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
Live Music Bars
Bobby’s, a Mancuso Restaurant
The flashy lounge upstairs at Bobby’s features music from 7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 6-10 p.m. the rest of the week, with a blend of Hollywood meets Las Vegas. Blues, jazz, rock, soft rock and R&B are all in rotation to maintain a good mix. It’s lively but not so loud that you’re screaming into your neighbor’s ear. Red and blue accents prevail: Hot red under-lighting from the ceiling and a cool blue glow from faux candles on a sleek, black, sparkly bar gives a sexy sheen to the place. Red ball pendant lights, a glowing blue bubbly wall and a glittering chain mail curtain add extra pop. Vest-clad, friendly bartenders are easygoing and obliging, and a happy hour 4-7 p.m. Sundays through Fridays makes it easy on the wallet to sample from the long list of classic Italian starters. No cover.
: 7122 E. Greenway Pkwy., Scottsdale, 480-556-0770,
Music lovers flock to the Compound Grill for its great acoustics and Southwestern pub grub.
It’s the ultimate concert venue for those who don’t want to sacrifice comfort for good tunes. It’s cavernous, with high ceilings and a capacity of up to 400, but it also feels cozy, thanks to a flattering, warm glow from the walls of lights, wood floors and easy-on-the-eyes contemporary styling. Acoustics are excellent, and serious music lovers fill the place to capacity, especially when national acts schedule a show. The producers of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival founded the place as a cultural center smack dab in the heart of a mammoth strip mall, but it works. Seating is first-come, first-served, and for ticketed events you need that ticket for dinner reservations – but check first; some big shows are standing room only. The Southwestern-leaning menu follows a farm-to-table philosophy with plenty of local ingredients. Cover charge varies.
: 7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, 480-585-5483,
Kazimierz World Wine Bar
Done up to resemble a dark, classy European wine cave, Kazimierz is known for its Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and veritable bible of more than 2,200 bottles. But what many don’t know is that it’s also a civilized place to catch stellar live music. Rotating local acts take the stage on Sundays; Margo Reed belts out jazz and blues on Mondays; the JJs jam old R&B, Motown and funk on Tuesdays; and you can dig Dennis Rowland’s silky jazz voice on Thursdays. Live DJs spin on the other nights. It’s not a big room, so every seat in the house is great, but it’s not so tiny that you feel crowded. Grab a barstool or a sofa, order up a world-class wine flight and nibble on a flatbread or cheese plate. Cover charge of $5 starts at 8 p.m. for live bands; music plays
9 p.m. to midnight.
: 7137 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, 480-946-3004,
It’s about as basic as a club can get, with low, dark ceilings and a postage stamp-size dance floor, but no one minds because the focus is always on the music. It hosts many of the city’s most talented and most followed acts, such as Bad News Blues and the Rhythm Room All-Stars (with harmonica by club owner Bob Corritore), as well as touring performers – recent names have included Jimmie Vaughan and Pinetop Perkins. A “juke joint” bluesy feel is always present here, but from day to day it’s virtually a different club: Many nights, blues and roots music take top billing, but there’s room for jazz, folk, soul, bluegrass and grunge, too. Enthusiastic and eclectic crowds pack the place, particularly on weekends; sometimes there are chairs and tables, other times it’s standing room only. It also hosts benefits for everything from ill musicians to food banks. Cover charge varies.
: 1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602-265-4842,
Rusty Spur Saloon
At first blush it’s just a cramped, noisy cowboy bar with walls and ceilings lined with license plates, thousands of dollar bills and all manner of Western memorabilia, but there’s a rich history behind the kitsch. The building went up in 1921 and housed a bank and offices before morphing into the Rusty Spur Café in 1951. In 1958, it became the Rusty Spur Saloon – Scottsdale’s oldest bar. Live entertainment seven days and seven nights on the tiny stage in the corner keeps the tourists and locals entertained, especially the popular Psychobilly Rodeo Band, a fixture Thursday through Saturday nights. A full menu, served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, includes burgers, Mexican dishes and snacks such as the tumbleweed salad or cowboy chili. Nighttime is just for music and adult libations. Look for special events in the fall to celebrate the bar’s 60th anniversary, and a heads up: This is also a very popular post-Spring Training game spot.
: 7245 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-425-7787,
Warren’s Jazz Bistro
Deep in the heart of Gilbert lies one of the most soulful nightspots in the Valley, with live music five nights a week. The well-lit stage looks out over a space that resembles less of a club and more of a restaurant – complete with plush booths and four-top tables – and for good reason: Warren’s serves a full menu, and it’s a good idea to make a reservation and get a table if you want to rest your dogs, especially on the weekends. Seats fill fast. But most of the crowd doesn’t mind, because dancing is the name of the game here, and the floor stays hopping all night. Sometimes a softer duo or performer starts things off early, but later, the main acts – contemporary, upbeat R&B, with a mix of classics – usually shake the walls, so don’t expect to get in any deep conversations. There’s a cover or minimum each night.
: 1451 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 108, Gilbert, 480-899-5299,
Classics with a Twist
It’s like a touch of Vegas right here in the Valley. Bubble chandeliers, oversized club chairs, a groovy chocolate-and-blue color scheme and a mini-Bellagio style fountain just outside the windows set the stage for some serious cocktails. Take your time perusing the drinks menu: Each item includes a brief history, such as where, when and how it was created, or at least where the bar found an original recipe. Jazz or Rat Pack music is mellow enough that you can still hold a conversation. For bar bites, starters such as blackened tenderloin tips or shrimp cocktail are available from neighboring Shula’s America’s Steak House. It’s located inside the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino, so take extra spending money if you’re feeling lucky.
: 5040 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler, 800-946-5542,
Mabel’s on Main
Chef Aaron May massaged the former dive bar Mabel Murphy’s into this posh incarnation, which consciously evokes a bygone era of a mid-20th century men’s club (though dames are allowed, natch). In fact, Mabel’s offers corporate memberships with concierge service, transportation around Old Town, priority reservations and more. But you don’t need to join to partake: Grab your fedora or other Mad Men garb and high-tail it in anytime for a Sazerac or Old Fashioned. Craving more than a cocktail? May’s menu features retro rations such as caviar-topped deviled eggs, Swedish meatballs and oysters Rockefeller. Take a load off those loafers in one of the studded leather wing chairs while surrounded by more dark wood than a rich uncle’s library. Speaking of libraries, behind that wall of books is a secret 15-seat private room.
: 7018 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-889-5580,
More than 50 beers and 20 wines by the glass grace the menu at SideBar, a small, laidback lounge in central Phoenix.
It’s located above a Starbucks and Pei Wei, but corporate America is a million miles away when you enter SideBar. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of funky artwork and kitschy old movies with exposed brick walls, stark white mid-century style chairs and low, round white tables. Or it could be the black-clad, tattooed bartenders who are always in motion but never have an attitude. While the place could coast on its good looks and too-cool clientele, it backs up the style with substance, serving more than 50 beers and 20 wines by the glass, and using only fresh-squeezed juices for its non-clichéd cocktails (the White Rabbit, CenPhoPolitan and Cucumint Martini are patron faves). The menu is miniscule except for Mexican Mondays, when margaritas are $4.25 and they cater in a buffet. Warning: It’s not a big place, so seats are at a premium, and parking can be frustrating.
: 1514 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, 602-254-1646,
Once upon a time, going to the movies was a simple affair. You bought a ticket, maybe some popcorn, and settled into your slightly reclining, slightly uncomfortable seat for a two-hour cinematic escape. Scottsdale Quarter’s new iPic Theaters changed all that. The theater offers posh leather recliners, pillows, blankets and table service – not to mention Tanzy, the adjoining restaurant and bar (one of two; the other is Salt) that serves as the perfect before-or-after movie stop.
The only thing that can distract from Tanzy’s super-fresh Mediterranean menu is its sprawling views of the McDowell Mountains through its floor-to-ceiling windows – and its extensive drinks list. More than 200 wines grace Tanzy’s menu along with market-fresh cocktails, including mango-ginger-habanero daiquiris and passion fruit-pomegranate-blood orange margaritas sweetened with natural fruit purées and syrups made from scratch.
: 15257 N. Scottsdale Road, Ste. F-220, Scottsdale, 480-483-3255,
Bar manager Jason Adler pours an O! So Grand and an Antioxidant at the cozy W Hotel Living Room bar.
W Hotel Living Room
Not to be confused with the local wine bar of the same name, the W Hotel’s Living Room is a smart, spiffy take on the lobby bar, with a wide-open feel, high-back booths, earth tones, a long wooden bar and – adding a touch of whimsy – dashes of cow print upholstery and prehistoric petrified wood accent tables. The two-story art wall of stone and glass is meant to recall desert landscape and water elements. The extensive cocktail list reads like a dessert menu for adults, with offerings such as the White Gummy Bear, Bubble Dew, W Root Beer Float and “Orange Cream Sickle.” Many drinks are available in pitchers. The munchies menu ranges from salads to sandwiches to ceviche. Dim lighting and cool DJ music add sultry touches, and as with any good living room, board games are on hand for an impromptu challenge.
: 7277 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480-970-2100,
Neighborhood Wine Bars
A white wine spritzer and tuna tartare at Cave Creek Coffee Co. and Wine Bar
Cave Creek Coffee Co. and Wine Bar
Especially in the north Valley, wine bars have multiplied like jackrabbits in recent years. While Cave Creek has a handful of worthy vino venues, this one (abbreviated as C4) remains a favorite. It hosts everything from baby showers to local artists to visiting winemakers. C4 originally opened in 1998 as a coffee house (thus the name), and the bar was added in 2003. It features about 80 bottles of wine and 16 by the glass, as well as a full bar with specialty martinis. Pair your drinks with above-par salads (try the signature mango chicken salad), sandwiches, pizzas, antipasto, cheeses or bruschetta. Live music in the bar Tuesday through Saturday nights brings them in, too, and the adjacent coffee bar has a back courtyard where national acts perform in the spring and fall.
: 6033 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480-488-0603,
Down Under Wines & Bistro
Now that the kids are grown and the folks are free to live a little, bars and other nightlife venues in Gilbert are creeping in. This has become a suburban hot spot, with a rollicking but not rowdy crowd. They come in for the extensive selection of Australian wines, hospitality and exotic foods, such as crocodile pot stickers, grilled kangaroo loin or ostrich sliders (the menu also features more familiar items, such as lamb chops and shrimp on the barbie). Wine barrels are used as the bases for most of the tables; floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls let the indoor patrons keep an eye on the patio dwellers, and vice-versa, so no one’s left out of the party. Check the calendar for visiting winemakers, live music and other events. Full bar is available.
: 1422 W. Warner Road, Gilbert, 480-545-4900,
Grapeables Wine Bar & Lounge
Fountain Hills isn’t the liveliest of areas in the Valley, but Grapeables has given its neighbors a place to sip and socialize since 2001. It’s situated with a view facing directly out to the namesake fountain and mountains beyond, providing a peaceful backdrop for that syrah. A thoughtful selection of about 270 domestic and international bottles ensures you can find something you like, and about a dozen by the glass also span the globe. There’s no hard liquor and no kitchen here, but you can munch on antipasto, panini or platters of cheese, meat and fruit, or order a pizza from next door. Friday wine tastings for $12 are always hopping, and live music runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They occasionally host catered wine dinners, too. A calendar is posted on the website.
: 12645 N. Saguaro Blvd., Ste. 9, Fountain Hills, 480-816-5959,
The Living Room Wine Café & Lounge
Phoenix and Scottsdale no longer have the market cornered on hip, happening wine bars, thanks to the Living Room in south Chandler/Ocotillo. Taking a page from the Postino playbook, the owners (the same team behind Scottsdale’s Humble Pie) created an airy space with a roll-up garage door – the official architectural element of the late “noughts” – as well as high ceilings and plenty of patio seating. Tall arches and a garden out front designed by Maya Dailey of Maya’s Garden soften the look. The wine list could be more adventurous, but at $5 a glass until 6 p.m. daily, we won’t gripe. The menu includes the basic triumvirate of bruschetta-sandwiches-salads along with antipasto, cheese plates and nibbles, and there’s a full bar. This location did so well that a second location opened in Downtown Phoenix last October.
: 2475 W. Queen Creek Road, Chandler, 480-855-2848 (other location: Phoenix, 602-229-1289),
Rhythm and Wine
The heart of this north Scottsdale café may be the wine, but it’s got music pumping through its veins. The cool, intimate hangout has nearly 100 wines on one sprawling wall, from red, white and sparkling to port and dessert wines. On the restaurant’s other walls, legendary musicians beam down from rock heaven. The menu is sprinkled with pop music references, from Courtney Loves This Chicken to Barry’s White Pizza. Then there’s the Rocktails, including Springsteen’s “The Boss” Margarita (tequila, cointreau and fresh lime juice) and the Yellow Submarine (vodka with limoncello and fresh mint syrup, splashed with sparkling wine). Every Wednesday brings Beatles and Bottles, when bottles are half price and the Fab Four fill the speakers all day long. Catch rotating live acts on Friday and Saturday nights, from jazz singers to acoustic duos.
: 7605 E. Pinnacle Peak Road, Ste. D1, Scottsdale, 480-478-6999,
Sun Devil Liquors Cellar & Pub
From the outside, Sun Devil Liquors looks like a typical urban drive-through liquor store, but inside, it’s a meeting place for discerning drinkers. The store carries one of the most extensive selections of spirits in town, from hundreds of single-malt Scotches to hard-to-find tequilas. Downstairs is a dark, cool European-style cave with a wine-themed wall mural. A compact pub counter and high-top tables are shoehorned in among row upon row of retail shelves and coolers with more than 1,500 wines and beers, all available to open and drink on the premises – or you can choose from more than two dozen wines by the glass and nine beers on tap. In 2009, the Eccles family expanded it, adding a low-ceiling basement lounge with red walls, plush sofas, local musicians and local artwork. Every Thursday from 6-8 p.m. enjoy a wine tasting for $5 with live music; beer tastings are every Friday.
: 235 N. Country Club Drive, Mesa, 480-834-5050,
Terroir Wine Pub
Despite the French name, owner Brian Mahoney designed Terroir with casual Irish pubs in mind so everyone would feel at ease, which is why he dubs it “Scottsdale’s friendliest wine pub.” It’s contemporary and refined, with microfiber and brushed metal bar stools, but with a relaxed edge, thanks to lounge seating and a kicked-back, dog-friendly patio with a gurgling waterfall. You’re not a stranger here for long: A long, double-sided bar helps facilitate conversations with new friends. Most nights there’s a theme, from Tuesday trivia to Thursday tastings, and happy hour is all day, every day, with select glasses of wine for $7. It’s also home of the big pour – they get three glasses out of a wine bottle rather than the typical four or five. No hard liquor is available.
: 7001 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-922-3470,
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