Bars rock. They’re an escape from work and home, and a place where you might spend time with friends.
There might be live music. Maybe there’s just a shoddy jukebox in the corner.
There’s something special about all of our favorite bars, from quiet dives that see the same handful of regulars to the loud clubs on Mill Avenue in Tempe that have thousands of Arizona State University students turning 21 each year.
What do you love most about your local haunt? Here are some of The Copper Courier staff’s favorite bars in the Valley. Maybe you’ll spot us sometime.
130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
6 p.m. — 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
If you live or grew up in Phoenix, you’ll likely know what Valley Bar is.
I went to high school in Mesa and spent much of my early 20s in Tempe. Many of my weekends were spent at now-defunct bars on Mill Ave. I wasn’t acquainted with this back-alley bar until closer to turning 30.
I was hooked as soon as I opened that back door and saw a flight of stairs descending into a basement. It quickly became my favorite bar in town.
Valley Bar is shut off from the rest of the world. It’s a liminal space where I once stumbled upon a DJ only playing women-led punk bands for hours, and on another night I was in attendance for a debate between Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes on how to improve voting .
The names of drinks on the cocktail menu are completely made up of former and current Arizona politicians. Want a mezcalita? Nope, that’s The McCain at Valley Bar. It lies on the menu alongside other options like The Kate, That’s a Ducey, and the Yassamin-i Martini.
If Valley Bar were to ever move locations or shut down, Phoenix would lose its best place to drink.
-Robert Gundran, community reporter
Gracie’s Tax Bar
711 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix
4 p.m. — 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
My favorite bar as of late has been Gracie’s Tax Bar off of Seventh Avenue and McKinley Street in downtown Phoenix. It serves as a great after-party spot for The Copper Courier’s poetry open mic nights over at Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge on Grand Avenue.
I’m not much of a drinker, so I really enjoy that they stock Lagunitas Hop Water, which is a carbonated nonalcoholic drink made with hops. It tastes like a refreshing seltzer to me. I appreciate that, unlike many other bars, Gracie’s has this sober option that isn’t sugary or caffeinated soda. It especially goes well with their yummy bar food, like fried cheese curds, fried pickles, and tater tots.
Gracie’s also hosts fun events, like drag burlesque, themed DJ nights, karaoke hosted by Copper Courier correspondent Robbie Pfeffer, and lots of live music. I like that there’s the option to have a quieter night talking to friends inside, or the ability to go outside to the patio and enjoy whatever’s going on.
-Jessica Swarner, community editor
Renaissance, 50 E. Adams St., Phoenix
Closed Sunday through Thursday
9 p.m. — 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Melinda’s Alley has got to be my favorite bar in Phoenix. It’s a basement speakeasy under the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel downtown, named—with the incorrect spelling—after Malinda Curtis, a woman who lived at the hotel until her death in 1910.
Even though it’s technically a corporate hotel bar, it doesn’t feel like a Marriott. The long, narrow bar is made of turn-of-the-century furniture and place settings and dimly lit by a single red light, to commemorate its place on “Maiden’s Lane” —Phoenix’s old red-light district. That, coupled with the legend that Malinda haunts the building, makes walking into the bar feel like stepping into a different time.
Although Melinda’s Alley’s been around since 2016, it’s easy to miss: There’s no sign, no website—they don’t even have a menu. There’s no beer and no wine, and aside from consistently serving an old fashioned, their other cocktail options change every week, scrawled in chalk on a wall by the bar.
Finding it is one thing, but getting in—well, that’s another story: It’s only open eight hours a week, and its 65-person capacity fills up fast.
-Camaron Stevenson, chief political correspondent
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