With so many bars and clubs catering to the LGBT community, Phoenix, Arizona is the gay nightlife hub of the Southwest and has one of the largest selections of gay bars in the nation. This is a city where folks love to party, and the scene is generally friendly, unpretentious — and in many cases — downright cruisy. Here's an alphabetical list of the most inviting gay-oriented after-dark venues in the region, including a handful of mixed bars, restaurants, and LGBT-popular coffeehouses of note. Explore further at Phoenix's many gay bathhouses and sex clubs, and find a great and gay-friendly place to stay.
Located on the east side of Phoenix, Anvil Bar is the region's favorite leather bar. Popular theme nights include Monday's "undie night" (you get $1 off your drink if you're clad in underwear) and the Sunday beer bust. It's owned by the same team behind Cruisin' 7th.
Set along the landscaped, pedestrian-friendly Civic Center Mall in downtown Scottsdale, AZ 88 has been a steady favorite among gay and straight A-listers, resort-goers, and scenesters for years. The snazzy, modern space is a great place to sip creative cocktails and enjoy a snack or a full meal of wallet-friendly comfort dishes, including chicken wings, Cobb salads, au poivre burgers, portobello mushroom sandwiches, and ice cream sundaes. It's a little tricky to find, as you can't drive right up to the entrance — rather, park at the garage at N. Wells Fargo Ave., just north of East 2nd Street, and AZ 88 is atop this structure overlooking the courtyard.
With a spacious patio, huge video screens, and a stylish interior with a fireplace and cushy seating, Bar 1 is a nice alternative to the city's pulsing dance clubs and cruisy dive bars, which is not to say you can't meet and make the moves on plenty of cute people in here. This is a relaxed video bar with a nice vibe and plenty of diversions, including pool tables and darts.
Bliss on Fourth and its cocktails component ReBar are noted fixtures in the hip and lively Roosevelt Row Arts District, on the east edge of downtown Phoenix. These attractive spaces, along with the sprawling patio out front, are terrific venues for dining and drinking, whether it's weekend brunch, a romantic dinner, or late-night carousing and noshing. The bar menu doles out tasty sandwiches, burgers, and salads well into the evening. You can dine in ReBar, but many patrons in here swing by for a selection from the excellent wine and beer list, or a deftly mixed cocktail. The food here is classic American with some nouvelle touches, such as a bacon-meatloaf sandwich with housemade ketchup on toasted pretzel bread, and pan-seared shrimp and cheesy grits with a beurre blanc sauce. Weekend brunch has fast become de rigueur with see-and-be-seen gays and lesbians.
LGBT-popular Kimpton Hotels opened the much-anticipated Hotel Palomar in the downtown CityScape development, which includes retail and restaurants. A major asset here for both hotel guests and others is the property's Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, a chic but casual restaurant and bar serving terrific mod-American cuisine, from bar snacks to more substantial fare. Stop by for some enticing food deals. And head up to the next level to the hotel's breezy poolside bar, Lustre, to sip cocktails while enjoying fabulous views of the downtown skyline.
Your best bet if you're staying out at one of the glam resorts of Scottsdale, BS West is a very fun, long-running video bar (opened in 1988) with two patios and a small dance floor. It's tucked behind a row of galleries and boutiques in downtown Old Scottsdale and is a little tricky to find—walk toward the northwest side of the parking structure between 3rd and 5th avenues. The attractive, warmly lit bar pulls in an eclectic crowd, from students who attend relatively nearby ASU to visiting tourists. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and there are fun drag shows on Friday nights. Come on and watch the go-go boys work the crowd on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Bears, leather daddies, and blue-collar guys have long patronized this super-friendly, no-nonsense cruise bar near several other zero-attitude gay hangouts on North 7th Avenue. The Bunkhouse has a racially diverse crowd, is quite friendly toward women for a pretty cruisy guys' bar, and has some fun events, like monthly "bear-b-que" cookouts, Southwest Leather Pride parties, and Thursday underwear nights.
Serious java aficionados favor Cartel Coffee Lab, which has locations in downtown Phoenix, along gallery-studded 5th Avenue in Scottsdale, near ASU in Tempe, and Tucson. The baristas here know what they're doing, and the beans are sourced from high-quality coffee farms in Mexico and Central America. The original location in Tempe is where all the roasting is done. There's good food at these coffee bars, and the Scottsdale location also carries a nice selection of beers and wines by the glass—it's open late, until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Cash Inn Country
Drawing a predominantly lesbian crowd, this is one of the country's top country Western-themed women's bars and an extremely popular hangout in Phoenix. Line-dancing and two-stepping are a big part of the fun at Cash Inn Country, but there's also darts and pool, free Wi-Fi, and an expansive patio out back. Many nights the DJs spin other types of music, from Latin to standard dance tunes. If you're not so big on cocktails, just drop in and hang out in the coffee bar. It's a very friendly place with an especially nice bunch of folks working behind the bar.
A rather butch bunch of guys, many who favor cowboy garb, frequent this long-time Phoenix favorite. Charlie's also has branches in Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas. An expansive dance floor, regularly updated decor, and great lighting and sound systems help this dependable country Western club keep up with the times and continue pulling in a dedicated crowd. Line dancing and two-stepping are the dance styles of choice (lessons are offered many evenings). On Fridays and Saturdays, the place is open until 4 a.m., when it draws a more eclectic crowd and plays popular dance music starting around 11 p.m. on Fridays and 1 a.m. on Saturdays (when the crowd shifts dramatically, drawing more young clubbers—both men and a fair number of women).
A hip gastropub in Old Scottsdale's trendy 5th Avenue neighborhood, Citizen Public House serves stellar craft cocktails and creative renditions of classic American dishes. The food is every bit as interesting and perfectly prepared, including pork belly pastrami with rye spaetzle, chicken-and-waffles with almond butter and blue-clover honey, and a memorable dessert of piña colada bread pudding with brown sugar rum praline.
An old-school neighborhood bar that's been a hit with fans of strippers, drag shows, and the transgender scene since the late seventies, Cruisin' 7th is just a laid-back, low-frills cruise bar. It's an all-welcoming place without any attitude.
There's not much new to say about the food and beverages served at the ubiquitous chain diner Denny's, but this particular location has for many years been a favorite rendezvous for post-clubbing gays into the wee hours. It's fun for people-watching, especially late at night, which is also the time of day when a Lumberjack Slam can seem like a great idea.
The city's most popular gay strip bar, Dick's, is a bit of an effort to find, as it's tucked amid a row of industrial concerns to ensure the ultimate discretion, but it's also very near several airport hotels along University Drive. The bar is well-regarded for its hunky dancers, and it's perhaps most famous because one of those handsome guys—David Hernandez—went on to show off his considerable vocal endowment as a finalist on American Idol (in 2008).
Attractive and modish Fez is a hot spot among the LGBT set for brunch as well as cocktails, dinner and late-night happy hour. Cocktails like the mint chipper (vanilla vodka, creme de menthe, Godiva white chocolate, and cream) appeal to sweet-tooths, while the food menu tends toward share-friendly, eclectic dishes (many with Middle Eastern influences), such as spicy harissa hummus, apricot-honey-glazed salmon, Kisra flatbread pizzas, and cumin-cinnamon-carrot soup.
One of the city's best gay dance clubs and as fun a Latin gay bar as you'll ever find, Karamba has an edgy, post-industrial look and a thunderous sound system. There are three large indoor areas plus a decent-size patio. The music and the crowd are heavily Latin influenced, but you'll see all kinds of revelers here, from shirtless and buff gym kids to veteran circuit-party addicts to straight-but-progressive types who love the great music. There's nothing quiet or intimate about this place — it's where you go when you're looking to cut loose and party into the wee hours.
You walk down a short alley behind the stellar downtown Scottsdale restaurant Cowboy Ciao to reach Kazimierz, a charmingly secretive-seeming spot with a warm, inviting interior of cushy chairs and antique wine barrels. The wine selection here is astounding, and there is live music some nights. You can order delish bar food (Egyptian flatbread pizzas, chicken kabobs, three-cheese fondue), but if you're really hungry, slip next door to Cowboy Ciao, which features some of the most creative and delicious globally inspired American food in the valley.
Kobalt at Park Central
A friendly gay bar a short drive north of downtown at Park Central Mall, Kobalt is popular for its variety of theme nights, including karaoke five nights a week: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. An upscale, attractive layout with dim lighting, glass-top bar tables, and an outdoor patio lend a warm and welcoming ambiance.
A hipster favorite on Central a short drive north of downtown, Lux Coffee is renowned for its artisan-roasted coffee as well as fine teas and a nice selection of microbrew beers, well-chosen wines, and expertly poured cocktails. There's a good-sized patio at this trendy hangout with a mixed gay/straight scene. Lux features delicious baked goods as well as light breakfast, lunch and dinner fare — much of it from a daily-changing menu.
You can't miss the 17-foot model Eiffel Tower that rises from the rooftop of this cruisy gay men's bar that opened in 1971 and then underwent a complete rebuild following a fire. Nu-Towne Saloon lies just east-northeast of the airport, not too far from Scottsdale or Tempe, and caters to a mostly male, bearish bunch. The drinks are potent and affordable, the staff fun-loving and friendly. This is the longest-running gay bar in Phoenix. Note that the Sunday Beer Blast is one of the more popular gay party events in the city.
Just a low-key neighborhood gay bar on the east side of downtown Phoenix, Plazma is fun for karaoke or as part of a general bar crawl. It's mostly the domain of locals who live in the area.
The Rock is one of the best gay venues in the area for catching live entertainment of all kinds, from drag cabarets to concerts to comedy shows. There's a large show stage, a spacious patio, and a nicely decorated bar with videos, a jukebox and karaoke. Regular events include karaoke on Mondays, viewing parties of RuPaul's Drag Race, and fetish nights. Although drawing mostly a gay and lesbian crowd, The Rock is popular with everybody when there's a fun and campy show scheduled.
On the edge of the steadily gentrifying and quite diverse Willo Historic District, lively and somewhat trendy SideBar is a short distance from several good restaurants and an easy drive from downtown hotels. Although not a gay bar, it does draw a very mixed bunch to its cozy, stylish interior, with exposed-brick walls and mod lounge chairs and banquette seats. The main reason to consider SideBar is the very extensive beverage list — more than 40 craft beers and the same number of wines by the glass, as well as first-rate cocktails using fresh-squeezed juices. The bartenders here are real pros, and quite convivial, too; they're great about making recommendations if you're unsure of what to order.
Songbird is a homey, bohemian space that presents rotating art exhibits, hosts poetry and spoken-word, and books acoustic, jazz, and rock musicians. It's open 8 p.m. every day during the summer. As daytime hangouts go, it's one of the better venues in downtown Phoenix for meeting and mingling with creative spirits. The food and drink come from Cortez Coffee Roasters, Maya Tea, Treehouse Bakery, SweetArt Bakery, and Latin Fusion Foods.
With its icy-blue-hued interior, Switch is both a snazzy cocktail and wine bar and a terrific restaurant specializing in casual sandwiches and comfort foods prepared with fresh ingredients. Popular standbys include the lobster-seafood crepes; spinach-feta salad; Thai-braised beef tacos; and smoked turkey, avocado, and bacon panini. Breakfast is served on the weekends, too. There's an eclectic selection of wines by the glass, plus old-school (Gibson martinis, sidecars) and new-school drinks.
The acclaimed contemporary Italian restaurant inside Scottsdale very gay-popular Kimpton property, FireSky Resort & Spa, indoor-outdoor Taggia serves food inspired by the northern Italian coast - think gnocchi with chorizo and crab, house-smoked duck carpaccio, and wood-fired pizza topped with dates, caramelized onions, bacon, goat cheese, and rosemary. There's also quite a lively and sexy scene at the resort's Aqua Bar, especially early in the evening for happy hour.
Cafe Tranquilo/Skydeck at Clarendon Hotel
Set right in the heart of the city's Central Avenue corridor, which is convenient to nightlife and attractions (as well as the super-cool new Light Rail), the Clarendon Hotel is a favorite, mid-priced lodging option for LGBT travelers (and other hipsters, artists, and the like.) But whether you stay here or not, be sure to check out the fabulous Skydeck Rooftop Bar, with its nifty skyline views and stylish patio furniture. It's a swank spot to sip cocktails and soak up the desert skies. There's also Cafe Tranquilo restaurant off the lobby, down on the main level.
A LGBT-popular cafe that shifts steadily from coffee joint and breakfast spot to light-dinner and wine-beer bar as the day progresses, Urban Beans is bright and attractive, with comfy seating inside and on a shaded patio. The "farm egg" sandwiches are a great way to start the day off, and the high-quality coffee is strong and available in the usual formats, from espressos to cold-filtered iced coffee. Healthy salads and creative sandwiches are available, too.
The mid-century modern, retro-chic Hotel Valley Ho is a great place to stay near Old Town Scottsdale, but regardless of whether you spend a night here, the relaxing indoor-outdoor ZuZu Lounge is well worth trying for dinner, weekend brunch, or cocktails. This stylish but fair-priced restaurant serves great renditions of American classics: giant-shrimp cocktail, iceberg wedge salad with bacon and Maytag blue cheese, burgers topped with Tillamook cheddar, and twice-cooked fries with spicy sriracha aioli.