’s Home Run Wings come in a variety of flavors, from sweet mesquite BBQ to teriyaki to the frightening-sounding 7 Gun Salute and 4K-HD.
Charlie’s is a slice of Phoenix gay bar history huddled along Camelback Road just west of Seventh Avenue since its debut in 1984. In those days, the “lil bitty ol’ pissant country place” and dance hall opened by John King (co-founder of the International Gay Rodeo Association) was aimed at gay urban cowboys and country music fans. As times and interests changed (and competition increased) so did Charlie’s. Today, the place boasts a larger dance floor, an even bigger parking lot, a taco truck out front, an outdoor patio with two bars and bleacher seating in the back, and a wide cross-section of the entire LGBT community. Charlie’s events calendar is just as diverse. Drag performances, bingo games, Latin and country dance nights, and karaoke hosted by Claudia B. are some of its most popular activities, but the bar has also hosted crawfish boils, chili cook-offs, and political fundraisers. It's also famous for its after-hours weekend dance parties, which the staff promises will return post-COVID. Hopefully.
Chopper John’s is primarily known as a biker bar, owing to owner John McCormack’s taste for steel steeds and the open road. It’s also one of central Phoenix’s best small venues, a rip-roaring dive, neighborhood hang, and low-key sports bar. Music fans have known about the place for years, as the former residence was home to a string of blues bars from the ’70s onward, including Louie’s, VJ’s, McGuires, Warsaw Wally’s, and Bogie’s. Once McCormack took over in 2008, the multi-room establishment became a rock haven with framed t-shirts from local bands covering the walls, rowdy shows, cheap drinks, and cheap thrills (there’s never a cover). Punks, tattoo artists, and other rock ‘n’ roll types hangout here even when there isn’t a show and the turnout is big on Sundays when Chopper John’s whips up loaded Bloody Marys topped with impossible amounts of skewered food items (we’re talking full-sized cheeseburgers and and Sonoran hot dogs loaded with fixings). At only $5 a pop, they’re a steal, and tend to go quickly. Rock on.
Coach House is a bit of homespun charm with heavy pours, two bars, an enormous patio with views of Camelback Mountain and the open sky, and a fun staff. It also looks like something straight off of a dude ranch, with its rustic, wood-heavy décor, but steers clear of country shtick beyond its name. Owned since its first pour in 1959 by the Brower family (who tout is as “Scottsdale’s oldest dive”), it's packed to the low-slung rafters most nights (even more so on the weekends) with crowds three-deep angling for space inside its the tiny main bar. It serves up plenty of great barfly standards like boilermakers and screwdrivers starting at 6 a.m. sharp, 365 days a year. It’s also a must-see every holiday season – when every centimeter is draped with lights, wrapping paper, tinsel, bows, ribbons, and ornaments – and a place to tip one back during the rest of the year.
Cobra Arcade Bar is pure nerdy fun with an arty bent. Dozens of vintage games line the interior and take up much of the space. A PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can be played at the bar. Murals by artists El Mac and Lalo Cota cover the walls. Local DJs drop mixes every weekend and keep the energy level as frenetic as a Red Bull-fueled deathmatch while bartenders serve geeky signature cocktails like the Krazy Kong and Inky’s Drinky. When Cobra gets as crowded as a comicon (which is often), head a few doors down to Hi-Score Club, its new anime-themed lounge. Hang out with the other gaijin, play Japanese import games, or quaff cocktails from mugs shaped like fugu. Kanpai!
Cruisin’ 7th Show Bar & Lounge dates back to 1977. Back then, it was located just north of Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue and was (appropriately) called Cruisin’ Central. The bar changed its name upon its 2003 move to its current location, where its calling card is splashed across the standalone building: “The Best Drag Shows in Town.” Owners Lynn and Mike McGarry have built at Cruisin 7th a second home to many, but especially members of Phoenix’s gay and trans communities. They offer tantalizing daily drink specials ($3 bloody marys till noon, $5 cocktails all day), open up at 6 a.m., and host weekly club events and game nights. They also took advantage of the pandemic to do some renovations and redesigns. Stop by and soak in one of Phoenix’s most irreplaceable clubs.
This sports bar is a Peoria staple, known for its top-notch craft beer selection and a huge menu that includes pizza, burgers, wings, curds — even brunch. It’s also something of an adult activity center, with 20 sports-tuned TVs, four pool tables, two dart boards, games, and live music. Happy hour runs long, from 6 a.m. — when the bar opens — through 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and growlers of beer are available to take home. Pro tip: Stop by on the last Friday of your birthday month, and they’ll help you celebrate with some discounted domestic drinks.
The wood-paneled walls, the open grill behind the bar, the jukebox packed with Merle, Willie, Waylon, and the Hanks: There’s much to love about The Dirty Drummer. Maybe its most lovable quality, though, is its origin story. This sports bar, honky-tonk, and luncheonette at 44th and Oak streets was opened in 1975 by Frank “Drummer” Armstrong and his partner, “Dirty Dave” Werner. Armstrong died in 2012, and the original Drummer closed in 2018. But the following year, the former owner’s daughter, Dana Armstrong, along with business partners Andrew Smith and Tom Bernard, reopened the spot with a strong nod to the Drummer of yesteryear. Armstrong is the creator of Valley Fever, a DJ night of Arizona country that started in 2005 at Yucca Tap Room. She’s brought much of that outlaw ambiance to The Drummer. Here, patrons are encouraged to play some George Jones, order a Drummer Burger, and tip back a house beer — Miller Lite.
Many a fan of the Charlie Daniels Band has pumped the brakes while passing Seventh Street and Carol Avenue in north Phoenix’s Sunnyslope neighborhood: There stands The Do Drop In. (Granted, the lyrics for “Uneasy Rider” call it the Dew Drop Inn, but close enough — and a bartender here recently confirmed that patrons play the song on the jukebox constantly.) Long-haired country history aside, this compact bar has been around since 1979 and offers beer, mixed drinks, a smoking patio, a couple of TVs, a popcorn machine (no, it is not self-serve, thank you very much), and a blend of regulars young and old, both Arizona natives newcomers. It’s an ideal neighborhood bar, right down to the quickly poured drinks and the vague smell of cleaning products in the air.
Despite the name, this north-central Phoenix pub isn’t for Joyce scholars. Here, you’re far more likely to encounter UFC fans shooting Jameson than bookish types sipping Beamish. But that’s not to say the place is lacking in history. Established in 1985 by Seamus McCaffery (namesake of the popular downtown Phoenix pub), The Dubliner is said to be Phoenix’s first pub to serve Guinness on tap. It still does, of course, along with Harp and Smithwick’s; whiskeys include Blackbash, Paddy’s, and even Dew Middleton. The menu lists Irish fare like chicken with Guinness gravy and a side of soda bread, Irish beef stew, and — our favorite — Jameson chocolate bread pudding.
If you enjoy watching frolf, there’s not a bad seat on the sprawling patio at Duke's Sports Bar & Grill, which backs right up to the Vista del Camino Disc Golf Course along the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt in south Scottsdale. And if you enjoy playing frolf, Duke’s is ideal for a pre- or post-game beer (or during — you could easily sneak over in the middle of your round). Inside, you’ll find a dozen different pool tables, a variety of arcade and shuffleboard units, and more than 50 TVs — even in the bathrooms — all tuned to various sports packages. They’ve got import and domestic beers on tap, strong mixed drinks, and a menu replete with fried food (say hello to the mozzarella sticks for us) and burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Duke’s was started by a father-daughter team, Al and Jackie McCarthy, in 1998. More than two decades later, they’re still running it.
DWNTWN has been a reliable drinking and dancing spot for local Latinx for going on 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Situated along the same Central Avenue strip of bars housing The Grand and Sanctum (all three are owned by local nightlife entrepreneur Steven Rogers), it consists of multiple rooms, bars, and amenities. Pay $10 and head left for access to the main room and its sizable dance floor and serpentine-shaped bar furnished with a towering supply of cerveza, many kinds of tequila (from well brands to high-end options), and other intoxicants. Pay $20 and head right for the VIP area with plush couches and bottle service. Elsewhere, there’s a michelada and taco bar. DWNTWN’s resident DJs spin a mix of Top 40, hip-hop, and Latin dance genres — including reggaeton, cumbia, salsa, bachata, and Norteña — as its patrons dance and party into the wee hours (the place stays open until 2:30 a.m. or later).
Yes, the intersection of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard is just that — an intersection — but it’s also a classic Valley drinking and dining destination, and a history lesson as much as it is a dining district. So, let’s dive in — and that first dive is Ernie's Restaurant and Bar. This family-owned sports bar, karaoke spot, and old-school restaurant opened in 1973, and it hasn’t been through much change since then by the looks of it. These days, there’s a pool table, shuffleboard, and flat screens playing sports. Ernie’s serves Maryland seafood-style menu, but the real draw here is the enclosed patio. When the weather is nice, pull up a stool to the indoor-outdoor full bar and make a friend or two. Before long, you’ll hear a Blue Oyster Cult jam or two played on the internet jukebox. Good times.
Arizona's largest brewery, Four Peaks Brewing Co. has been serving craft beer and upscale pub fare in a late-19th century, Mission-style Tempe warehouse since 1996. Yes, there are other locations, and yes, Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired the brewing company in 2015, but the 8th Street Pub remains a totally Tempe institution (and is said to be haunted to boot). The brewpub is more cavernous and industrial than most little beer joints, but that’s because the brewery is on site. Grab a seat at the bar where you can watch the many displayed flags gently sway in the rafters with your pint and burger, or head to the lively patio right off Eighth Street. Order one of Four Peaks’ famed beers: Kilt Lifter (and its lighter version, Gilt Lifter), the Hop Knot, the beloved Peach Ale, and even the hyper-specific 8th Street Pale Ale.
Gabby’s Bar & Grill has been around since 1983 along the Old 87, making it one of the closest bars to the grave of legendary Phoenix drinker-musician Waylon Jennings. In those days, the Mesa watering hole was owned by legendary Valley bar runner Sunstrom and the late Phoenix artist Greg Sheldon. Sheldon’s cartoons no longer adorn the walls (not in plain sight, anyway), but Gabby’s has stuck to its roadhouse-style roots.. Expect karaoke nights, a lively patio, a jukebox, satellite TVs, and a menu of fried bar food. If you’re looking for a full meal, go with the gigantic, excessively juicy burgers made on the open grill on the north wall of the bar; for a snack, we like the mozzarella sticks. There are also two pool tables. Best of all, Gabby’s has that old bar smell. You know it when you smell it.
Phoenix’s first (and only surviving) English pub lives up to its pedigree: Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, photos of Buckingham Palace, and other UK-related ephemera adorn every nook and cranny. The servers all wear Union Jack tank tops. Footy matches air on TVs above the bar while The Smiths and Elvis Costello blare from the jukebox. And traditional selections like bangers and mash, pasties, and fish and chips are cranked out by the kitchen. (Come on Sundays for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.) Moving beyond the British Isles, G&D’s bar has the largest selection of imported draught beer in the Valley. There’s also free Texas Hold’em on Sundays, a favorite pastime of owner (and native Englishman) David Wimberley, who got yelled at by Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer for his card-playing habits on a 2016 episode of the show. Catch Wimberley haunting the front patio and he’ll tell you the tale himself, likely peppered with enough vulgarities to make Her Royal Highness blush.
Subtlety has never been Giligin's style. (Hell, it’s never been Scottsdale's style.) This island-themed bar has gleefully gone all-out pushing the boundaries of good taste and staging lowbrow gags since its debut in 1995. (Case in point: Prior to the pandemic, it had a pint-sized “midget bar” staffed by little people.) Giligin's embraces its over-the-top spirit with gusto, with a framed letter from PETA protesting its goldfish races on display, glutinous solo eating challenges (read: finishing a family-sized bag of Totino’s pizza rolls in 30 minutes) on the menu, and $2 mystery beers. Excess amounts of alcohol helps keep the gonzo mood going at Giligin’s, of which it has an ample supply (three entire walls are devoted to floor-to-ceiling shelves of liquor bottles). And if patrons can’t choose what to drink, a spin of the “Wheel of Booze” will help decide for them.
Gracie’s Tax Bar gets half its name from Grace Perry, the owner of the bar (and the former singer of the local metal group Landmine Marathon). The other half comes from Harold and Morda Abbey, the original owners of Abbey Tax Services, which once occupied the downtown Phoenix building where Gracie’s has been serving drinks since 2017. Inside, the lighting is kept low and so are the prices. Snag a seat in one of the well-worn booths or at the lengthy wooden bar. Pop a credit on the jukebox, grab a community board game, or put in an order of the beloved fried pickles, tots, or cheese curds made on the exposed flat grill right behind the bar. Most likely, though, you’ll take your beer to the patio, where you may find a DJ and dance party, a movie screening, and often friendly dogs and/or neighborhood cats. (We hope you return safely, Bar Cat.) Need more information? Just visit Gracie’s nasty and nostalgic dot com-era website at graciesphx.com.
This kinda-biker bar, kinda-sports bar in the shadow of Papago Park has gone by many names over the years: Baja Red’s Cantina, Daisy Duke’s, The Lark. Since 2014, it’s been owned by Bill Voss, a Harley Davidson enthusiast with a wife named Gypsy. Her namesake roadhouse is a reliable pit stop for cold beer, burgers, and perhaps a Steelers game (they seem to like Pittsburgh around here). There's a sturdy crowd of day-drinking retirees at Gypsy’s, too. They call the section of the bar where they sit “Heaven’s Waiting Room.”
The first thing you’ll notice at this neighborhood bar on Mesa’s Main Street is that you can smoke inside. That’s because there aren’t technically windows, just screens, meaning it’s actually one large enclosed patio. (The bar switched to this model after the 2007 statewide smoking ban.) The staff says the Hambone dates back to 1956, but that date is only thrown around because one patron remembers his dad coming here as far back as then. Hambone has six pool tables (don’t ash on the felt) and is only closed for four hours a day, meaning you can grab a bloody mary at 6 a.m. with the promise of a nearby light rail ride home. Other features include sports-heavy TVs, darts, arcade games, karaoke on Saturday nights, and colorful claw machines (often with X-rated prizes). Or you could just sit and drink with all the other Hamboners.
Folks have ambled into this honky-tonk hideout since the ’60s, back when Waylon Jennings was a regular, patrons hitched their horses outside, and the place was called Wild Bill’s. Its corner of North Scottsdale has become a bit more ostentatious in the ensuing years (they didn’t have beauty bars or tanning salons back in Waylon’s day), but Handlebar J’s has stayed true to its old-school country pedigree. Inside, hundreds of cowboy hats hang from the rafters, Wild West ephemera is everywhere, and a full selection of brews and booze are available at its sprawling bar. There are porterhouses, burgers, and racks of ribs on the menu and both country and western coming from the sound system or stage. Members of the Herndon family, Handlebar J’s owners for decades now, perform frequently and celebrity crooners like Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, and Vince Gill have all drank and sang here.
A chic restaurant, Hanny’s is also a popular downtown drinking destination for after-work drinks and post-game cocktails (or post-theater, depending on your interests). Housed in a former men’s department store, the bar nods to the building’s midcentury roots — designer names like Dior are still displayed on the walls, and you might encounter a classic mannequin — and its massive bar is staffed by servers in semi-formal attire working beneath a high ceiling. Take a trip to the unisex restrooms even if you don’t have to go; you walk past a trippy house of mirrors with mood lighting. In a place like this, we always go with a classic cocktail: martini, Manhattan, mai tai, Old Fashioned, French 75 — and all are professionally made at Hanny’s. If you’re in the mood for wine, though, the list is strong, offering “Six Decades of Napa Valley,” from the 1969 Chappellet to the 2019 Editorial Cabernet Sauvignon.
Most people come to this 16th Street spot for the beloved burgers, which are sizable, cheap ($7.50, with fries), juicy, and, yes, splashed on the flat top with red wine. For those who live nearby, though, Harvey’s is a wonderful neighborhood dive that just happens to also serve tasty burgers. Aside from the bright green walls that line this decades-old joint, it’s mostly no-frills: a pool table, a jukebox, a smattering of high tables, and a bar to belly up at. Look closer, though, and Harvey’s virtues reveal themselves: a small and reliably friendly staff, wide and generous weekend happy hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday), and, best of all, a late-night last call (they close at midnight).
You could drive past this Central Phoenix bar every single day for a year and fail to notice it (and many surely do, situated as it is just off the congested corner of Camelback Road and 7th Street). What might eventually draw your attention is the vaguely dilapidated Old West-style porch out front. Once inside, you’ll discover a hard-to-define bar. It has the vast, wooden vibe of a roadhouse, though the Arizona Cardinals and Ohio State regalia suggest it’s something of a sports bar. You can also play darts (real darts) or shoot pool at one of the three billiards tables that sit beneath stained-glass windows erected on the ceiling. There’s a Big Buck Hunter and one of those boxing machines where you hit the tiny little punching bag as hard as you can. You can also obtain a hard-boiled egg for $2. It’s a neighborhood bar, ultimately — one of the better ones in this stretch of town.
Obvious, but: the Ice House Tavern is cold. Multiple layers of glass separate the bar from AZ Ice Arcadia, the hockey and ice-skating rink it shares space with, but the chilly air finds a way through. During Phoenix summers, of course, it’s a godsend. You can enjoy an Arizona craft beer and fried Brussels sprouts while gazing out on the ice. What’s out there depends on the time of day. It could be a free skate, with new couples flirting and adorable toddlers teetering. Or it might be an adults' league hockey match. Or maybe the Zamboni’s just giving the old girl a shine. The bar itself has gone through many iterations over the years; it used to be called Fireside Chalet, and in the 2000s it was a haven for punk bands and comedians. These days, it has a hockey theme and serves $2 yard beers and bar food. Cold is a hot commodity in Phoenix, and if that’s what you seek, this place is tough to beat.
Searching for Phoenix’s best little dive west of Interstate 17? Follow the red neon arrow next to the front door of this comfortably shabby watering hole on Indian School Road near 31st Avenue that’s been serving since 1955, moving to its current spot in 1977. Inside its teal-painted brick walls, low-key locals hang out at vinyl-edged tables or belly up to the S-shaped bar where wrought-iron scrollwork weaves its way from the ceiling overhead as the smiling staff supply inexpensive drinks from the standard-issue stash of beer and liquor. Amenities are sparse – there are pool tables, a jukebox, and a large turtle tank (complete with “beware of attack turtles” sign) – but popular. Jay’s bartenders will even sell you bottled beers to go, if you want to keep the party going at home. Just remember to bring cash since they don’t take plastic.
Good times are on tap day and night at this Glendale sports bar and neighborhood haunt. Mornings feature hearty free breakfasts ( three eggs, two bacon, two sausages, toast, and hash browns) with the purchase of a beverage from 8 a.m. to noon. The horseshoe bar has specials throughout the day ($2.50 domestic longnecks every afternoon). The happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m., and at night you can occasionally catch a show by local musicians. Game days see crowds angling for seats at any of Jimbo’s high-top tables or along the walls (you won’t miss a second of the action, as two enormous projection screens offer great views from anywhere in the bar). And when Jimbo’s patrons aren’t watching sports, they're playing them. Darts are king here; there are seven machines, weekly tournaments, and a glass cabinet full of supplies for sale. Pool, video games, and an Internet jukebox round out the quintessential sports bar atmosphere. What more do you need? If the answer is “beers to go,” Jimbo's sells those too.
You don’t encounter many Minnesota Vikings bars in Arizona. But Jupe’s, a small, cash-only tavern open since 1982 in west Mesa, is a sea of purple on NFL Sundays, owing to a lineage in bar ownership that stretches back to Fargo, North Dakota. Inside, the bar’s all patchwork wood paneling, period-specific beer signs, framed 8-by-10s of the bar’s big drinkers, and, of course, Vikings memorabilia. It’s easy to find a regular to chat with or watch groups of friends having a good time playing songs from the internet jukebox. There’s also a pool table, a smattering of high-top tables and chairs, and often some warming nacho cheese at the potluck tables. To drink? Keep it simple: beers, mixed drinks, maybe a Jell-O shot.
What was once an infamous 1980s bar called the Liguori Lounge is now Kats, perhaps best known these days as the bar where concertgoers from neighboring venue The Rebel Lounge go between sets or when things get too crowded. Inside, you’ll find an all-red-everything color scheme and one of the finest dives in the Valley. Behind the bar is a clutter of feline figurines, license plates, animal skeletons, naked Barbie and Ken dolls, bizarre bric-a-brac, and bartenders who are amicable almost to a fault. In the back is a cavernous area outfitted with billiards, darts, a single pinball machine, a touch-screen video game, and a stuffed tiger head. They keep the jukebox loud, which encourages regulars to up their volume of cheers, jeers, and taunts directed at televised games – and each other.
A freestanding neighborhood joint just north of Alma School and Broadway roads in Mesa, Kay’s deals cheap drinks and generous pours to a clientele of working-class locals. Once a truck repair shop dating back to the ‘60, this spacious bar keeps to its blue-collar roots with framed photos of souped-up race cars on the walls, motorcycle parking out front, and shelves stocked with $2.25 canned beers like Hamm’s and PBR. There are TVs, a pair of pool tables, and DJ and karaoke nights, but true entertainment can be found in the cast of lively characters. Turned-up tunes on the jukebox compete with the squawks of regulars ordering up rounds, yelling out jokes to their buddies across the bar, or singing along with whatever is playing at the moment. Stop by and add your voice to the clamor. Be warned, though, the staff occasionally closes early on slower evenings, so call ahead before rolling through.
Kaz Bar was vino-only from its founding in 2001 until original owner Peter Kasperski closed it 17 years later. Enter restaurateur Tommy Plato of Second Story Liquor Bar fame, who reopened the posh lounge in 2019, adding a focus on rare and distinctive whiskeys, a bespoke supper club atmosphere big on leather and wood, and a vibe not unlike New York City’s Flatiron Room. Connoisseurs can indulge in any of its curated selection of Scotch, whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes of the high-end, imported, and single-barrel ilk. There are such small-batch favorites as Teelings, rarities like Russell’s Reserve, and Japanese brands like Nikka Yoichi and Akashi Ume. Oenophiles also needn’t worry, though, as Kaz Bar still has a surfeit of red, white, and sparkling wines, uncorking Dionysian bliss on weekends and certain weeknights until 1 a.m.
With a name like Killer Whale Sex Club, you could be forgiven for assuming this place is just another blink-and-you-miss-it addition to Roosevelt Row’s high-turnover drinking scene. And, honestly, the place takes a little warming up to. For one, reservations are “highly recommended,” per its Instagram. The music inside is incredibly loud. It’s super dark and pretty cold. A collage of cutouts from nudie magazines covers one wall. But then a helpful server arrives, and you order The Hot Seat, a hibiscus-infused take on the bourbon cherry sour, or the Pornstar Punch, a mix of passionfruit, elderflower, and yuzu for a zing. For food, maybe the black-bunned Thai Fried Chicken Bun or Pork Belly Adobo Fried Rice. After a while of soaking in the vibe, the place starts to make sense: Owners Sam Olguin and Brenon Stuart are going for a tongue-in-cheek thing here. It’s not obnoxious; in fact, it makes most other RoRo bars seem boring by comparison.
The current Kobalt is the second location of this Park Central gay bar. In the former spot, about 100 yards north in the same plaza, patrons spent years singing show tunes and ‘80s hits during its many karaoke nights, howling at the big screen during a watch party of RuPaul’s Drag Race, prepping their singles for the next drag show number, or happily munching the complimentary popcorn while ordering another drink. The new location offers all this with a bigger stage, i.e. more opportunities for performers and customers, or both, to ham it up during a wild night at Kobalt. This socially responsible watering hole also hosts national debate viewing parties and fundraisers, and staff members can often be seen around town at protests. The best seat in the house? That’d be near the bathrooms next to the larger-than-life mural of Freddie Mercury and Judy Garland.
Many bars are trying to take us back in time. Some do a painfully obvious song and dance; others do it so well it feels like the cigarette machine’s been in that spot for decades. Linger Longer Lounge is in the latter camp, pairing modern amenities with comforts from decades past. Admire the vintage neon Silver Bullet Coors Light sign while ordering a White Claw. Flip through a jukebox of Queen and Willie Nelson (and Tenacious D) as you wait for a dog from Der Wurst Hot Dogs. The lounge also houses the carryover rock star art from the now-shuttered Rogue Bar, the owner of which now partly oversees LLL, and boasts one of the most popular, full-length women’s restroom mirrors in town. Tack on raucous dance nights, a soft-lit breezeway for smokers, and a whole room dedicated to pool, and we hope Linger Longer lingers on for decades to come.
At the ritzy, intimate Little Rituals, Aaron DeFeo executes intense, cocktail-geek-tickling drinks in a plush room with a view of Chase Field and distant mountains from the fourth floor of the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott. Split spirit bases are the norm. Ingredients like Amari, house liqueurs, and salty foam provide delicate edits, usually many in a single drink. A daiquiri, for example, gets fortified with curry and Szechuan peppercorn. As the night grows late, digestivo service (Negroni and adjacent drinks) begins.
The Little Woody is a nesting ground for Arcadians or anyone else beckoned by the glowing owl-shaped neon sign outside. It also attracts with a wealth of upscale bar bites (the savory Grandma Woody’s Meatballs are a favorite), and an array of alcohol choices ranging from stylish (the Gun Shy Sour made with Larceny bourbon, lemon, and locally sourced honey) to slummy (check out The Codger, a can of Old Style chased with Old Granddad). Its wood-heavy and red-drenched interior is a mix of ski lodge, dive bar, and a family rec room that’s filled with eclectic touches (dozens of tiny, ornamental owls are hidden throughout the bar) and also offers a pool table, dance floor, and a game room where Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, board games, and Foosball await. It’s a hoot, just like the rest of the Little Woody.
If you live in Phoenix, it is imperative that you take advantage of the springtime weather, which often takes the form of finding an ideal outdoor happy hour spot to soak in the gentle sunshine. Many bars can serviceably accommodate this desire, but none beats LON’s Last Drop. Even the drive there is scenic, located as it is on the grounds of the historic (though not overly fancy) Hermosa Inn. The bar gets its name from a painting by Arizona artist Lon Megargee, the founder of the Hermosa Inn in the 1930s. The painting is of a cowboy watering his horse from his Stetson hat, and LON’s has similar cowboy energy, with five outdoor fireplaces, lots of beer and whiskey, and a wood-burning oven that turns out menu items like black Angus beef sliders. Try the house favorite cocktail, The Last Drop, made with Tucson’s Whiskey Del Bac Single Malt Whiskey, Luxardo apricot, Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth, and blood orange.
The Lost Leaf is part beer and wine joint, part arts-scene culture hub. Occupying a historic Fifth Street bungalow mere steps from Roosevelt Row, the walls, rafters, and bathrooms are adorned with works by local creatives. A nook beside the bar and a backyard stage hosts musicians and DJs across every genre. And it's a popular pit stop on First Fridays, Third Fridays, and most other nights of the month. The curated beer and wine selection is vast, boasting more than 100 different kinds of ales, lagers, stouts, and other intoxicating brews in bottles and cans, as well as vino, meads, and even sake. Lost Leaf has been arty, cultural, and cool since owner and local musician Eric Dahl established it in 2007, back when it was one of the few RoRo spots where you could buy a round. Best of all, there’s never been a cover.
Craft beer bars are pretty similar. Large beer selection. Local stuff. Lots of taps. Lovecraft injects a dose of personality to the Phoenix craft beer bar. Its theme is New Mexican. Fiery chiles lace the mac-n-cheese, lobster bisque, and burritos, and a ristra dangles by the entrance. Its small glass chandeliers and mismatched mirrors and chairs make the place feel almost like an antique shop. Lovecraft’s beer menu is big, yes: more than 100 brews deep. Local favorites abound, like The Shop’s Church Music and Arizona Wilderness’s La Ciudad. But co-owner Rebecca Golden also manages to snag hard-to-find regional offerings, like a fruited Berliner Weisse from Tombstone Brewing or limited sours from Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales. The cider selection also contains some real gems, like a perry (pear cider) from Ace Cider (California) and rotating releases from Crush Craft Ciders in Tempe.
A word of warning: Getting to MercBar involves a bit of a hunt, as the only signage at the cozy lounge hidden within the Esplanade is a tiny golden plaque by its front door. Once you find it, slip into its darkened interior and reward yourself with a potent craft cocktail from its ever-changing menu or a choice from its lengthy list of spirits. You’ve earned it. Sink into the plush seating, soak up the high-style speakeasy vibes, and help yourself to one of the glasses of Goldfish crackers within easy reach. The clientele is of the well-heeled and power-broker sort (befitting its Camelback Corridor locale), offering unrivaled people-watching prospects. Lurk at the Merc long enough, and you might even see a celebrity or two, as visitors to the Arizona Biltmore resort nearby are known to drop by for a drink.
In downtown Cave Creek’s crowded food-and-drink scene, look for the giant Guinness banner. It’ll lead you into Mountain View Pub, which has the usual Irish bar traits: plentiful imported beers, pub fare, occasional rowdiness. Inside is an assortment of antique furniture, an internet jukebox, a stage framed by exposed cobblestone where live rock and country bands perform, and more natural sunlight than most pub drinkers are accustomed to. As its name suggests, MVP’s massive back patio also offers breathtaking views of a river valley and the north Valley mountains. Drink those sights in from the balcony’s high-top tables and booths, and order a margarita, a house favorite that’s served in a Guinness pint glass. To eat? Stay on the ol’ Emerald Isle; we like the Irish breakfast platter, Irish pub nachos, and the Reuben, which is made with corned beef cooked daily in Guinness.
Located in a slim strip mall in the northwest Valley, Neighbors opened in 1992 and hasn’t changed a whole hell of a lot since. (You can spot the place by the massive illustration on the front windows of a lively bar crowd, which also dates back to the 1990s.) Neighbors is a come-as-you-are type of bar with a low-turnover staff and a simple approach to tavern-keeping. Shoot some pool. Throw some darts. Watch the game. Stick to ‘80s and country music if you’re gonna put money in the jukebox. Get to know your neighbor at the bar. It’s right there in the name.
Open since 1971, Nu Towne Saloon has earned landmark status as the Valley’s oldest gay bar still in operation. Located in east Phoenix across Van Buren Street from the equally historic Tovrea Castle, it's survived a lot over five decades: recessions, the fickleness of LGBT crowds, and a massive fire in 2010 that completely gutted its interior. Owner Dennis Kelly and longtime manager Ron Wilcox haven’t changed much, keeping the narrow, rectangular building kitschy (there’s a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower on the roof) and its interior teeming with a seven-foot plaster rooster statue (insert jokes here, if you must) and antiques and memorabilia straight outta grandma’s attic. The decor extends out to the back patio, which was upgraded during the pandemic with a canvas roof and other amenities to handle Nu Towne’s crowds during its popular weekly beer deal on Sunday (where 16-ounce cups of Budweiser or Bud Lite are $2). Regulars visit for a drink or two at the lengthy indoor bar, a game of pool on either of its two tables, or to drop quarters into the Merlin fortune-telling machine. You don’t need to be psychic to know this is a fun place, though.
This east Phoenix dive, located on Thomas Road across from perhaps the most chaotic Walmart in the Valley, opens at 6 a.m. and possesses many of the qualities one associates with a tavern that caters to morning drinkers. The crowd is casual bordering on haggard. The bar serves what we’ve come to call “personal pitchers” — 32 ounces of pourable domestic beer, and just the one glass, thanks — for $5, and the smokers’ patio lies just outside the bar’s often-open glass garage door, which is almost like smoking inside. But unlike many other A.M. bars, Ole Brass Rail offers a full breakfast menu, making it a proper destination for an omelet or chorizo and eggs after a long, debaucherous evening. If you’re more of a P.M. person, karaoke starts up at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays, or you can catch the evening’s games on one of the bar’s 21 TVs.
The Ostrich is located behind a wooden door at the bottom of a stairwell around the corner from Crust Chandler. The name of this basement bar could suggest an ostrich burying its head in the ground, but actually, this was the room where ostrich feathers were stored by city founder Dr. AJ Chandler himself. A little more history about this bar: It’s housed in the historic tunnels that connected the golf course clubhouse of the Crowne Plaza San Marcos to the nearby railroad station. Today, the antique mugshots, decorative barrels, vintage books, and life-sized ostrich all pay tribute to this early Chandler era. The dark drinking lounge, opened in 2015, serves classic and complicated craft cocktails. We recommend the Zombie, made with three types of rum, house-made zombie mix, a little falernum liqueur, and sure, a little absinthe.
A perplexing question is: What’s the crowd like at Palo Verde Lounge? All kinds park themselves at this dark, cash-only Tempe bar. Construction workers in hi-vis gear at a prolonged happy hour. Weekly regulars from the neighborhood. New drinkers from nearby ASU. Like the clientele, the atmosphere can be hard to predict. Some nights you might walk into a quiet bar of laid-back folks nursing beers, shooting pool, and watching TV, with “Neon Moon” playing serenely over the speakers. Other nights you’ll find a packed bike rack outside and a DJ presiding over a full dancefloor inside. Still other nights you’ll have to squeeze past a metal band unloading gear in the parking lot in order to enter. The man who oversees it all, Chuck Marthaler, is a former patron turned bartender turned owner, and he retains a keen sense of what drinkers are looking for in their local bar: cheap drinks, poured strong, by a bartender who’s quick to commit a regular’s order to memory.
Pat O’s puts the “G” in the Melrose District’s LGBT scene — its clientele is largely gay males, many of whom are unabashedly members or fans of the bear or leathermen subcultures. Owner and namesake Pat Olivo (a fixture in the local gay scene for decades) keeps his bunkhouse inclusive. Here, you might stumble into discussions of Phoenix’s LGBT history or trans rights, shows by the local Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence performance troupe, or daytime dog-washing parties out on the ample, fenced-in outdoor patio to go along with “Bear-e-oke” on Wednesdays and underwear night on Thursdays. Within its roomy interior (it’s a former home converted decades ago), an enormous island bar with daily drink deals, various tables and countertops, relics from now-defunct local gay bars, and plenty of playful banter and flickering laughter are waiting. Like its proprietor, Pat O’s is a local institution.
Patties First Avenue Lounge is the ratty dive among the restaurants, cocktail lounges, and other tourist traps of Old Town Scottsdale. We mean that in the best way possible. Pattie’s has been open since 1992, and its regulars range from millionaires to spring training visitors to bachelorette party attendees to old timers who’ve been coming here since it was called Gordy’s. Pattie’s is an indoor-outdoor joint divided into three sections: the side bar, the main bar, and the open middle hallway — where patrons are allowed to smoke since hallway’s “ceiling” is actually a dense tiger’s claw. Pattie’s is one of those dive bars that has decorated dollar bills hung upon just about every available surface. It’s estimated at more than $5,000, which bartenders jokingly call the bar’s 401K plan.
Not much has changed at Pomeroy’s since it opened in 1983, aside from a COVID-era plexiglass shield surrounding the cocktail fixings at the bar (no more snagging a quick Maraschino cherry). Wood paneling covers most everything, including the front windows. At the bar, mingle with a mix of old-timers and new arrivals while the rapidly growing Uptown neighborhood builds up and gentrifies outside Pomeroy’s door. Amenities on offer include a full menu (wings, melts, salads; we’re partial to the Pomburger), a couple of pool tables, darts, lots of seating, and Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. They’ve got a cigarette machine, too. Don’t see those much these days.
The plaque at the entrance of this Old Town Scottsdale bar gives you a quick history lesson: “Built in 1929 as Scottsdale’s first full-time post office, this structure served as a gathering place for local townsfolk …” The Porters building, which was Porters Western Wear for a spell, is now Porters Western Saloon — a lively drinking den you can spot by the life-size horse displayed on the balcony along on Brown Avenue. It’s owned by Grey Halpin; he and his family also own The Blue Moose Bar & Grill and the Old Town Gypsy boutique. But Porters is less of a honky tonkin’ country bar than it is an homage to the West's Most Western Town (Scottsdale’s slogan, not ours). Inside the cozy, two-story bar, find craft cocktails with names like the Scottsdale Sunrise, Pink Cowboy, and Bloody Bandit. Beer, wine, and slow-sipper bourbons too.
True story: Waylon Jennings and the late Charley Pride both bent elbows and sang songs at Rips a lifetime ago. (Don’t believe us? The owners have the photos to prove it.) That’s your first history lesson. Here’s another: The distinctive, Googie-like angular architecture of the building and its Space Age-worthy sign underscore its mid-century origins as a neighborhood watering hole dating to the 1950s. It has undergone a dozen name-changes since – Dutch Inn, Dodge City Saloon, Bourbon Street Blues, and Paco Paco – each bringing in drinkers from every background imaginable. It's still the case, as they keep coming for strong pours from the wraparound bar, 13 brews on tap, dozens of canned craft beers (Ska Brewing is big here) drink specials on the regular (Tuesdays are margarita night), rock and punk shows, DJ nights, and thrice-weekly karaoke. The patio is equally popular, often packed with smokers conversing at tables over the clamor of music from inside.
This south Scottsdale establishment feels worlds away from Old Town and ticks all the cozy neighborhood tavern boxes. Photos of current and previous patrons on the walls, check. Crock-Pot on the potluck table, check. Full crowd participation in Johnny Horton singalongs, check. Previously Bucky’s and Castaways, the Roadrunner Lounge was run by mother and daughter Cassie and Willie (though Willie has since passed). Amenities include pool, arcade games, and a dog-friendly smoking patio. Roadrunner Lounge is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily — like, 365 days a year daily.
The showroom of this extremely LGBTQ-friendly Melrose District watering hole is a destination for drag, comedy, and cabaret performances — or often a mix of all three. Popular local queens — Barbra Seville, Lady Christian, Espressa Grande — are regulars on the calendar, performing shows with names like the “Lady Christian Trailer Trash Review.” Definitely stop by this staple of the Phoenix gay bar and drag scene if you’re barhopping around the Melrose Curve. But it works as a solid neighborhood bar, too: The Rock has daily happy hour specials, weekly karaoke nights, a jukebox, and, in non-pandemic times, raucous dance parties.
A multi-roomed bar and dance hall, Roman’s has been serving drinks and bar food near the intersection of Yuma Road and Cotton Lane in Goodyear since 1986. Quirks abound at this honky-tonk, which is run these days by founder Roman Comer’s daughter, Myra Curtis. Its slogan used to be, “Just look for the big rooster” — a nod to a recognizable chicken that’s among the many lawn and roof ornaments outside the bar — but has since graduated to, “Just look for the big cock,” now the official motto. There is also a tree that is literally growing up out of the kitchen. The cash-only tavern is filled to the brim with neon beer signs, photos of past patrons, and vintage road signs. In addition to cold beer and heavy pours, Roman’s offers hot dishes like burgers, wings, and tacos. On weekends, expect lots of loud music, either in the form of karaoke, DJ sets, or live country-western bands.
There’s a lot to crow about at Roosters. It’s been a cornerstone of the Valley’s country scene since 1972 with all the amenities you’d expect: a large stage and red-and-black checkered dance floor in the front, five pool tables in the back, and rustic-wood ambiance and photos of Johnny Cash and other legendary recording artists throughout. (There are also rentable smartphone chargers for modern-day cowboys and 12 tap handles built into a repurposed fire truck cab behind the bar.) Roosters has hosted local country, rock, and country-rock artists for going on five decades. They also play outdoor gigs on its giant smoking patio, which is equipped with a second stage, two grills, and multiple beer tubs. The patrons are as solid here as the brick walls, friendly folk who say hello when you walk through the door, introduce you to their boozing buddies, razz the bartenders, or sing along with the lyrics during its many live shows, open mics, and karaoke nights. (Say hello to “Metal Grandma,” a sexagenarian who screams out hard rock tunes, the next time you visit.)
In 2001, barkeeper Seamus McCaffrey sold his namesake downtown Phoenix pub and headed north, opening a new place at Ninth Street and Camelback Road. This one he named after his wife, Rosie. Like the other McCaffrey’s, it’s chockablock with Irish bric-a-brac, whiskeys, and draught beers. The music’s likely to be of a Celtic nature, too — Dropkick Murphys, traditional folk ballads — except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when karaoke crooners command the mic in a cozy corner of this dark, vaguely cave-like bar.
The Royale is a straightforward dive, good for long nights (or a lost weekend) of casual drinking. Cruise south on 16th Street past Thomas Road, look for its iconic red neon “Cocktails” sign, and head inside to revel in the dingy, no-frills splendor that’s been keeping people coming by for decades. The libations come cheap ($2.75 pints at happy hour, $1 Jell-O shots in 14 flavors anytime), there’s pool and pinball, and regulars are welcoming and eager to bend your ear or lend you smokes. Greasy eats like egg rolls, chicken nuggets, and toaster-oven pizzas can be had for a few bucks, if you need something to soak up excess alcohol. A remodel in recent years may have ditched the lounge’s infamously threadbare carpeting and duct-taped stools, but the wood-paneled walls, scuffed tabletops, and janky men’s room (complete with vintage condom machine) stuck around. Ditto for its come-as-you-are atmosphere as one of Phoenix’s friendliest dives.
This pirate-themed dive in the Sunnyslope neighborhood in north Phoenix opens at 6 a.m., and if you make it there that early, you’re rewarded with a complimentary dish of biscuits and gravy with the purchase of a beverage (there are also burgers, corn dogs, and soft pretzels). This joint is a little more polished than some of its surrounding taverns, but it may have what you’re looking for: drink specials (listed on the wall under the heading “Grogs”), flat-screens, and a snack counter (minimum $5 spent at the bar). Also at Rumrunners: shuffleboard tournaments, free pool, and pretty great merch: snag a hat or T-shirt sporting the peg-legged, swill-carrying mascot of the bar.
A genuine historic landmark, the Rusty Spur fits Old Town Scottsdale’s penchant for Western kitsch like a tasseled glove. The compact building (which is smaller than a stable) started life as a circa-1920s savings and loan (the city’s first), later becoming a saloon in 1958 where liquor was stored in the vault and cowboys and cowgirls slaked their thirsts. These days, Rusty Spur still serves the Wrangler-wearing crowd, as well as tourists, locals, and the occasional celebrity (Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, and Post Malone have all been sighted here). It packs as much rustic charm and kitsch as ever, from the wagon-wheel chandelier overhead and cheeky bar stools shaped like the legs and posteriors of can-can girls to the license plate collection, mounted deer heads, dollar bills, and antiques decorating every inch of space. Local country, Americana, and rockabilly artists rip it up on a tiny corner stage daily and nightly, creating a party atmosphere where patrons dance if they can find room. Yee-haw.
A downtown staple for 30 years, Seamus McCaffrey’s attracts a crowd that reflects the changing neighborhood it inhabits: city and county employees, upwardly mobile loft-dwellers, and service-industry workers (Seamus is your favorite downtown bartender’s favorite bar). It also has a tough-to-beat selection of Scotch and Irish whiskey, traditional Irish fare like Shepherd’s Pie and fish chips, and live music on the weekends (when it can get crowded in here). And don’t miss the bar’s flagship festivity: its raucous annual St. Patrick’s Day street party, when they close off Monroe and the sweet smell of Guinness wafts for blocks.
From the outside, Shady’s may look like one of the old residences located along Indian School Road in east Phoenix, but inside, it’s a small pub and lounge with an English flair. Its intimate, living room-like interior is full of stylish touches: black leather booths and chairs, lacquered tables, a fireplace stocked with candles, and caricatures of Ernest Hemmingway and other old-school legends. The lone pool table is almost always busy, classic movies are usually on the TVs, and an actual jukebox (a rarity these days) is stocked with CDs of the third-wave ska, Britpop, funk, and soul variety. The libations are a combo of traditional cocktails, locally produced spirits, and craft and import beers (Guinness, Schöfferhofer, Oak Creek Brewing) while the crowd is young, hip, and arty mixed in with well-to-do Arcadia residents. Visit during happy hour or on weekends and you’ll get to know your fellow patrons fast, thanks to the cozy digs and packed house. Don’t loiter too long without ordering, though, as the staff might ask you to leave if you don’t buy anything.
Some bar patios are afterthoughts: dank little smokers’ cages slammed against a busy street or a back parking lot. Not the patio at The Shop Beer Co. in central Tempe, where it feels like you’ve been invited to the spacious backyard of friends who are especially enthusiastic about entertaining their guests. Here, you’ll find picnic tables, soft lighting, colorful wall art, and clean bathrooms. Food trucks, too. Around since 2016, The Shop was formerly known as Cartel Brewery but broke off from the flagship location of Cartel Coffee Lab to do its own thing about a mile north. Our favorite Shop brew is the Church Music, a 6.7 percent IPA that has some pineapple juice in the mix; the F.Y.I.T.M double IPA and the Crispy blonde lager are also standouts. Bonus points to the brewery’s proprietors for knowing their Tempe patrons well: The bike rack out front lies conveniently beneath the street light.
Justin Arellano, beverage director of the Churchill, captains the shipping-container bar that spans the open-air food court’s east end. Formerly home to Pobrecito, So Far, So Good claims to have “straightforward” drinks, which is fair, but the bar also rolls out uncommon gems like a “breakfast” negroni and cold brew spiked with bourbon and amaro. Still, Arellano’s is one of the few top-flight cocktail bars that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The happy nonchalance extends to garnishes. In the past, glasses have been topped with gelato spoons, speared ginger slices, and pizzelle. Arellano doesn’t hesitate to mix a simple pitcher of sake punch or a complex, sesame-touched take on a Japanese highball. Drinks have names like The Booty Shaker. The signature drink is the Fuck Nazis, an unlikely union of gin and Cocchi Americano crowned with a gooseberry.
When you walk into Spirit House, remember that it was once the neighboring SanTan Brewing Company’s junk drawer. Not a drawer, exactly — more like a side room, where the SanTan folks stored random items like old kegs, glassware, and kitchen stuff. They’ve since converted it into a 49-seat cocktail lounge that’s proven popular among the crowds of downtown Chandler. As a seven-foot fan whirs above, bartenders create masterful cocktails using botanical spirits, adding aromatic textures to signature but simple drinks like the From State Farm (bourbon, white sugar, and orange bitters) and the Abruzzo Spritz (prosecco and hibiscus bitters). Food options include charcuterie, bruschetta, salads, and open-face sandwiches.
Stardust Pinbar co-owner Ariel Bracamonte had one goal for the David Bowie-inspired pinball lounge he opened in 2019 next to the The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix: He wanted it to be big on fun. (Or, to paraphrase the late pop/rock icon as Ziggy Stardust, he promised it wouldn’t be boring.) Mixing Bowie-esque glam with geek chic, the lounge has nine pinball machines, an illuminated disco dance floor, a fuzzy DJ booth, and gig posters of Bowie as Aladdin Sane. A speakeasy-like secret entrance is rigged up like a walk-up freezer in the pizza parlor next door, which went viral on TikTok after Bracamonte uploaded a video of it in 2020. There are also 8,000 pinballs encased in the glass bar top, cocktails inspired by songs like “Moonage Daydream” and “Diamond Dogs,” and stools covered in glittering silver vinyl. Somewhere, Ziggy Stardust is watching on and smiling.
Stinger’s is a playground for adults writ large (and we do mean large). The 9,000 square-foot sports bar features five pool tables, five glowing dart machines, three poker tables, Foosball, a boxing game, beer pong, a trio of shuffleboard tables, and off-track betting windows for Turf Paradise. There are also weekly Texas Hold'em tournaments with amateurs and pros alike taking pots and breaking hearts. Karaoke is practically a sport here, as patrons are occasionally supplied with costumes and go all out with their performances. And if you don’t prevail at any of these competitive pursuits, any of the dozen or so beers on tap at either of its two bars can help take the sting out of your loss.
Jeff and Jen Herbert, the pair behind Prescott’s Superstition Meadery, have opened a Phoenix outpost called Superstition Downtown. This ain’t the place for vodka-sodas and IPAs. It’s a true meadery, with bottles, jugs, and 24 taps of mostly meads and ciders. They’re offered as 1-ounce pours, which we’ve found to be an excellent way to sample Superstition’s selections. The staff, a friendly crew on the other side of the lengthy bar (it’s made with wood salvaged in the splintery wake of a west-of-Flagstaff tornado), is happy to guide you through the menu, which also contains some damn-fine tapas and a stunner of a soft shell crab sandwich. This place opened in fall 2020, but it already has the feel of a decades-old neighborhood classic.
The first rule of Swizzle Inn: No Starbucks Parking. The parking lot in this plaza at the southeast corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road is tight, and the Swizz can’t be sharing spots with the multitudes of Starbucks fiends the intersection attracts. Opened in 1996, Swizzle is marked by a Jolly Roger flag outside and a beach theme inside. It is one of finest neighborhood bars in uptown Phoenix, a low-key place with a couple of TVs, a pool table, a jukebox pumping out Queen, The B-52’s, and Willie Nelson, and a half-circle bar behind which the bartender pours nothing particularly fancy — but that’s not why you’re here. The signature spot is in the back-left corner, near a tiny atrium where the decor’s theme (surfer summer, Thanksgiving, etc.) is always changing. We especially like Swizzle during the holidays, when just about every square inch of the ceiling is dressed with lights.
This near-downtown Tempe bar is known for its wine and craft beer selection. It’s also quite cozy, with a popular couch and comfortable bar seating for sampling the place’s 30 rotating taps, 20 by-the-glass wines, and more than 600 bottles and cans. Browse the local art pieces for sale, grab a board game (they’ve got several to choose from), or settle in to watch the nightly movies they play. Bonus: You can bring in food from neighboring restaurants — Thai Basil, maybe, or Little Szechuan. Headed home? They’ll fill a growler for you, or you can pop in next door to Tops Liquors and choose a bottle or a sixer to-go. Note: This bar is temporarily closed.
Tempe’s historic, cobblestoned-walled White Dairy Barn was built in 1918, became a commercial establishment in 1930, and was subsequently home to many watering holes, including Murphy’s Irish Pub, Hattie’s Tavern, and the Oxbow Tavern. Today it’s Tempe Tavern, a multi-roomed bar with neon signs and stickered walls, a dance floor, a stage that’s hosted countless local and touring acts, and a sturdy menu of beer, cocktails, and surprisingly decent food. But its best feature remains the cozy front patio. Though the view has changed — these days, you’re looking at a Valley Metro Rail stop, a couple of high-rises, and throngs of police cars — with a beer in your hand and the cobble at your back, you’ll still feel like you’re in the Tempe of yore.
The rising downtown Phoenix craft beer scene got a major boost with the opening of The Theodore in 2019. Justin Evans, best known for The Wandering Tortoise, and Tony Fatica (a former Tortoise bartender), offer a tightly curated selection of craft brews from Arizona and the American West. The Theodore stocks hazy IPAs and pastry stouts from local breweries like Wren House, Arizona Wilderness, and The Shop. You can drink them at breezy seats overlooking the bustle of Roosevelt Row. The crowd of drinkers here knows Arizona beer well, as do the bartenders. Nicely, The Theodore also stocks stellar local beverages beyond beer, including Arizona Sake, Superstition Meadery meads, Stoic Cider, and wines from vintners like Tumbleweed and Rune. Not all local beer is great. Not many beer bars get that. This one really does — and has hookups in Arizona and beyond to pull some of the best limited-edition stuff in town.
Located in the westernmost suite of the historic Wagon Wheel Building in Phoenix’s Melrose District, Thunderbird Lounge was an immediate hit upon debuting in the spring of 2019. The bar’s owners — former Crescent Ballroom bar manager Brett Boyles, Jake Wiedmann of Hot Guy Band, and Jeremiah Gratza, director of operations for the promotion company Stateside Presents and manager of the President Gator record label — invite drinkers with a 1980s atmosphere: vintage furniture (each piece comes with its own backstory), a cig machine, and free arcade games. Expect drinks, sure, but also Midwestern staples like Old Style, RC Cola, Jay’s Potato Chips, and O-Ke-Doke popcorn. The busy backyard-style patio has picnic tables and patio furniture, lawn games, and DJed music. On quiet nights, drinkers can hit the curated jukebox, where there’ll always be a Marty Robbins album — a nod to the Valley’s former Thunderbird Lounge, still sitting empty in Old Towne Glendale.
Familiarity is the name of the game at the Time Out Lounge. Owner Laura Kelly-Phillips and husband Ed (a.k.a. the Tall Man) took over the suite at the end of Huntington Square Shopping Center in 1988. The two have been behind the bar on a weekly basis ever since, and many of the bartenders have been here for years, serving craft and domestic beer, quick cocktails, and easily accessible shots of … anything. It’s roomy, has three pool tables, hosts live music from touring and local acts and, and opens at 11 a.m. every day. It’s close enough to downtown Tempe to attract a mix of college students and locals, but far enough from Mill Avenue to avoid the club types. More often than not, all the stools are occupied with drinkers simply enjoying a cable movie together on one of the TVs behind the bar.
Upon entering TT Roadhouse, a petite neighborhood tavern with a hint of biker bar in south Scottsdale, you’re not sure where to look first. There are shelves of impressive whiskeys (and beer, don’t worry), a TT Roadhouse-emblazoned pool table felt, a giant poster Brigitte Bardot, and multitudes of racing tchotchkes (the bar is named after a motorcycle race on the Isle of Man). The small structure was a farmhouse at some point, but a bar since the early ’60s. For fun, you’ve got the jukebox (packed with punk, ska, outlaw country, New Wave, and long-haul trucker anthems), a feature film playing on the VCR, or conversations with a friendly, longtime bartender or patron. TT Roadhouse was run by the late Richard “Rick” Skoog (though most called him Skoog) from 2009 till 2020, but the bar has not lost its flavor since his death. Not sure what to order at TT? Try the Trashcan Special — a can of PBR or Hamm’s with a well shot for $4.50, all day, every day.
Indicated by nothing more than a glowing red sign above a back-alley door, and possibly a line, Valley Bar is an underground lounge and music venue run by the same team behind Crescent Ballroom. It sits in the basement of a building constructed in 1949 that was formerly home to Phoenix-famous businesses like The Hub art galleries, Bickoff’s Deli, Theater Triad, and Sub Cultural Arts Center. The latter hosted up-and-coming bands of yesteryear, like Green Day, Sound Garden, and Bad Brains. Valley Bar does the same today; its calendar includes local DJ nights, national touring acts, comedy shows, film screenings, and more. In addition to the stage and the main bar, there’s also the dimly lit Rose Room, a lounge area adorned with campy artwork where the bartenders serve up a sweet selection of draft beer, wine, and specialty cocktails named after local politicians (The Janet Napolotini, That’s a Ducey, The Gabby Giffords). This subterranean lair includes darts, billiards tables, and Skee-Ball, as well.
Things behind the bar at this East Phoenix gem, open since 1972, may include: an aquarium, two air fryers, an old steel contraption that splits a lime into several slices all at once, little bags of chips, a sign that changes every shift to let you know who’s in charge (“CHERI BAR RULES''), Advil, Tums, and a bartender named Joyce who’s been here 22 years and will slide your bottle of beer down the length of the bar like a shuffleboard puck. The place opens at 6 a.m., has regular karaoke nights, a couple of pool tables, bucks mounted on the walls, plenty of TVs, and cheap beer. It is a damn-near-perfect dive — a place where you can make friends with a rowdy crowd of dudes with long goatees and bandannas and cowboy hats, or sit at the end of the bar by yourself, listening to “Tennessee Whiskey'' and staring at the fish.
The Wayward Taphouse arrived during the COVID era, a time when Phoenix was in great need of patios. The outdoor seating here seems to have been arranged with care. There’s good sun and shade options, it’s outside food- and dog-friendly, and it’s surrounded by the casitas (which many know were once prisoner-of-war houses) that are home to Novel Ice Cream and other small businesses in the Grand Avenue Arts District. The Wayward was opened by Tyler Goolie and Hilda Cardenas, who both spent about five years at the also-beloved Wren House Brewing Co. The menu here offers mostly Arizona beer and wine from state favorites like The Shop, Arizona Wilderness, Huss, Caduceus Cellars, Cider Corps, and Bad Booch. But be advised: There’s also a beer fridge with more well-known stuff like Coors Banquet and Modelo beneath the ordering window, which is easily accessible from the patio.
This well-loved south Scottsdale dive carries none of the pretension of the cocktail parlors and clubs occupying the same stretch of road further north. The music is loud; happy hour participants will have to shout over whatever live Phish jam is playing to argue about their sports. There’s also a sunny, spacious, dog-friendly patio, which is right against roaring Scottsdale Road. The actual traffic doesn’t stop the foot traffic, though. Regulars frequently walk up to snag a stool inside. How do we know they’re regulars? Each is greeted by name by a chorus of beered-up patrons already a few drinks in. Points in The Well Bar’s favor include a centrally located pool table, janky his-and-her bathrooms, multiple flatscreens, and a no-nonsense bartendress.
The Whining Pig has amassed a mini-empire of craft beer and wine bars across the Valley. But when its Arcadia location (its second overall) opened in 2017, it was merely a quaint concept squeezed into a narrow strip mall space. Wedged between a hair salon and hydrotherapy business, the tiny spot boasts two chalkboard-painted walls, covered from floor to ceiling with colorful doodles, the voluminous list of hundreds of craft beers and wines available for purchase, or both. Just as eye-catching are the tiny flat screens along one wall, each connected to such old-school consoles as the Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Genesis. There are also board and card games within easy reach and a vintage Ms. Pac-Man cocktail arcade unit by the door. Feel free to input your initials into the game’s high-score tally or scrawl something in chalk on the walls. But please refrain from carving into the wood-paneled walls of the unisex bathroom as many others have done. That’s piggish.
Note the array of stately leather chairs as you walk in: Churchill’s seeks to bring a taste of luxury to its east Phoenix strip mall locale — and it succeeds. It’s hard to imagine a fine cigar without a decent drink, though, and as such the entire south wall of the Winston’s, the cigar bar inside Churchill’s, is adorned with hundreds of well-organized bottles of spirits on well-lit shelves. Think of a brand of whiskey, bourbon, or single-malt Scotch, and they probably have it. In addition to the slow-sippers, Winston’s also offers craft cocktails, craft beers, wines by the glass, and Arizona rums. In the back, there’s a large, walk-in humidor packed with cigars for sale and in-house smoking. The staff members know their stuff, too, so ask about where to start if you’re a beginner.
The Womack takes its cues from Phoenix’s past, paying tribute to one of the city’s most famed cocktail parlors. Opened in 2016 by local restaurateur Tucker Woodbury in the heart of Seventh Street’s upscale restaurant district, it's a stylish homage to downtown’s long-defunct Chez Nous lounge, mimicking its layout, ambiance, and swanky look, right down to the gold and black flocked wallpaper and dimly lighted setting. (The name itself is a reference to Chez Nous’ original owners, Andy and Maureen Womack.) Other tips of the hat include the mirrored ceiling, vintage fixtures, tuck-and-roll vinyl booths, a parquet dance floor, and a roster of local funk and R&B musicians performing on the regular. A cocktail menu with classics like the sloe gin fizz, amaretto sour, and sidecar also plays into the throwback theme. Its selection of small plates and shareable items like bruschettas or warmed brie served with toasted bread, or house-made French onion dip are a break from the past (Chez Nous didn’t have a kitchen), proving you can teach an old lounge new tricks.
Drew Pool and Preston Thoeny opened Wren House Brewing Company in 2016 in a historic 1930s home in the Green Gables neighborhood. The beer hall has since taken home a Gold at the Great American Beer Festival for its Spellbinder hazy IPA. While other Arizona breweries expand, Wren has kept things simple, growing only to include a production facility in Prescott. Inside the taproom (which still very much looks like a house), it’s easy to make friends at the large wooden community table after ordering off the chalkboard menu, which changes daily. You can also expect to see takeout brought in from nearby restaurants. Befitting a brewery named after wildlife, Wren House is an eco-conscious operation. Its Hydrolager is brewed with recycled water, and it has partnered with Audubon Southwest on some owl-themed beers.
Yucca Tap Room is foremost a music venue — and a legendary one at that. It’s been around since the early 1970s and is known for offering a stage to the practitioners of the Tempe Sound, touring punk bands, and many other alternative acts. But this windowless, wood-paneled strip-mall tenant is also an excellent neighborhood tavern, frequented by soccer fans and regulars who sometimes arrive when the doors swing open at 6 a.m. to slap the bar, down bloody marys, and cheer on Arsenal. Yucca has expanded east and west in recent years, taking over neighboring suites in order to add the Whiskey Lounge and Electric Bat Arcade. The place boasts good food, too, in the form of progressive Asian fare served up by Bao Chow. There’s an impressive selection of craft beers, daily drink specials (shout out to hot chicken and bourbon Thursdays), and a busy dance floor most weekends.