things to do
best phoenix bars 2011
Things To Do
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Things To Do
Best Phoenix Bars 2011
March, 2011, Page 88
Photography by Richard Maack, David Moore & Sam Nalven
A juicer helps create an Old Fashioned at the
retro-cool Duce in Downtown Phoenix.
From cool crowds to hot happy hours, buzzing social scenes to laidback lounges, the Valley’s bar scene is booming. Here are our favorite places to kick it with a cocktail.
Different Pointe of View
The patio here is perched at the pinnacle of the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, giving the feeling that you’re on top of the world. Peer down at the city lights, or look up to the stars – at 1,800 feet, you’re closer to them here than just about any other bar in town. Premium seats right at the edge of the cliff fill up fast, and it’s also fun to grab a chair by the 9-foot-wide, cliff-side fire pit. There, you can roast adult marshmallows spiked with cordials such as Frangelico, Amaretto and Kahlua, and dip them into chocolate, caramel and vanilla crème sauces. If the fire pit is packed, huddle by a retro lamp-like Kindle Living heater, one of the most neat-o things to hit patios in years. Call first: Private parties sometimes buy out the entire bar – it’s that awesome.
: 11111 N. Seventh St., 602-866-6350,
El Chorro Lodge
Few places in the Valley have such a rich history and ideal setting as El Chorro Lodge, originally built in 1934 as the Judson School for Girls. So it was a nail-biter when the place was sold and revamped in 2009. Thankfully, the new owners did nothing but improve upon a classic, including expanding the patio – the restaurant’s main focal point upon entering – to add more lounge seating and fire features. For stunning views of Camelback Mountain, arrive early while there’s still light. As the evening wears on, the band kicks up (mostly on weekends), and cooler nights make for perfect dancing weather. The drink list changes seasonally, so look for spicier, warmer beverages in the fall and winter, and fruitier, icier specialties come spring and summer. Happy hour is 3-6 p.m., Monday-Friday, with half a dozen small plates; the restaurant’s dinner menu is available nightly 5-10 p.m.
: 5550 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, 480-948-5170,
One of the grand dames of hotel lobby bars, this bar in the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch is classic Southwest meets contemporary. The airy interior lounge has floor-to-ceiling glass walls that slide open to the majestic patio. Towering queen palms and saguaros frame the al fresco area. Gurgling geometric fountains lined with river rock and stone fireplaces provide welcoming accents. In the distance, the McDowell Mountains loom, presenting a postcard scenario. It’s almost impossible not to take copious photos of yourself and friends and send them to relatives in colder climates with a chipper “Wish you were here!” message. Nightly entertainment ranges from American Indian dancers (the resort prides itself on its devotion to sharing American Indian art and culture with guests) to flamenco or jazz music. Light fare is served from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, and sushi is served 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
: 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale, 480-444-1234,
From the outside, you’d never know what an oasis awaits. Located in the FireSky Resort just north of downtown Scottsdale right on Scottsdale Road, the Taggia Bar patio is surrounded by greenery overlooking the sandy beach pool and lagoon. As you enter, an eye-popping lobby follows the FireSky theme with warm and cool hues, a copper-tiled water feature, stone pillars and, quirkily, illuminated faux deer trophy heads. It gives way to a Mediterranean patio with polished wood lounge chairs, side tables and a fire pit. Next to that area, just outside the Taggia dining room is a smaller patio with a stacked stone and rock fountain in the center and a tall, stacked stone fireplace to the side. Sink into one of the chairs with a seasonal or signature cocktail and a coastal Italian-themed small plate and luxuriate in the garden setting.
: 4925 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-424-6095,
The Last Drop, the recently expanded and renamed bar at Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn
The Last Drop
Inside every Stetson hat is the image of a cowboy giving his last drop of water to his trusty steed. The rustic imprint was adapted from an early 20th-century painting by Lon Megargee, whose iconic piece now hangs at The Last Drop, the recently expanded and renamed bar at Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn. The hotel was once Megargee’s home and studio, and its new bar booms and echoes with the artist’s bronco-busting, classy-cowboy spirit, from its heavy rugs and leather furniture to its wrought-iron artwork and wood-framed windows.
The Southwestern bar’s signature drink is the Megargee Mojito, a fizzy cocktail ornamented with Cruzan rum, fresh mint and seasonal fruit. At this swanky watering hole, there’s no need for canteens; sip martinis by the patio’s fireplace and enjoy modern comforts while toasting to the Old West.
: 5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley, 602-955-8614,
Orange Sky Lounge
Once you get to the top of Talking Stick Resort, this 15th-floor bar with panoramic views of the McDowell Mountains and the Valley will make you forget you’re in a casino altogether. It’s hard to say which is more dramatic: the views or the interior design. Swanky is the operative word here, with long, curving, double-sided lounge seating to the right as you exit the elevators; a flashy bar straight ahead; and to the left, a larger room with chair groupings around low tables and a pianist at a baby grand playing lounge classics and jazz nightly. Sure, some patrons will just poke in out of curiosity while taking a break from the slots, but it’s easy to make a night of it, too, if you order some apps and settle in with friends. FYI: Clean up a bit and nix the flip-flops; there’s a dress code.
: 9800 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale, 480-850-7777,
Enjoy a signature margarita and stunning mountain views on the patio of RBar at Camelback Inn.
Scottsdale’s first resort hotel, Camelback Inn was built in 1936 but shows no signs of age or wear as it continues to welcome guests – including big names such as former President George H.W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey and Chef/author Bobby Flay. You’ll feel like a star, too, when you’re sipping in style at the indoor/outdoor RBar. Inside, it boasts tasteful Southwestern patterns with warm hues, super-soft leather club chairs and rustic wood accents. Outside are fire pits, umbrellas and gorgeous mountain views. A tempting list of handcrafted cocktails includes a seasonal drink, and you can’t go wrong with signature margaritas. If you’re an early bird, take advantage of happy hour plates such as fish tacos, buffalo chicken bites, sliders and quesadillas for $2 to $6 from 3-6 p.m. daily. Entrées are available in the bar as well. Be sure to peruse the old photos in the hallway and lobby.
: 5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, 480-948-1700,
Who would think to go to a corporate restaurant in a mall for one of the classiest bars around? Seasons 52 at Biltmore Fashion Park smartly designed its lounge with a rotating stage behind the long center oval bar so everyone can enjoy live piano and vocals from 6 p.m.-close. It’s mellow and mood-setting, not obnoxious, but that also means you can’t hear it in the dining areas. The good news is, the entire menu is available in the lounge, so grab a cushy bar stool or one of the booths around the perimeter and prepare for an upscale experience. This company has a master sommelier on staff, so the wine list – 60 by the glass – is better than your average bar’s. And since all of the dishes on the menu contain no more than 475 calories, you can indulge in that adult beverage with less guilt.
INFO: 2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602-840-5252,
Fun & Funky
It’s nearly impossible to pigeonhole the Duce, but its quirkiness has made it a Downtown destination. Formerly a 1928 brick produce warehouse (thus, the “duce”), it includes retail shopping with military surplus clothing, shoes, bikes and retro-style house wares. But wait, there’s a boxing ring, too. And an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream parlor. And a gleaming antique bar from Chicago’s Black Orchid Jazz Club, where they serve vintage cocktails, organic wines and throwback beers such as Schlitz, Old Milwaukee and the ubiquitous PBR. Outside in the courtyard is the kitchen – a shiny vintage Airstream and a barrel barbecue – and rows of long picnic tables, reclaimed vintage barstools and light strings. Want to tool around Downtown? The Duce will take you to a game or drop you off at the nearest light rail station in a 1968 yellow school bus.
: 525 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-866-3823,
Sean Rassas decided Goodyear needed a community gathering spot like the ones he saw while stationed in Germany, so the Air Force F-16 instructor pilot opened this aptly named place in 2007. It has something for everyone: gelato, gourmet coffee (roasted on site), a panini and salad menu, a kids’ area with a 300-gallon saltwater aquarium, toys and, of course, a full bar. The self-described “wine geek” carries about 450 bottles of wine – 40 by the glass – and hosts wine tastings 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and 7 p.m.-close on Saturdays. He sells 300 beers, including six on tap, and prides himself on serving some of the highest-rated beers in the world. (He offers the world’s best-rated dark Hefeweizen on tap.) Stop in for live music on Fridays and Saturdays. And if you like the place, here’s an opportunity to show your appreciation: Rassas wants to make the city friendlier to independent businesses like his, so he’s running for mayor; the election is March 8.
: 14140 W. Indian School Road, Ste. B1, Goodyear, 623-935-2604,
CityScape’s Lucky Strike Lanes mixes bowling with booze in a hip Downtown setting.
Lucky Strike Lanes
Homer Simpson’s hangout, it’s not. He’d be baffled by the funky artwork, DJ music and dress code (athletic wear, sweats and overly baggy apparel are no-no’s, for instance). So put on your cutest nerd glasses and funniest ironic T-shirt – or best little black dress, or sexiest jeans – and settle in for a night of bowling, new-school style. Black lights and neon frame the 12 lanes, and tattooed waitresses in textured tights look like the result of Betsey Johnson dressing up the Hooters girls. Luxe lounge seating takes the place of the hard, old, plastic-molded seats of yesteryear. But you don’t have to bowl to come here: Group seating areas and high-tops in the main alley are for spectators, and a separate sunken lounge and bar behind a glass wall gives a lane-height view so you can have a ball watching the balls roll.
: 50 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-732-5490,
The Vig Uptown
Don’t let the polished designer digs and eye-popping backlighting fool you: You can decompress here and not worry about what you’re wearing or if you’re drinking the right thing. Hang out at the bar in the walled-in but open-air Arizona room – the largest in the Valley – and bone up on your bocce ball skills. Nearly 40 wines are arranged in flavor categories, so even if you’re no expert, you can order with confidence. A premium beer list, sassy “Vignature” cocktail menu and eclectic, globally inspired menu ensures even the largest group can go and no one will be disappointed. Don’t drink and drive; call the Vig Rig at 602-328-6334. It picks up for free (tips appreciated) between 19th Avenue to 40th Street and Dunlap Avenue down to about Indian School Road. The Arcadia location has a bus, too.
: 6015 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-633-1187 (other location: Phoenix/Arcadia, 602-553-7227),
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