Voted the Best Local Performing Arts Troupe by readers of the East Valley Tribune in 2011, National Comedy Theatre’s ensemble of players concocts improvised situations at lightning-fast speeds, relying on audience participation and their own wits to elicit thunderous laughter and applause. After turning to their all-ages crowd for assistance in shaping games and scenarios, the cast employs knowledge gleaned from operating-room sketches to tickle ribs with anatomical exactitude. The show often favors spontaneity over prudence, with performers gleefully stepping into their roles as acrophobic skydiving champions or long-winded court stenographers. Audience members get to select the winning team at the conclusion of the show, and can learn the form themselves during improv classes.
The scene inside White Cloud Hookah is both intimate and party-like. Throughout the modern space, groups sit around double-nozzled hookahs and pass hoses to puff on one of the 120 flavors of aromatic tobacco. They can take pulls on tobacco varieties from brands such as Al Fakheer, Starbuzz, and Fantasia, and can even blend flavors to create their own flavor creations. Big screen TVs flash as music fills the space with party beats and dim lightening gives the space a chill, nightlife atmosphere.
d'vine's wine club boasts a globe-spanning array of rare and celebrated fermented fruit nectar, giving new and seasoned oenophiles a heady taste of the world of wine and fine dining. In addition to free weekly wine tastings each Wednesday, club members score their choice of two bottles of wine every month from a rotating selection of two reds and one white, ensuring easy removal of accidental grape stains. The two bottles must be consumed at D'Vine, though any club member ambitious enough to want a third or more receives an additional 10% off their decadently Dionysian purchase. The wine bar's unpretentious staff fills members' minds with tantalizing wine facts and fills goblets with vintages that may include 2009 Isabel Mondavi I'M chardonnay or 2008 Rock & Vine cabernet sauvignon. Drinkers transform into diners when they activate members' 10% discount on meals from d'vine's vino-friendly menu of tapas, salads, grilled pizzas, and rotating specials.
The staff at The Brass Tap take beer very seriously, and so do many of their customers. The evidence for this is the Brew Crew, where customers accumulate points for trying different choices of the pub's 300 craft beers, which they can then redeem for food or beverage purchases.
Thankfully, the bar makes it easy to sort through its 300 beers. The menu is divided up into different beer types, which go deeper than the basic delineation of ale vs. lager vs. water that's been dyed amber. Guests can peruse listings of bottled barleywines and porters, or have a resident beer aficionado fill their mug with an imported brew on draft. Beer even permeates the food: the chipotle mustard on the house-baked pretzels is made with pale ale, just as the cheese dip is made with Samuel Adams. All of the sandwiches and pretzel pizzas also have recommended drink pairings.
As for entertainment, each Brass Tap books a variety of local bands on Friday and Saturday. Trivia and happy hours find regular spots on the schedule, and some locations have outdoor patios.
Stone-tiled floors lead guests into Conti’s Bar and Grill, where four 120-inch high-definition projection TVs glow with power drawn from the tiny sportsmen running in circles inside them. Sunlight streams in through slotted window shades, illuminating exposed-brick columns and warm wood paneling. Guests can snuggle into booths as they munch on burgers, salmon, or full racks of ribs. Eight beers on tap wash down bites of confetti nachos or wistful licks of chocolate cake.
Victoria Chavez and husband Eddie each inherited a chili grinder, or “Molino,” from their families. Today, the two Molinos sit on display at the restaurant, but behind the scenes the family keeps the spicy tradition alive, using working chili grinders to create fiery dishes from New Mexico chiles.