At La Bocca Urban Pizzeria, preparations for pizza crusts start a full day before they hit the brick oven. Chefs knead organic dough by hand, watch it rise for 24 hours, and then top the crusts with gourmet, locally procured ingredients such as Queen Creek Olive Mill olives, Schreiner’s Fine Sausages meat, and housemade pulled pork.
The rest of the Mediterranean-inspired menu proves equally indulgent. Chefs layer bruschetta planks with fig and smoked prosciutto and toss pastas with housemade sauces and meatballs molded from grass-fed beef. To grant molars breaks from the rigors of chewing, servers are happy to recommend pairings from the drink menu, which features handcrafted cocktails, European and Arizonan wines, and award-winning sangria.
Fat Tuesday has achieved the impossible dream of bringing authentic bayou eats and Mardi Gras libations into the swamp-free lands of Arizona. Sample their transported tastes with snappy appetizers such as the alligator nuggets, shipped fresh from New Orleans before being breaded, fried, and served with a Cajun remoulade ($9.95), or the 10-piece hand-breaded shrimp, slathered in sauces that range from mild to mildly indignant ($7.95). For the main meal, try the Tuesday burger, a half pound of seasoned ground beef cooked to order accompanied by an entourage of tongue-lashing Cajun fries ($6.75). Fat Tuesday's ice-crowned claim to fame is the daiquiri menu, showcasing 25 sweet, potent deliriums. Obliterate boring tipples with a large barrel of Banana Banshee, concocted from creamy banana and coco liquors ($7.75), or challenge mortality with a medium Triple Bypass, in which tasty cherry flavors collide with vodka and grain alcohol ($6.50).
Endearing servers at Mill Cue Club, a modern pool hall sporting 10 tables within century-old brick walls, welcome patrons with convivial smiles and a barrage of chilled drinks. Billiards battlers ($8–$12/hour) can refuel with bottled domestic beer ($4) or long island iced tea ($5) as they watch sports games on flat-screen televisions or tap cue balls to find out if they're hollow. Servers pour cascades of well liquors ($4.50+) or upper-shelf liquors ($5+) into mixed drinks, and an outdoor smoking patio gives puffers a pleasant area in which to converse via smoke signal.
The bar at Public House was discovered in a hayshed in 2009. How it got there, though, involves a history lesson that takes the listener back to Dublin in 1916. It’s a wild story, too, complete with raids, the military, and gun fights that ended with a dead British intelligence agent and a cracked mirror. Although the bar’s been mostly restored, the crack on the back mirror remains. The bartenders at Public House might be kind enough to fill in the rest of the details over a pint of Guinness and some bangers and mash. Even if you don't get around to hearing the rest of that enthralling tale, though, there’s plenty of pub food, Irish whiskey, beer, and to make you feel like you’re practically in Dublin.
Antars Sports Bistro complements its robust, homemade menu with 25 on-tap beers, regular live events, and more than 30 big-screen TVs tuned to the latest feats of competitive ball smashing. While families converse and sports fans bemoan rumored curses involving goats or Kevin Costner’s dad, chefs prepare fresh, original dishes such as the bourbon-glazed pecan-crusted salmon, a crispy fillet served alongside sweet-potato ravioli and Creole mustard-coated spinach ($14.95). The steak and shrimp oreganada ($18.95) tops tender sirloin with five jumbo garlic sautéed shrimp, while the Blue Brute burger wrangles melted blue cheese into fried onion ring lassos and traps them betwixt a pretzel bun ($8.95). Pizzas ($13+) and pastas ($9.95+) import Italian zest to the all-American bill o' fare, while slices of homemade New York–style cheesecake help stomachs return stateside with a creamy slice drizzled with a traditional topping of raspberry sauce and a potato knish.
Restaurateur Julian Wright, who's known for local hotspots Canteen Modern Tequila Bar and La Bocca Urban Pizzeria, has expanded his multicultural culinary empire—this time with an American beer garden. At Handlebar Tempe, he introduces guests to European-style communal dining around elongated counters and tables without shifting focus away from the main draw: a sizeable and largely American craft beer list. The resident beer expert—a self-professed "beer geek"—rotates 24 taps and 24 bottles from state-side and European craft breweries, highlighting local beers from Four Peaks Brewing Co. and Mother Road Brewing. But manning the 60-foot indoor/outdoor bar requires more than just pushing taps and opening bottles. The bartenders also help guests navigate the beer and wine lists while concocting specialty cocktails jazzed up with organic liqueurs and agave nectar.
There may not be much by way of food at The Handlebar Tempe, but the dishes they do serve find an easy foothold with both the casual atmosphere and all-important beer list. Locally made sausages dominate the small menu, including tangy sauerkraut and pickled fresno peppers atop juicy bratwurst, southwest smoked turkey, and chicken-and-apple sausages. The eatery's chefs also braid house-made pretzels, cook locally raised burgers, and fry hand-cut fries served with five dipping sauces—including blue cheese bacon and Thai ketchup.
Reclaimed barn wood, exposed ceilings, and brick lend the chicness of a loft to the comfortable space. And when the garage doors behind the bar go up, The Handlebar doubles in size, welcoming guests to mingle on the 2,000-square-foot outdoor patio. Amid the dog-friendly patio's lighted trees, fire pits, and park benches, the defining feature from which The Handlebar Tempe gets its name—hooks for hanging bicycles—encircle the space.
Whenever Luis Millan whips up one of his spicy pork tacos, tender enchiladas, or fresh salsas, he pretends he's cooking for his mother. The skilled chef—with years of international culinary training—told the Phoenix New Times, "cook everything like you would want to eat it or somebody you love would want to eat it." He infuses that passion into every dish at Canteen Modern Tequila Bar, drawing inspiration from his mother's specialties and the street food he enjoyed while growing up in Mexico; Millan's personal favorite is a slow-roasted-pork taco with fresh onions. Authentic eats and a lively atmosphere earned Canteen a spot on Phoenix Magazine's Best New Restaurants list.
As Millan mans the busy kitchen, the dining room buzzes with energy. Bartenders serve up shots of mezcals and blend margaritas from a selection of more than 100 blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas. Inside, guests recline on cushy couches and armchairs under the glow of hanging flowery lanterns, while outside, strings of lights run across the two expansive patios and an outdoor bar. On weekend evenings, vibrant lights, lively music, and a crowded dance floor create the atmosphere of a dynamic fiesta or the coolest Bed Bath & Beyond of all time.