(Originally published on June 24 2011 | Arizona Republic. Unfortunately the Ice House Tavern was hideously remodeled in 2013)
Ice House Tavern
Originally opened in 1963 as part of the now-leveled Tower Plaza mall, the Arcadia Ice Arena and its adjoining tavern are the only section of the original structure that wasn't razed to make way for the Desert Palms Power Center back in the mid-1990s.
Well, that and the namesake twin television antennas that still tower hundreds of feet over the property.
The arena is tucked between a Wal-Mart and a Radio Shack. The tavern itself is even harder to find; keep looping around the ice rink until you reach the far side of the back parking lot, and then look for a small sign over a plain blue metal door.
All of which explains why the Ice House Tavern, "doesn't really get any walk-in traffic," owner Daryl Chester says.
"Someone pretty much has to bring you here the first time," he says.
In fact, Chester, who bought the Ice House Tavern along with his wife, Kenda von Hamm, five years ago, only learned about the tavern after working at a billiards bar across the parking lot. (Not to say the Ice House was always so low profile; according to Chester, it was once owned by former NBA star Henry Bibby, best known locally as the father of current NBA star and Shadow Mountain High School alumni, Mike Bibby.)
Once you find your way inside the Ice House Tavern - and your eyes adjust to the always-dim lighting - you'll discover a three-tiered space lined with a musty hockey and other sporting memorabilia.
Up top, there's a selection of classic bar games, such as pool tables and steel-tipped darts, as well as a small stage that hosts indie bands and a weekly comedy show. The real entertainment is on the lower two levels, where patrons can sidle up to two rows of wooden bar-tops facing a floor-to-ceiling window wall overlooking the ice rink. Even better, the glass serves as a one-way mirror, so the majority of skaters have no idea they are providing free entertainment to the drinkers just beyond the glass.
"Young kids just learning how to skate are the best," Chester says. "The regulars always get a laugh out of that."
And while some things never change at the Ice House Tavern, Chester has upgraded the drinks menu. Aside from an expanded menu of wines-by-the-glass, there's now an extensive list of specialty cocktails, highlighted by the Puck U, a boozy blend of Malibu rum, vodka and melon liqueur topped with a "slash" of cranberry juice and Sprite.
Even tastier, the Ice House now serves up a globe-straddling collection of suds, ranging from such drafts as Molson Canadian to such exotic bottles as Belgium's Lindemans Framboise Lambic and Franziskaner Dunkl-weisse imported from Germany. Also such trendy craft-style beers as Colorado's Ska Decadent India Pale Ale (10 percent alcohol) and Grand Canyon American Pilsner from Williams.
Details: 3855 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix. 1:30-6 p.m. happy hour Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Bloody Mary specials Sundays. 602-244-1179, icehousetavernphx.com.
18° Neighborhood Grill
A reference to ice-rink temperatures, this upscale sports bar located inside Scottsdale's Ice Den was launched in 2009 with great fanfare, thanks to its bill of fare designed by the then red-hot Valley chef Aaron May.
However, the owners of the Ice Den recently bought out May's interest in both 18° and the adjacent Over Easy restaurant, new general manager Mark Pompeo says.
Now described as more of a classic sports bar with a family friendly atmosphere, 18° has kept many of the same menu items, including the famed two-fisted burgers and the most popular item, from-scratch pizzas.
Pompeo has completely overhauled the drinks menu, including benching the chic specialty cocktail list in favor of a straightforward bar menu focused on classic mixed drinks, an 18-item wine menu and a rotating selection of bottled and draft beers.
Aside from the de rigueur Molson Canadian draft, Pompeo also promises that you'll always find at least one Arizona-based beer on tap - right now, it's SanTan Brewing's India Pale Ale.
One thing that hasn't changed at 18° is the hard-charging hockey action just on the other side of the bar's four massive viewing widows. Here, everyone from weekend warriors to the Phoenix Coyotes lace up their skates to practice and compete on the Ice Den's two rinks. A third ice rink is under construction and is scheduled to open in November.
Combined with the puck-friendly décor, including hockey sticks hanging from the ceiling and oversized pictures of hockey players lining the walls, 18° is a little slice of the Midwest in the heart of the "West's Most Western Town."
Details: 9375 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale. 3-7 p.m. happy hour Monday-Friday; 10 p.m. to close reverse happy hour Monday-Friday. 480-344-2653, 18-degrees.com