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
See & Be Seen
It’s a good sign when a restaurant/bar puts its cocktail list alongside its food menu instead of hiding it in the back or on a separate table card. It says to the diner, “We put as much thought and effort into what you’re drinking as what you’re eating.” Then again, that’s why they call a place like this a gastropub. Adventurous imbibers will want to try the Smashed Irishman with Jameson whiskey and house-made Guinness reduction; for meat lovers, there’s a bacon-infused Bloody Mary.
As for ambience, rustic meets regal here: A rough wood bar, wood floors and chalkboards listing drinks contrast with gigantic beaded chandeliers, wingback chairs and a floral-patterned purple wall. The indoor/outdoor bar and loungey patio is the place to see and be seen, but get there early or be prepared to stand, especially on weekend nights.
: 7135 E. Camelback Road, Ste. 125, Scottsdale, 480-970-1700,
Champagne and tea rule at Narcisse, north Scottsdale’s newest hot spot.
It’s no coincidence this champagne/tea bar and lounge is named after Narcissus, the mythical Greek teen who fell in love with his own reflection. Owners Todd Rosenbaum and Tom Zummo (of Scottsdale nightlife staples Axis/Radius, Suede and Myst) seek to serve the Valley’s own self-obsessed with an elaborately designed, indulgent hot spot for “affluent self-loved characters.”
For all that talk, Narcisse delivers. With 125 types of champagne, a slew of cocktails and munchies ranging from osetra caviar to popcorn du jour, Narcisse’s stylish clientele can live the high life, just one story above the swanky Scottsdale Quarter. The servers speak the language of champagne, rolling Milanese and Taittinger off their tongues and dropping recommendations to help you make an informed choice of bubbly. Drop by from 2 to 5 p.m. for a full tea service or a champagne-tea combination.
: 15257 N. Scottsdale Road, Ste. 200, Scottsdale, 480-588-2244,
Several sizzling scenes operate here at different times. After work, the front bar is packed with happy hour aficionados. Deals are extensive and satisfying – all 16 specialty martinis are $6, drafts are $3, wine is $5 and select apps (a cut above most bar food) are $5. At game time, the bevy of big screens is well placed so you can keep an eye on the score from just about any seat. On weekend nights, scoring takes on another meaning: The floodgates open, and hordes of snappily dressed singles (or those pretending to be single) scurry from the adjacent parking garage to strategically position themselves at one of the three bars housed in this large, open space. Live bands play on Friday and Saturday nights; a DJ spins on Thursdays. It has a reputation for cougars and the over-30 crowd; think Blue Martini meets Sapporo.
: 15037 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-822-6200,
The drinks arm of Bliss restaurant next door, ReBar is also in a tiny, charming old bungalow, but its big selling point is the wraparound patio deck with a circular center bar and dance music. On weekend nights, and especially on First Fridays, the place jams with a jovial mix of Downtowners hanging in the ’hood and suburbanites going to and fro. But it’s happening every night of the week, probably because of the jaw-dropping, “how do they do that?” rotating list of drink and food specials, including a $3 cocktail of the day. On less-packed weeknights, grab a seat at the bar or one of the high-tops and order from Bliss’ comfort food menu. On Mondays, a “monster platter” of apps and bottle of house wine is $20 along with happy hour, open to close, and on Tuesdays, two burgers, fries and two beers or wines are $20.
: 901 N. Fourth St., Phoenix, 602-795-1792,
The two-story RnR bar in Old Town Scottsdale stays loud and lively most nights.
All day, every day – or at least during open hours, which is most of the time – there’s a buzz here. It’s one of those places fronting Scottsdale Road that, when you drive by, makes you think, “Look at all of those people having fun. I wish I were there.” But RnR is even more enticing, thanks to a double-decker patio and funky architecture. So stop daydreaming, park the car, pop in and plop down on one of the cushy patio chairs, or belly up to the inside bar, where the staff is at the ready with recommendations for a new wine or a hand-muddled cocktail. It’s a fun stopover on the way to or from Scottsdale events, or you can settle in for the night, when a lively, younger crowd keeps the energy going late. If you need a boost, order from the excellent coffee menu.
: 3737 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-945-3353,
Spring Training Bars
Diamond’s Sports Grille
Staff and patrons here alike rejoiced when Mesa residents last November passed a ballot measure to fund a new $84 million Spring Training facility for the Chicago Cubs, who have practiced in the area for 58 of the past 59 years. Dubbed “Wrigleyville West,” it will also function as a year-round baseball headquarters and entertainment center – meaning potentially even more business for this longtime Cubs hub, which broadcaster Harry Caray originally opened roughly three decades ago. The current owner recently completed a major cleanup and renovations to attract hordes of Chicago visitors during the season as well as a healthy contingent of regulars. The menu is even a tribute to baseball, with sections devoted to the Starting Line-Up (appetizers), Field of Greens (salads), On the Bench (sandwiches), the Bullpen (burgers), Box Seat Entrées and Little Leaguers (kids’ menu).
: 161 N. Centennial Way, Mesa, 480-844-3888,
Don & Charlie’s
The impressive floor-to-ceiling sports memorabilia collection alone is worth a trip here to see the more than 750 signed baseballs and collection of jerseys, all of which were donated to owners Don Carson and Rich Melman (save for the Babe Ruth ball). But don’t expect a sports-bar vibe: It’s known for fine dining, with ribs, steaks, “broasted” chicken and seafood drawing raves from regulars for decades. They take reservations up to 30 days in advance for the dining room, so if you don’t have one, expect a long wait – Scottsdale Stadium is about a mile away, and there’s a mad rush here after games. A big part of the allure is that you never know whom you’ll see: Players, ex-players, coaches and clubhouse guys all are in the mix here. San Francisco Giants equipment manager and Carson’s good friend Mike Murphy is a fixture who even has his own table.
: 7501 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480-990-0900,
Cubs fans feel right at home at Jimmy’s of Chicago.
Jimmy’s of Chicago
It’s not the closest bar to a Spring Training facility (it’s on Pecos and Gilbert roads, about 11 miles away from Mesa’s Hohokam Park), but it definitely has the heart and the Chicago customer base to be a stopover for fervent fans on the way to and from games. Owners Zalena and Kerry Kersting are Chicago transplants whose love of their hometown and their beloved Cubbies is apparent. Witness the wall signed by numerous players and the ongoing raffles of signed Cubs jerseys for charity. Specials during the season include your first domestic draft for a buck when you show your ticket, and they run a 2-for-1 coupon in the baseball program for Italian beef sandwiches – the house specialty. And don’t overlook the stuffed mushrooms, house-made pastas and other Italian favorites.
: 3107 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 107, Gilbert, 480-963-6363,
McDuffy’s Sports Bar
Sports are center stage here even when it’s not Spring Training, with high-definition flat screens as far as the eye can see (more than 100, in fact). It carries the ESPN and Fox Sports High-Def packages, and its location near Peoria Sports Complex makes it just the ticket for San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners fans. Located in a hustle-bustle strip with several buzzing pre- and post-game hangouts, McDuffy’s stands out for its sheer size and its variety. Want a bite? An extensive menu has everything you need, including belt-busting “stuffed” burgers. Happy hour? Half-off most drinks and $4.75 food. Off-track betting? Got it. Want to dance? Thursday through Saturday nights it turns into a club (with cover charge). A lounge upstairs with pool tables also attracts serious fantasy sports dudes, typing furiously on laptops.
: 15814 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria, 623-334-5000 (other location: Chandler, 480-966-8200),
This slinky Latin-inspired restaurant – a mecca at night for toned and tanned Scottsdale model types – might seem like an unlikely spot for Spring Training crowds. But its proximity to Scottsdale Stadium also makes it a magnet for San Francisco Giants fans. And it’s not surprising that Bay Area visitors and the well-heeled crowd in this neighborhood would clamor for more than mundane burger-and-beer sustenance on the way to or from a game. Instead, they can choose from more than 50 tequilas, an excellent wine list and a superb selection of frozen margaritas made with fresh purees to keep fans cool. And they fill up on bacon-wrapped Kobe dogs, pork shoulder tacos, almejas al vapor (Peruvian clam stew) and other specialties. Management expects an even larger and more festive crowd this year due to the Giants’ World Series win last fall.
: 3815 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale, 480-636-5005,
Best Happy Hour
Happy hour is hopping at Mill Avenue’s newest hot spot, Canteen Modern Tequila Bar.
Canteen Modern Tequila Bar
Open only since October, Canteen already is a Mill Avenue mainstay – and not just for the college crowd. It boasts a chic, grown-up interior (love those funky light fixtures and warm wood), indoor/outdoor bar, popular patio, and 90 to 100 tequilas. Most are for sipping, but the house margarita, half-off at happy hour 4-6:30 p.m. daily, is the perfect complement to the mouthwatering tacos, also half-off. Try pibil (pulled pork) with mango-habanero salsa ($4.50) or Corona-, cilantro- and lime-marinated chicken ($4). Guac ($3.50) is great, too. Well drinks, all tequilas, bottled and draft beers and wines are also half off.
: 640 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-773-7135,
Tottie’s Asian Fusion II
Owner Tottie Kaya dotes on her guests all the time, but at happy hour from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, she just gets silly with heaping plates of “Asian tapas” for $5. Among the best are delicate shu mai dumplings and larb gai, spicy Thai ground chicken salad with fresh herbs. Draft beers are $2.50-$3.50, and a laundry list of drink specials – from mimosas to sake bombers to specialty cocktails – are $5. Thanks to the creativity of mixologist/manager Kenta Usuzawa, who formerly worked with James Porter, you’ll find only inspired offerings – no Appletinis in sight.
: 6204 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-998-8220,
In Japan, izakaya are casual bars where people meet after work for drinks and snacks. Roka’s snazzy Shochu Lounge is probably a bit more up-market, but they still offer an izakaya menu 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday with small snacks, most for $2 to $6. Standouts include the Kobe beef and kimchi dumplings, hamachi serrano chile roll, butterfish tataki with white asparagus and yuzu, and – from the robata grill – black cod skewers with saikyo miso. Infused shochu (a distilled Japanese spirit), sake, cocktails, beer and wine are all on special, too.
: 7299 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-306-8800,
Even if the only thing this bar at Sanctuary Resort & Spa had going for its happy hour – appropriately called The Pour – were $6 select killer cocktails, we’d go. They’re all sublime, thanks to award-winning mixologist Jason Asher (you might have seen him featured in GQ in December). But the mountain views, picture-perfect patio and $6 wines, spirits and small plates 4-6 p.m. daily spoil us. Try sweet-spicy-salty shishito peppers with garlic caramel sauce or charred edamame, both borrowed from the apps menu at Elements. Barbecue pork buns, house-made potato chips with caramelized onion dip and hummus with grilled pita and crudités also grace the list.
: 5700 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, 480-948-2100,
Barrio Cantina & Grill
Don’t let the cavernous, sports-bar appearance fool you: This is top-shelf Mexican food at bargain-basement prices during happy hour, which runs 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8:30 p.m.-close Sunday-Thursday. Barrio was the grand champion of the 2010 Arizona Taco Festival and took first places for seafood taco, salsa and guacamole. Other good bets: street corn on the cob with chipotle butter, mayo and cotija cheese ($4), machaca sliders or chicken quesadillas ($5) and a house margarita – one of the finest in town – for just $4. Great deals on well drinks and shots, too.
: 4731 E. Cactus Road, Phoenix, 602-606-9150,
Celebrity Chef Laurent Tourondel wouldn’t dare dish up anything but the best, even at happy hour. From 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, you get “five for $5” – a seasonal selection of upscale eats and of-the-moment cocktails, available at the snazzy bar or on the lavish patio, complete with fire pits and expansive views. Right now, deals include mini sirloin cheese steaks with Seacat Gardens arugula and radishes, Santa Barbara mussels with house-made chorizo or Burgundy escargot with bacon jus. Cool-weather drinks include the Fig-titious Old Fashioned with fig-infused Bulleit bourbon or Spiced Cider Sour with Arizona apple cider; they’ll change come spring.
INFO: 5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, 480-905-7979,
Marcella’s Italian Kitchen
If you’re looking to rest and refuel after power shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square but need to ease up on an overworked credit card, Marcella’s is the perfect place. Kick back on the comfy patio or in the handsome lounge with a glass of sangria and plates of braised veal meatball and arancini (fried rice balls) for just $4 each. Other deals include pizzas for $8 each, several other appetizers for $4 and $6, and wine, beer and cocktail specials. It runs daily from 3-7 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m.-close.
: 7014 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480-947-2105,
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Morton’s “Power Hour” is a gross misnomer, and that’s a good thing: It runs open to close nightly in the lounge so business-y Biltmore types can indulge without guilt. Loosen that tie, sink back into a plush bar stool, catch some of the game and sip a $7.50 vodka or gin “Mortini” while filling up on mini crab cake BLTs, prime mini-cheeseburgers, smoked salmon pizza or filet mignon sandwiches ($6). Blue cheese steak fries, chicken goujonettes and iceberg wedge bites are $5, and beer and wine specials are $5 and $6.50.
: 2501 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602-955-9577, (other location: Scottsdale, 480-951-4440),
It’s not just for date night or special occasions anymore: Those in the know are hip to Cork’s gourmet happy hour, 4-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Elsewhere, $4 house wines are from a jug; here, they’re terrific. Specialty drinks such as the grapefruit basil martini are also $4, and champagne cocktails – Kir Royales, bellinis, etc. – are $3. Pair them with treats such as wild boar meatloaf, a daily charcuterie plate, the zesty “knife and fork” Sonoran-style hot dog or braised chicken risotto, $8 each. The bar is compact, but they give the deals in the dining room if it’s not busy.
: 4991 S. Alma School Road, Chandler, 480-883-3773,
If you liked the Roaring Fork happy hour that Chef Robert McGrath made so famous, you’ll love Renegade Canteen’s. The ambience is softer and more sophisticated, but the food still has the James Beard Award winner’s cowboy touch. The bar menu is discounted 3-7 p.m. daily, with a hearty bowl of green chile pork with flour tortillas ($8), decadent lobster tacos ($10), Phil’s ribs ($10) and more. His mammoth meat bomb, Bob’s Big Burger & Fries, is $13 anytime. Drink specials include $3 bottled beers, $4 local and specialty drafts, and $5 wines, well cocktails, martinis and margaritas.
: 9343 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-614-9400,
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