It's hard to define the vibe at American Junkie. Is it a sports pub? Is it a dance club? A craft-beer bar? In truth, it's a bit of all of these things, with the atmosphere and activities changing from the time it opens to the closing of the doors late into the night (3 p.m.?10 p.m. on Sundays or until 4 p.m.?2 a.m. Wednesday?Saturday). Oftentimes, the cheers of sports fans ring out as they follow American Junkie's resident teams: the Seattle Seahawks and the Ohio State University Buckeyes. The 20 HD plasma TVs also beam all the major UFC, boxing, and tickle fights.
Beneath several of the screens stretches a circular bar, where bartenders mix cocktails and pour all-American spirits?including craft beers, whiskey, bourbon, and wines sourced from California. But those drinks only account one part of American Junkie's menu. The rest comes from the kitchen, where chefs bake pizzas over mesquite wood, make grilled cheese sandwiches with gouda and crisp green apple slices, and slather ribs in barbecue sauce.
Meals often begin with housemade potato chips (complete with blue cheese dressing for dipping) and end in something truly decadent: a dessert called Half Baked. Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup cover a half pound of cookie dough, which is baked in a deep-dish pan.
El Hefe combines the best of two worlds—the rhythmic dance tracks and drinks of a lively nightclub, and the meaty, peppery cuisine of Mexico and the American Southwest. Quesadillas filled with shredded chicken tinga and prime steak tortas pair perfectly with sports on flatscreen TVs or icy chelada cocktails. Revelers lounge in wraparound booths covered with funky floral prints and gold lamé, helping themselves to pints of beer from the tableside taps, which eliminate the long waits and intricate hand signals required to order at a noisy bar. And as diners chat, servers carry out rustic wooden trays bearing treasures of angus beef burgers topped with jalapeno marmalade, tacos filled with duck carnitas or pork al pastor, and Sonoran-style hot dogs wrapped in bacon and smothered in tomatillo avocado salsa.
Nighttime finds DJs spinning club music as lights swirl above the dance floor, bathing revelers in rhythmic beats and streaks of neon. Party guests toast potent house tequila cocktails or fishbowl glasses of beergarita--garnished with a dusting of salt and an upside-down bottle of beer.
"Best Bartender," "Best Margarita," and "Best Bar Patio." These are just a few of the awards with which locals have decorated Loco Patron in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the combination of talented bartenders, outdoor seating, and signature drinks such as the Sweet Heat margarita with organic chili liqueur have made the spot a popular after-work hangout for groups of friends.
People don't only come for the booze, though. They also come for cuisine such as the crunchy pork taco with arbol sauce, which won first place at the Arizona Taco Festival in 2011. Diners can choose from other taco fillings, too, including New York strip steak or lobster. The menu also includes house specialty enchiladas and house salads, like the spicy steak and the chicken salad, both of which are considered hidden gems by Loco Patron regulars.
Arena Sports Grill's diverse menu revolves around a stable of burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, and other American staples, with Italian and Mexican dishes also vying for stomach space. Wake up drowsy taste buds with nine flavors of sauce to coat wings ($6.99 for 12), such as honey barbecue or teriyaki. The vodka pasta quells more querulous hungers with sautéed chicken breast and ham over penne in a vodka cream sauce ($9.99), whereas the fish dinner ($12.99) sidelines a sizable piece of Icelandic cod with french fries and coleslaw. But be sure to save room for the cookie-monster dessert, a jumbo-sized chocolate-chip cookie half-baked and topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce ($4.99), which is best when devoured quickly with loud "om-nom-noms" so that most of it flies out of your mouth.
Sugar Shack Sports Grill conducts a symphony of sense-stimulation, combining hearty sports-bar fare with nine flat-screen TVs, a 110-inch HD projection screen, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Fit food-mitts with handheld menu items, including butter-brushed soft pretzels ($3.99) and plump wings coated in a choice of savory sauce ($7.99). Brick-pressed cuban sandwiches, filled with ham, pickles, and garlic mayo ($9.99) remain mum under teeth’s primitive interrogation tactics, and build-your-own or specialty pizzas ($8+ and $10.50+ respectively) spill their saucy secrets at the outset. Chefs grill quarter-pound burgers to order ($4.99+), with possible accouterments such as chili and cheese and tangy blue cheese. The Sugar Shack also grills juicy hot dogs ($3.99+) and collects crisp salad greens ($5.99+) to suit vegetarian preferences. Sports fans exploding with competitive zeal can channel their passions into dartboards, water pong, and mentally commanding empty glasses to refill themselves.