It’s hard to imagine now, but once upon a time, people actually had to go to the photo lab and wait days to see how their pictures turned out. One such lab sat at the corner of 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard in Phoenix, but with the dawn of digital photography, its days were numbered. The lab finally closed down in the early '90s, and city culture soon took over—it first became a coffee house and neighborhood hangout, and later a hip urban café and espresso bar. This latest incarnation is called 32 Shea, and some of its defining characteristics are as old-school as monochrome photography. Take the coffee, for example: the beans are roasted locally and the flavor syrups are homemade with seasonal ingredients. When night falls and the café transforms into a trendy restaurant, flickering candles lend an air of timeless romance to meals of creative bruschetta, toasted-ciabatta sandwiches, and crispy lavash pizzas. Of course, there are plenty of ultra-modern touches designed to attract Phoenix’s hipster set. Among the most notable are a sleek bar made from 100-year-old reclaimed wood and a drive-through window that lets car-bound diners can take the café's gourmet cuisine to go.
It can be hard to keep a straight face while golfing with friends, especially when the trousers of the player in front of you reveal slightly too much of his backside. That's exactly what happened to the founders of Half Moon Sports Grill, who decided to name their fledgling sports bar after the "half moon" they giggled at one fateful afternoon. This tongue-in-cheek sense of humor permeates Half Moon, cultivating a festive atmosphere where glasses of craft beer clink on amber and cherry hardwoods, televisions stream the latest games, and a menu of refined American bar food keeps hunger pangs at bay. Pub classics such as spicy chicken wings join updated comfort favorites, such as the BLT n'A with applewood bacon. A robust burger list features a build-your-own option as well as the California, whose guacamole, bacon, and provolone make up the eighth-largest economy in the world.
Beers from local breweries such as Lumberyard and Four Peaks fill the bar alongside imported bottles of Guinness, red and white wines, and specialty cocktails including guava margaritas.
Flavors from Oaxaca, Cuba, and Yucatan add depth to the menus at Fuego Bistro restaurants, three gourmet Mexican oases that pride themselves on their modern culinary touches. Among the warm reds and yellows and inviting black wicker chairs at the original Fuego Bistro, diners dig into ancho-dusted salmon croquettes and a seafood chili relleno with lobster cream-chili sauce.
When musician Joe Grotto got lucky in Vegas in 1994 and pocketed $75,000, he played it smart. Instead of blowing it all on a flashy convertible or a self-portrait carved into a human-size diamond, he used his windfall to build an intimate music venue with a state-of-the-art sound system. Joe began by booking manic rockers, brutal metal bands, and raucous blues guitarists before expanding to include more all-ages shows as the years passed. The success of the venue, which earned recognition as 2008’s Best Rock Club from the Phoenix New Times, has helped draw talented, original groups of all kinds to the stage. The limelight isn’t just reserved for established artists, either; on Wednesdays, bands looking for a place to play can sign up for the open mic, and on Monday, acoustic musicians steal the show.
Although its focus is on music, Joe’s Grotto hasn’t neglected other aspects of entertainment. The full bar pours draft brews such as Kilt Lifter, Blue Moon, and Shock Top while guests shoot pool at a pair of tables, play games on two Megatouch game machines, and throw darts or annoying companions at electronic targets. Out on the patio, revelers order more drinks from an outdoor bar, where a screen lets them watch inside happenings and a mister, cooler, and heater keep the fresh air comfortable all year round.
Arizona shares more than a border with the Mexican state of Sonora. Though they belong to different countries, the two states share the same desert topography and, thus, many of the same culinary traditions. Valle Luna highlights and celebrates these traditions with a menu of Sonoran–style tacos, sopas, and pedazos inspired by the rare genius of its founder, Tia Rita. Surprisingly, Valle Luna’s story began not in Arizona but in upstate New York. Tia journeyed to Syracuse in the 1970s, bringing with her the recipes she gleaned from her childhood in the Sonoran Desert. After earning a number of awards and accolades in New York, Tia returned to warmer climes and founded the original Valle Luna on West Bell Road in Phoenix, where her food continued earn rave reviews until her passing in 2008. Today, Tia's family carries on her legacy at three locations spread across the Valley. They’ve even added to her original menu, crafting such genre-defying dishes as Mexican potato skins, choco tacos, and salsa-stuffed piñatas.
Owned and run by Irish transplants, Tim Finnegan’s recreates an authentic pub atmosphere to enjoy traditional dishes as well as international soccer matches. The pub takes its name from James Joyce's final novel, Finnegans Wake, and reflects its Celtic heritage both behind the bar and on the menu. Taps hide cold drafts of Harp, Guinness, and Smithwick's, and the kitchen fills tables with plates of corned beef and cabbage or traditional Irish breakfast, served regardless of what time it is in Belfast.
The Bleacher Report called out Finnegan's as a top destination to catch Euro 2012 matches, and fans are regularly found clustered around the long bar or lacquered wooden tables to cheer on their teams. Musicians can test new material or their ability to follow instructions on Wednesday night open mics or Sunday karaoke, while teams can test their wits on Tuesday with pub trivia. Monday and Thursday though Saturday nights are reserved for live music.