The Spot: Ice House Tavern
3855 E. Thomas Road, 602-244-1179
The Ice House Tavern is a bar that feels like a desert mirage, housed inside the Arcadia Ice Arena on Thomas — and no, there’s no mistake in that sentence. A banner posted outside declares it as “Phoenix’s best hockey bar.” But it's more — one of Phoenix’s best-kept secrets. A thick layer of glass separates the bar from the ice rink so patrons can drink and watch as young hockey players duke it out on the rink. Expect the occasional puck flying up against the glass. And if you’re lucky, maybe even a hockey player will slam into the barrier, too. It gets loud, but you’re never drowned out by the ice action, even if you’re mere feet from the rink. Patrons can chat, watch the live ice action, or just watch the big screens hanging above the bar. The view has got to be one of the best in town, and we got a real kick out of watching parents cheer on their kids. We’ve also never seen as many babies and young kids at a bar before, but that only added to the Tavern’s funky charm.
Inside, there are two main sitting areas, one above the main bar and one below it. The one above is surprisingly sleek and outfitted with plush chairs lining the wall and a row of tables. Patrons can kick back here to watch the big screen TVs. The seating area below features one long bar complete with an ultra comfy black armrest — this is where you’ll want to sit to really take it all in.
Little details complete the package. There’s a hockey net suspended high up in the left corner of the bar. Some hockey sticks rest alongside the right side of the bar. An old-fashioned popcorn machine supplies a simple snack. And there's a jukebox right by the door. There’s even a payphone tucked away inside one alcove right by the men’s room, though there was no dial tone when we picked up the receiver.
The Drinks: The drink prices here are a steal and include $4 craft beers and $4 well drinks during happy hour. The Bird Dog peach whiskey mixed with Diet Coke provided just the right kick and Odell Brewing Company’s IPA was just the right amount of bitter. The Ice House Tavern also prides itself on its craft beer selection. Expect to see bottled Fat Tire, San Tan’s Devil’s Pale Ale, and Four Peaks’ Kilt Lifter. There’s no official cocktail menu, but you will find liquor bottles behind the bar.
The Food: The Ice House Tavern is home to one tiny kitchen where the bartender warms up all the food. But, surprisingly, the food's actually not bad. Chicken tenders and fries tasted as good as anywhere, and the naan flatbread was piping hot and chewy, even if all the cheese did slide off of it pretty fast. Other menu options include wings, pretzels, and a BBQ pulled pork sandwich.
Tips: Finding this place is tricky. You essentially have two options to get there. You can park behind the ice rink and walk in, even if the alleyway behind the place is a little sketchy looking. The door to the bar is usually open, but you’ll have to look hard for the lone banner declaring that you've arrived. You could also walk through the rink; walk all the way out and then through a set of unmarked doors on your left.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.