You voted for more than 4,000 nominees in nearly 400 categories (equaling 1.5 million-plus views at AZFoothills.com). Now, it is time to get to know your Best of Our Valley 2014 winners. From your favorite restaurants and resorts to your choice schools and shops, Arizona Foothills Magazine presents Best of Our Valley 2014.
Dance your socks off, discover new music, laugh the night away and sip and savor at these Valley hot spots.
Story by Lauren Featherstone
WITH A 360-DEGREE STAGE BOOKED WITH THE BEST local and nationally known music talent, a 24-foot TV projector and 40 different types of whiskey, it’s no wonder Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row is tops. Each booth features three beer taps and, new to Arizona, a liquor tap which allows guests to pour their own drinks while dining on modern American fare. www.dierkswhiskeyrow.com.
BEST BARTENDER: FEMALE – CASSIE STENHOLT, MAYA DAY + NIGHTCLUB
OVER THE LAST SIX YEARS, Cassie Stenholt worked her way up from a beverage cart attendant at a Wisconsin golf course to a top bartender at Scottsdale’s Maya Day + Nightclub. The high-energy bartender enjoys chatting with customers and giving them the best experience possible. Stenholt always accepts the challenge to make a new and interesting drink, but repeat customers always ask for her mojitos and margaritas. www.mayaclubaz.com.
BEST BARTENDER: MALE – MATT RASNER, MAYA DAY + NIGHTCLUB
IN 2009, MATT RASNER was hired without any bartending experience at the now-closed Axis Radius, and he’s never looked back. When customers order “something good,” the speedy bartender’s go-to shot is Green Tea, a con- coction of Jameson, peach schnapps, sweet and sour and Sprite. Rasner loves the staff and atmosphere at Maya Day + Nightclub and plans to continue bartending until he finishes pharmacy school. www.mayaclubaz.com.
BEST BLOODY MARY – IL TERRAZZO AT THE PHOENICIAN
There’s nothing better than enjoying a savory cocktail while relaxing during a leisurely dining experience. That’s exactly what you’ll get at The Phoenician’s Il Terrazzo. Its famous Sunday Brunch- inspired Bloody Mary includes the guest’s choice of flavored or unflavored vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire, Demitri’s mix and special seasoning. The seasoning-rimmed glass is then garnished with lemon, lime, celery, pepperoncini, cherry tomato and a blue cheese-stuffed olive for a pretty presentation. www.thephoenician.com/il-terrazzo.
BEST ARIZONA BREWERY AND BEST PLACE TO BUY BOOZE – PAPAGO BREWING CO.
Whether you want to sit back and enjoy a cold brewski over a hand- pressed pizza or take home a growler of your favorite beer on tap, Papago Brewing Co. in Scottsdale is the place for you. With 30 beers on tap and 500 different varieties of bottled beer, the craft beer bar has something for everyone. With the mix-and-match six-pack deal for $10, you can sample ‘em all. Papago Brewing Co. also boasts a well-informed staff. www.papagobrewing.com.
BEST ARIZONA WINERY – PAGE SPRINGS CELLARS
While Page Springs Cellars loves its diehard customers, the winery encourages wine lovers to keep an open mind and continue exploring bottles from around the world. Take a tour of Page Springs Cellars in Cornville to learn about its history and the process of winemaking from grape to bottle. While there, sign up for their wine club where you can enjoy exclusive member-only selections. www.pagespringscellars.com.
BEST BAR TO FEED YOUR INNER CHILD – LUCKY STRIKE
Lucky Strike in Downtown Phoenix is the perfect place to experience all of your childhood favorites—with a twist. Before you hit the lanes, share Esteban’s chicken nachos or dine on the Gaucho Burger with pulled chipotle short ribs. Plus, enjoy 12 bowling lanes including a private suite, billiards, two full bars, a DJ, bottle service and more for a big kids’ night out. www.bowlluckystrike.com.
BEST DAY-DRINKING SPOT AND BEST BLACK-OUT DRINK – EL HEFE AND HEFE’S BLACKOUT MARGARITA
Mexican cantina and sports bar by day, nightclub by night, El Hefe is great for enjoying fresh Mexican dishes and an ice-cold drink while watching sports on the patio. Not a beer drinker? Try El Hefe’s award-winning Blackout Margarita made with Cazadores, Four Loko, agave nectar, sweet and sour and fresh-squeezed lime. Drink enough of these and you might start to believe you’re truly sitting on a beach in Mexico. www.elhefescottsdale.com.
BEST COCKTAILS – THE HOUSE BRASSERIE
This vintage-chic The House Brasserie in Old Town hosts a modern twist on nostalgic American food, hand-pressed cocktails and an extensive wine list. The House Rosé Sangria is the perfect blend of French rosé, strawberries, green apples, oranges and cherries. Even in its cocktail lineup, The House Brasserie combines worldly gourmet tastes in the comfort and ease of an old home. www.thehousebrasserie.com.
BEST LOUNGE – LIVING ROOM AT W SCOTTSDALE
ONCE THE LIGHTS GO DOWN on the Living Room at W Scottsdale, the elite mingle and sip on one of the lounge’s popular martinis. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., locals and hotel guests are invited to enjoy the sounds of local and national recording artists. The Living Room’s most popular cocktail is the Vitamin W, but bottle service is also available. www.wscottsdalehotel.com.
BEST DANCE FLOOR, BEST DANCE MUSIC SCENE AND BEST PLACE TO SPEND A 21ST BIRTHDAY – SMASHBOXX
Scottsdale’s Smashboxx is known for its exclusive events, top 100 DJ’s and excellent customer service. The spacious dance floor features a state- of-the-art lighting system, lasers, smoke machines, snow and confetti machines, and much more. But a dance floor is nothing without great music: Smashboxx prides itself on open and diverse music, offering something for everyone. This high-energy, interactive dance club will set the bar high for 21-year-olds who choose to celebrate at this award-winning nightclub. Reserving a VIP table with bottle service is the way to go for large groups. From table decorations and DJ shout-outs to customized slideshows and bottle service presentations, the staff will do almost anything to make every experience unforgettable. Look forward to a grand re-opening of the dance club following upgrades this spring. www.smashboxxaz.com.
BEST COUGAR BAR – THE MINT
The seductive yet swanky ambience of The Mint attracts empowered females in their late 30’s and beyond. While The Mint in Old Town offers various nightlife experiences for anyone 21- plus, including a patio lounge and a high-energy dance floor, cougars find it to be a perfect playground with a plethora of entertainment. www.themintaz.com.
BEST HAPPY HOUR AND BEST WINE BAR – THE HOUSE AT SECRET GARDEN
Imagine sipping a glass of Prosecco and nibbling on grilled baguette with a smoked trout spread, surrounded by beautiful gardens, shady trees and views of South Mountain. That’s what you’ll get at the family-owned House at Secret Garden. The dynamic mother-and-son co-owners designed a local menu and extensive wine list for leisurely meals by the outdoor fireplace. Enjoy happy hour (featuring the aforementioned grilled bread and other small bites) and a glass of wine or a hand- crafted cocktail at this gorgeous retreat Tuesdays through Saturdays. www.houseatsecretgarden.com.
BEST COMEDY CLUB – TEMPE IMPROV
Gabriel Iglesias, Bobby Lee, Deon Cole, Drew Carey and Brad Wollack are just a few of Tempe Improv’s big-name headliners. The comedy club opened its doors in 1988, but recently reopened after extensive renovations including an upscale full-service bar and a VIP area in the balcony. If you need a good laugh, savory munchies and a strong drink, the Tempe Improv is the perfect stress-free night for you. www.tempeimprov.com.
BEST BLUES/JAZZ BAR – THE RHYTH ROOM
Live music, strong drinks and great people make dancing the night away at The Rhythm Room easy to do. Since 1991, the Rhythm Room in Phoenix has hosted local bands, like Valley faves The Sugar Thieves, and national acts on a nightly basis. Check its online calendar for information on upcoming shows and ticket sales. www.rhythmroom.com.
BEST CRAFT BEER BAR – TASTE OF TOPS
Most college students are used to hearing BYOB—bring your own beer. At Taste of Tops in Tempe, they supply the beer, you BYOF—bring your own food. With 24 rotating craft taps, 400 bottles and cans of craft beer, 20 by-the-glass wines and growlers for your filling, Taste of Tops is the perfect low-key bar for college students—or any beer lover. www.topsliquors.com.
BEST DIVE BAR – PATTIE’S FIRST AVENUE LOUNGE
Pattie’s First Avenue Lounge in Scottsdale is a must-stop for a casual night thanks to indoor and outdoor seating, shuffle board, table tennis, darts and pool. The full-service bar does not have a kitchen, but the staff will often order food for customers. Every hour is happy hour at Pattie’s, with $3 domestic beers and $4 imports available all day. The neighborhood lounge mostly attracts 20- and 30-somethings, especially on Fridays and Saturdays with a live DJ. 480.990.0103.
BEST MARGARITA – SOL MEXICAN COCINA
This modern Coastal Mexican restaurant at Scottsdale Quarter uses fresh, sustainable ingredients to echo the sea, sky and desert of the Baja peninsula. SOL Mexican Cocina’s bar complements the dining experience with hand-crafted made-to-order fresh fruit margaritas and cocktails inspired by the changing seasons and local farmers’ markets. Try the refreshing cucumber-jalapeño variety. www.solcocina.com.
BEST HIPSTER BAR – THE HANDLEBAR TEMPE
This American beer garden features 48 rotating beers, a full bar, 13 wines and award-winning beer cocktails. If hunger strikes, cooked-to-order local sausages, burgers, salads, sandwiches, pretzels and fries complement any drink at this indoor/outdoor bar. The 2,000-sq.-ft. “City Park” offers convenient bike hooks for those who prefer to ride than drive to The Handlebar Tempe on Historic Mill Avenue. www.handlebaraz.com.
BEST GAY BAR – KOBALT
Kick off the weekend at Phoenix’s most diverse bar in the Valley, Kobalt. In addition to its signature Happy Hour Hotspot on Fridays, the welcoming gay bar will be adding Showtune Saturdays to its event lineup. Kobalt is not only a staple in the gay entertainment scene but to local nightlife in general. www.kobaltbarphoenix.com.
BEST KARAOKE NIGHT – BRIGETT’S LAST LAUGH
Commonly referred to as “Your Karaoke Headquarters,” Brigett’s offers karaoke nightly at 9 p.m. The “Five-Star Dive Bar” claims to have the largest song selection, best sound system and greatest karaoke hosts in Phoenix. Get to Brigett’s before 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and receive happy hour prices on select appetizers and drinks. www.brigetts.com.
BEST PARTY BAR – AMERICAN JUNKIE
This modern interpretation of a traditional gastropub is adorned with historical memorabilia and TV’s for sports fans. Customers keep coming back to American Junkie for the Junkie wheel, pony keg table service, free ice cream, late-night mesquite-fired pizzas and 34 types of beer. www.americanjunkieaz.com.
BEST LATE-NIGHT MUNCHIES – AZ88
After dancing the night away, who doesn’t have a case of the munchies? Stop by AZ88 in Scottsdale on your way home for a full menu that is available until 12:30 a.m., and last call for cocktails is 1:30 a.m. Whether you crave chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches or something sweet, AZ88 has a taste for everyone. www.az88.com.
BEST PLACE TO DISCOVER NEW MUSIC – CRESCENT BALLROOM
Part restaurant and lounge, the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix is a mid-size concert venue in which to discover new musical talent. The lounge is open daily with a full-bar service and live music, while Cocina 10 serves locally sourced Mexican cuisine. www.crescentphx.com.
BEST POOL PARTY – HOTEL VALLEY HO
Pool parties at the Downtown Scottsdale landmark hotel feature a mix of new and old music and plenty of drink specials. Local band Elvis Before Noon plays late February through early July during Happy Hour Fridays. On Saturdays, in spring and summer, DJ Mr. P-Body spins beats. Select cocktails, beer and beer pails are on special during pool parties at the Valley Ho. www.hotelvalleyho.com.
BEST PUB – BRITISH OPEN PUB
Foodies and sports fans alike can find common ground at Scottsdale’s The British Open Pub, or as regulars call it, BOP. Watch English and American sports while dining on traditional English pub food, like bangers and mash or fish and chips, and enjoying a selection of beer from around the world. www.thebritishopenpub.com.
BEST SALOON – DIRTY DOGG SALOON
Scottsdale’s original rock ‘n’ roll saloon, the Dirty Dogg Saloon hosts events all week long like karaoke, wet T-shirt contests, live music, cigar night, movie night and more. Happy hour is offered Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., but additional specials are available depending on the day. www.dirtydoggsaloon.com.
BEST TRIVIA NIGHT – SKEPTICAL CHYMIST
The Skeptical Chymist gives Scottsdale a glimpse of the Emerald Isle with delightful Irish cuisine and beverages including corned beef and cabbage and all-you- can-eat fish and chips. Bring your studious friends on Tuesday nights for the Irish Pub Quiz. During the timed quiz, cellphones are forbidden and the staff encourages drinking more than water. www.skepticalchymist.com.
BEST LOCAL DJ AND BEST NIGHTLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER – DJ ELITE AND ELITE PHOTO PHOENIX
The need for photography and music in the nightclub scene make it easy for DJ Elite and Elite Photo Phoenix to be one in the same (as Elite Event Services), combining a passion for photography and a love of music at competitive prices. Jay Hague of DJ Elite and Elite Photo Phoenix has more than 10 years of experience. www.elitephotophx.com.