After the remodel, I didn't return. But then, a few weeks ago, the sweltering heat and a touch of nostalgia got the better of me, and I went back to see what the Ice House Tavern had become.
There is exposed cinder block and strings of market lights, now. The tiered double bar setup is more comfortable, and the booths that line the wall lend a sports bar feel. Someone also managed to rid the room of the musty melted ice smell that haunts the rest of the ice rink.
Though I mourned the loss of the wood panel walls, dark corners, and awkward arrangement of dart boards set dangerously close to the high-top bar stools, I had to admit that the updates were nice, and the nicest part of all was the installation of a full kitchen.
The pub grub at Ice House, served until 11 p.m. each night, is pretty decent. Better than decent, even. I'm partial to the Canadian combo: poutine (french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds) and a frosty Molson. But I'm also a sucker for tots, so I found it impossible not to eat an entire basket of cheese-covered, jalapeno sour cream tots, too.
They have a few beers on tap, and a good selection in the bottle, and during happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m., it's $1 off both drafts and domestic bottles, and $.50 off imports, making this an easy-to-enjoy pub.
One thing that hasn't changed is the fact that it is the Ice House's proximity to and view of the Arcadia ice rink that makes it special. You have to go outside go into the actual rink, and if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a blast of frigid cold air.
Honestly, it’s not a middle-of-winter-in-the-Yukon cold. And don’t expect to see a White Walker with a frozen sword. It’s more like the weird cold you feel in the penguin enclosure at the zoo.
This is what the Ice House has always done really well. It brings you inside, where it’s nice and cool, and transports you to another place and time. It's a better place, a cooler place, where you can escape from the heat, or whatever else you are running from. And now, you can enjoy a hot meal there, too.
Visit the coldest bar in Phoenix, Ice House Tavern (3855 East Thomas Road), from Monday to Friday, 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday, 9 to 1 a.m.; and Sunday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (happy hour, 3 to 6 p.m.).