APRIL 22, 2021

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

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

The 1227 Tap Room

The 1227 Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano
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.
1227 E. Northern Ave., Phoenix, 85020

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Aguila's Hidaway

Aguila's Hidaway
Lauren Cusimano
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.
1235 N. Dysart Rd., Goodyear, 85323

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Arizona Wilderness DTPHX

Arizona Wilderness DTPHX
Lauren Cusimano
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. ($$)
201 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 85004

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Bar Bianco

Bar Bianco
Melissa Campana
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. ($$)
609 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 85004

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

The Beast

The Beast
Lauren Cusimano
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.
960 W. University Dr., #103, Tempe, 85281

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Bikini Lounge

Bikini Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman
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.
1502 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 85007

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Lauren Saria
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. ($$)
1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 85003

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Boycott Bar

Boycott Bar
Benjamin Leatherman
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.
4301 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, 85013

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

BS West

BS West
Benjamin Leatherman
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.”
7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 85251

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Buffalo Chip Saloon

Buffalo Chip Saloon
Lauren Cusimano
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. ($$)
6823 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 85331

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Bull Shooters

Bull Shooters
Benjamin Leatherman
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 $2 PBR bottles). Just keep your drink far away from the pristine felt (or use a coaster, dammit!), since you’ll get hard looks or harsh words from the staff. And that ain’t no bull. ($)
3337 W. Peoria Ave., Phoenix, 85029

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Cactus Jack's

Cactus Jack's
Google Maps
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. ($)
4747 E. Elliot Rd. #5, Phoenix, 85044

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Carly's Bistro

Carly's Bistro
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. ($)
128 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 85004

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Casey Moore's Oyster House

Casey Moore's Oyster House
Tom Carlson
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. ($$)
850 S. Ash Ave., Tempe, 85281

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Catalina Sports Bar & Grill

Catalina Sports Bar & Grill
Benjamin Leatherman
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.
2939 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85016

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Century Grand

Century Grand
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
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. ($$$)
3626 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 85018

The Best Bars in Phoenix in 2021: Our Top 100 List

Champions Sports Saloon

Champions Sports Saloon
Benjamin Leatherman
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.
211 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 85234