Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas, NV)
When visiting Vegas, you don’t necessarily expect to find experiences that you’d later describe as authentic. Most of the groovy old places that attracted the Rat Packers and their followers have come and gone, or have been replaced by more modern versions of their former selves. So when our friends told us about Frankie’s Tiki Room, we weren’t really sure what to expect.
Fresh off our high from Battista’s Hole In The Wall (see “eats”), we headed out via cab to a seemingly random location away from The Strip and across from a McDonalds? Still, once our eyes caught hold of the giant pink neon sign and oversized tiki out front, we knew we were in for a treat.
Upon opening the door, your Set of Drifters entered into another dimension - one of true tiki madness. In fact, it almost felt as though we had ventured into an anteroom of the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. And that comparison actually makes good sense since Frankie’s interior design was styled by Bamboo Ben, grandson to Tiki Room decorator Eli Hedley. With expertly carved idols, puffer fish lights and bathrooms lined in Exotic a LP covers, Frankie’s is one of the best Polynesian watering holes we’ve seen yet - and the only one with electronic casino games at its bar!
Signature cocktails at Frankie’s are lethal - yet super tasty. We doubt you’ll need more than two to set you up for the entire evening, and recommend the “Scurvy” and “Green Gasser” to get started. The latter blends 151-proof citrus rums with melon liqueur and an energy drink destined to give you that late night boost! Set of Drifters tip: To mix your own “Frankie’s Originals” at home, pick up a copy of Liquid Vacation, a recipe guide to 60 “top secret” cocktails as well as 17 time-honored tropical classics.
A perfect souvenir from Vegas might just be one of Frankie’s fabulous tiki mugs, including whimsical designs by Marcus Pizzuti, Jack Churchill and Big Toe. Prices range from about $20 USD up to $100 (for limited edition designs), though we also recommend stocking your bar with the cool $7 USD Mai Tai glasses that are sure to impress friends at your next luau back home!
In short, Frankie’s is our absolute faaaaaavorite spot in Vegas. Don’t miss it.
Frankie’s Tiki Room - 1712 West Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89102, (702) 385-3110
The Chandelier at the Cosmopolitan (Las Vegas, NV)
Imagine Liberace and Kim Kardashian getting together over a pot of tea to exchange home decor ideas and voila - you have The Chandelier Bar at Vegas’s illustrious Cosmopolitan Hotel. With three bars situated on as many floors, and all ensconced within the $30 million Swarovski masterpiece that gives this spot its name, the Chandelier Bar is truly OTT… and that’s just the way we like it. Drinks priced may be a bit higher than you are expect to pay in Vegas - but with such good people watching at your pupils, it’s worth the little monetary pain.
If you get bored with the bird’s eye view of the casino floor, just grab the escalator up or down to explore more; there are shops and other diversions on upper floors. Already feeling a bit tipsy upon arrival, we were absolutely blown away by scale of this place, but imagine you won’t need alcohol to appreciate its gaudy splendor.
Set of Drifters tip: We recommend hitting this place up a little early on weekends as service from the overcrowded bar can get a little tough to come by. Also, the Cosmopolitan Hotel is another of the must-see casinos in Vegas, if only for the absurd video projections that display from within a number of monolithic columns located in the lobby. Don’t miss it.
The Chandelier at the Cosmopolitan - 3708 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89109, (702) 698-7000
holiday lights and cocktails at Little America’s Tiffany Tree Lounge (Flagstaff, AZ)
Christmas comes and goes every year - even while sometimes we wish it were only a bi-annual event. The food, the festivities, the decorations - they’re all key to the holidays. But at Little America, one of only four hotels in the 1950s-era chain built by Robert Earl Holding, Christmas decorations are taken to a whole new level - you might even say a psychedelic one. A tradition since 1994, the elaborate “North Pole Experience” casts Technicolor lighting across every last tree and bush surrounding the Mid-century hotel, making this cozy landmark one not miss after sundown.
After snapping more than enough photos out front - and back in the vast Ponderosa pine forest also adorned in whimsical lights, we headed indoors to Little America’s Western Gold Restaurant for a little R&R and much-needed warm-up. (Who doesn’t love a blazing fire, oversized booth seating and a giant wooden light fixture outta 1972?) We were super-excited to check out the adjoining Tiffany Tree Lounge’s list of serious signature cocktails - all for under $10! Set of Drifters tip: Try the “Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” a quixotic, heavily-poured mix of Fireball cinnamon whiskey and Rumchata. If that doesn’t warm you up, nothing will!
Of course the best part about the lounge is the stained glass chandelier/ tree that gives it its name. It is under these yellow and green “leaves” where locals and tourists alike mix ‘n a mingle at Christmastime - and all year round.
The Tiffany Tree Lounge is open from 12:00 noon until 10:00 PM daily with Happy Hour specials available daily from 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM.
Unfortunately for us, it was too late in the day to change our accommodations, but come next time, Little America, and its vintage goodness, will be at the top of our list!
Tiffany tree Lounge at Little America - 2515 East Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ 86004, (928) 779-7900
Bikini Lounge (Phoenix, AZ)
Dive bars are certainly a mainstay of your “Set of Drifters.” In fact, maybe we should create an entirely separate website devoted solely to them? Perhaps a little further down the line... In the meantime, we offer you the Bikini Lounge, a cozy tiki shack located in one of the seedier parts of downtown Phoenix, AZ. On the first night we visited, Bikini Lounge was packed to the gills with members of the city’s indie/ electro set who congregated amidst the bar’s handful of funky Polynesian-vibed booths.
Bikini Lounge also comes with juke box, pool table and some pretty trippy artwork throughout. (The men’s room looks like something out of Hitchcock’s The Birds.) It’s the kind of place you wished was your local hangout back home, yet Set of Drifters poses the question... If you are visiting, why not just pretend?
If we had one critique about the Bikini Lounge it would be the bar itself! Sadly, this Phoenician tiki oasis has no super-strong tropical drinks to go with it! “PBR,” the ultimate hipster cliché, is the drink du jour here. (We’ll let it slide - just this once!) We opted instead for the super cheap well drinks that make getting smashed here almost as easy as taking candy from a baby! That reminds us... If you are out on the town drinking and dancing while in Phoenix, make sure to designate a driver! Distances from one bar to the next are vast - and dark! The town’s much-needed light rail system is still in its infancy and does not reach out very far in any direction. Taxis are available, but you will need to call in advance to request their services.
Set of Drifters tip: The Bikini Lounge is only a hop, skip and a jump away from “Mel’s Diner,” the spot that inspired the classic TV sitcom, Alice. Come on... you know you want a photo!
Bikini Lounge - 1502 NW Grand Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85007, (602) 252-0472
Mel’s Diner - 1747 NW Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85007, (602) 252-8283, http://melsdinerphoenix.com/
Electric brew at the ghost-huntable Copper Queen Hotel and Saloon (Bisbee, AZ)
If the old mining town of Bisbee, AZ is somewhat ghostly by day (see “sights”), then it is downright haunting by night! We went for a walk on our first evening in town to check out the “pulse” emanating from the many shop windows and rowdy local bars. The stroll definitely cast Bisbee in an all new light; old abandoned buildings are so much creepier when enclosed by the shadowy darkness.
Eventually, we made our way to the infamous Copper Queen Hotel, a landmark building that at one point was almost demolished. After the mining industry went bust in the 1950’s, the property was offered to a neighbor for only $1 USD, and yet it still would not sell! My, how times have changed. These days, the “crown jewel” of Bisbee offers the highest priced accommodations in town - in a setting that perfectly marries “Old West” charm with the comforts of today. Oh, but did we mention that it is haunted?
The Copper Queen’s old switchboard is displayed in the cozy lobby next to historic photos and facts that reveal Bisbee’s hard-luck mining history. The device had once been used to field calls from hotel guests who had witnessed apparitions on their floor... or in their room! Nowadays, these stories are written down in the "ghost journal" that lies out in plain view on the front desk. We flipped through the book(s), and noted that, on average, guests of the hotel experience paranormal activity every three days! (In fact, the Copper Queen Hotel is so well known in the “ghosting community” that it was inevitably featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters!)
Reports in the registry run the gamut from hot and cold spots, strange footstep noises, faucets turning off and on, and even full-body apparitions! One of the stories in the book involved the spirit of a young boy with bruised eye sockets who appeared in a guest's shower after it had turned on repeatedly by itself! This ghost has been attributed to "Billy," a young boy who haunts room #412 and beyond. According to lore, Billy was eight years old when he drowned in a nearby river. His parents both worked at the Copper Queen, and it is said that he has remained here ever since to visit with them.
It was not long before we ended up in the Copper Queen saloon where local lager Electric is on tap. (Mighty tasty if we do say so ourselves!) The relaxed bar was definitely our kinda place. Warmed by the red haze of vintage saloon lights, we read over the town’s unintentionally funny local "police blotter" and even spotted "Conceptual Groove" having a cigarette outside with her husband. (We had seen the funky Euro traveler earlier in the ghost town of Tombstone.)
The following night, we decided to head back to the Copper Queen to further explore its hauntings. After doing some research on-line and reading additional entries from the “ghost journal,” we desperately wanted to check out the four floors of rooms. Our nephew Logan was not quite as jazzed. We first had dinner at the hotel’s “Winchester's Restaurant,” where folklore revealed that resident ghost “Billy” is often sensed tugging on pant legs and skirts from underneath tables! Logan tried to mimic the cheeky spirit by kicking at us all throughout our meal. Later, back at the saloon for another round of Electric pints, we had to work overtime to persuade him that it would be none too cool to admit to his friends that the “ghost pictures” taken on his DS-i gaming device were actually lensed by his mommy or uncle! After much cajoling, Logan was finally psyched up enough to join our ghost hunting upstairs, where apparently each of the three floors feature regular activity.
One of the most haunted rooms is that of Julia Lowell, a former "Lady of the Evening" who worked the nearby saloons of "Brewery Gulch." She often brought her tricks back to the hotel though after falling madly in love with one of the "johns" who later rebuffed her, she took her own life from within the Copper Queen. Voila, a ghost story is born!
The photos from that evening were nothing spectacular. Setting your camera with a long shutter speed will create “ghosting” in any lighting. Still, the ghostly vibe made for some fun memories for young and old(er) alike. And who knows, perhaps on your visit, you will be luckier!
Copper Queen Hotel and Saloon - 11 Howell Avenue, Bisbee, AZ 85603, (520) 432-2216
hot sips in cold Flagstaff (Flagstaff, AZ)
Already caffeinated yourself at Starbuck’s on the way up I-17? Shame on you… If anything in this great green Earth is true, it’s that the residents of Flagstaff, AZ love their coffee. From cozy hotel lobby brew-spots to stand-alone kiosks with drive-thru capability, there’s bound to be a caffeine house located only blocks from wherever in town you might be wandering.
A few of our Flag faves include...
Rendezvous Coffee Lounge and Martini Bar: Let’s be honest. Though we are trying to cut down out daily in-take, your Set of Drifters love our coffee... almost as much as we love a strong cocktail! And when we find a place that mixes the two together so well, we have to shout it out from the top of nearby Agassiz Peak!
Nestled within the historic Hotel Monte Vista, the Rendezvous Coffee Lounge and Martini Bar is one such place. And with a menu that boasts some of the wickedest coffee we have ever consumed, it’s alllllmost reason enough to visit this northern Arizona enclave.
Best on the list is perhaps the ”Hot Monte,” a coffee concoction laced with freshly shaved dark chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne pepper that we’ve drained on numerous repeat visits. (Set of Drifters tip: The “White Lavender Chocolate” espresso is also rather cozy.) Aside from some wicked drinks of another nature - you’ll want to try the “Cherry Crush” or “Saffron Martini” - small dishes of pasta, dips and other noshings round out the offerings.
While the interiors of Rendezvous are not quite as charming as in the adjacent hotel lobby, there is no better place in town to catch the Flagstaff pulse than from one of the cafe’s large street side windows.
Rendezvous Coffee Lounge and Martini Bar at the Hotel Monte Vista - 100 North San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, (928) 779-6971, http://www.hotelmontevista.com/rendezvous.php
Flag Buzz: Potentially stealing some business away from the Rendezvous across the street, the modern, spritely-painted Flag Buzz (formerly a Late for the Train outpost) was, uh, buzzing the Sunday morning we visited. Staffed by friendly locals who are clearly serious about their baristering, Flag Buzz shines with a number of tasty tricks up its sleeve.
We duly appreciated our perfectly-frothed Macha green teas as they arrived tableside in handsome hand-sculpted artisan mugs. (You can buy your own if so inclined.) And those delicate raspberry chocolate tortes? Devoured. Don’t miss this one while in town. We just hope you can grab a seat!
Flag Buzz - 107 North San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, (928) 213-5942, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Flag-Buzz/510680069030873
Wicked AZ: If you can’t make it from point A to point B without a caffeine fix, then Wicked AZ is for you. Catering to NAU students-on-the-all-night-study-go, the delectable treats that spill out of Wicked AZ’s multiple drive-up kiosks are soooo much better than a tablet of Vivarin - or even one of those 5-hour Energy shots - in raspberry.
We recommend the “Milky Way,” a silken blend of candy bar goodness that quickly focused Set of Drifter Brady on his morning thrift-hunting. Set of Drifters tip: Join Wicked AZ’s Facebook page for special deals and new drink offerings. The New Year’s debut of the “Skinny Kahlua Kicker” is fastly becoming a local guilty pleasure.
Wicked AZ Coffee - 2650 East Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wicked-AZ-Coffee/284638674915147
Mix Lounge at Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas, NV)
Your “Set of Drifters” try to keep their visits to Las Vegas short and sweet. In fact, on our last trip through “Sin City” back in 2007, we managed to stay for only 23 hours in total! Our main goal was to meet up with friends from New York, one of whom was DJing at the illustrious Mandalay Bay that Saturday night. The evening that unfolded would include ample doses of drinking, dancing, and perhaps even a case of vertigo!
We started off the night with some sake and sashimi at Sushi J-Pop downstairs at the resort’s casino where it was finally revealed what happened to early ‘90s dance artist Cece Peniston! (She now headlines for the gambling set.) The music had to improve, so we followed our friend up to his gig at Mix Lounge, a streamlined dance club that sits atop THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. Here, the impressive view from the outside terrace towers 64 stories above many of the city’s most prominent landmarks, including Luxor’s pyramid. Back inside, Mix Lounge features adequate surroundings punctuated by weird red lattice scrims that offer interesting dancefloor shadow play.
Lounge tables offer bottle service (yuck!) and food that we did not taste, though we felt no pressure from staff to partake in such frivolities. Instead, we ordered straight from the bar and stuck close to the dancefloor where our DJ friend’s tunes kept us moving and shaking all night long while the an inevitable bachelorette party unraveled nearby. (Hey! Wasn’t that Justina Machado aka "Vanessa" from Six Feet Under?)
The sweat stains, vague memories and colorful photos all prove that Mix Lounge can deliver the Las Vegas goods... just make sure to check the bar’s roster to see who is spinning! Otherwise, you may be relegated to the bland Top 40 and hip-hop that immediately spoil our moods. Mix Lounge opens nightly at 5:00 PM and goes on and on until the break of dawn. There is a cover charge of $15 USD (Thursday through Saturday only) - though not if you are a friend of the DJ! Mandalay Bay Resort guests pay $10 USD, while guests of “THEhotel” and local Las Vegas ladies are always free. (We call sexism!)
Mix Lounge at Mandalay Bay - 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89119, (877) 632-7800
The Raven Cafe (Prescott, AZ)
The historic town of Prescott, Arizona (once the state capital) is not necessarily a MUST-STOP destination, though if you are a fan of thrift-shopping and happen to be traveling nearby in Jerome or Sedona, you may just want to spend a couple of hours sifting through its many shops. (We don’t have any specifics to name, though you’re sure to find plenty of stores in town and on the way back to Phoenix via State Route AZ-69.)
After sifting through heaps of dead people’s stuff, there’s no better place to wash your hands and refuel than at The Raven Cafe. Named after the famous Edgar Allen Poe narrative poem, this joint is the nexus point for Prescott’s artsy hipster set, and it has the decor, edgy photography and organic menu to match. Sourcing all meats and produce from local farms (as in within county lines), even The Raven’s selection of beers and wines are biodynamic and pesticide-free!
We sampled some rather tasty (and tall!) coffee concoctions on our visit in December of 2011 and enjoyed reading news from the hometown paper. Elsewhere, a roster of the month’s current events revealed to us that The Raven often hosts local bands, DJ nights and, of course, open-mic nights. (Poe would be so proud.) Set of Drifters tip: Make sure to check out that cool patio with the quasi-Art Nouveau ceiling that lets light in from some rather impressive Arizonan sunsets!
The Raven Cafe is open for breakfast daily from 7:30 AM until 11:00 AM, while lunch and dinner follow off the same menu until close, usually 11:00 PM or 12:00 AM, depending on current events. Sundays are a shorter day, with the cafe closing at “"Nevermore," or rather, 3:00 PM.
The Raven Cafe - 142 North Cortez Street, Prescott, AZ 86301, (928) 717-0009
The Duce Kitchen & Lounge (Phoenix, AZ)
Downtown Phoenix gem The Duce Kitchen & Lounge has to be one of the most unique places we have visited in the United States. Housed in an old factory warehouse made of brick and corrugated iron, the space has been shrewdly transformed by Chicago natives Steve and Andi Rosenstein into one of the hippest, yet non-pretentious, destinations for shopping, eating, live performances, or simply just hanging out.
A true labor of love for its owners, this “Ode to vintage Americana” has it all for the discerning hipster, from an Airstream trailer serving gourmet barbecue meals to an original 1915 Chicago Soda Fountain and “Pie Bar.” The vintage boxing ring may seem like an “elephant in the room,” but it makes sense when paired with the Duce’s collection of recycled and redesigned antique and vintage athletic gear and inspired clothing. The funky men’s and women’s designs are further blended with reconditioned army goods at relatively reasonable prices. (Call The Duce to inquire about group boxing and other fitness classes!)
Of course, our favorite part about the Duce is its primo cocktail bar, a vintage set-up that boasts the tastiest of spirits served up in mason jars and other “specialty” barware. The drink prices may be steep, yet with the love and attention that goes into each recipe, they are worth the indulgence! Seriously, we haven't seen this dedication to mixology since a visit to Alameda's Forbidden Island!
The Duce is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 AM until Midnight and on Sundays from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. (Special events such as wedding receptions and reunions are held on Sunday evenings, Mondays and Tuesdays.)
Set of Drifters tip: The only downside to the Duce is its lack of heating/ air-conditioning. Depending on the time of year, it can be unbearably hot or freezing cold inside the warehouse. We suggest avoiding the space during December and January unless you are well bundled up and there is a special event going on. The months of August and September can be particularly brutal, that is unless you normally walk around in a bikini or a Speedo. Be prepared!
The Duce Kitchen & Lounge - 525 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004, (602) 866-3823
The Horny Toad Cave Creek, AZ)
The Horny Toad Restaurant is one of those places that is truly an institution in Phoenix. Its current owner has been in charge since 1976, though the establishment has actually been going strong for over 50 years! The original owners, “Crazy Ed” and Maria Chilleen sold the property in the 1970’s and opened up a competing spot across the street called, ahem, The Satisfied Frog. In the decades since, the Chilleen’s biker ‘n babe joint relocated to Bell Road, leaving The Horny Toad as Cave Creek’s premiere watering hole. Even though the sign above the door says “Sorry, we’re Open,” with its brightly colored logo and dark wood interior, the Horny Toad is the perfect place to stop off for an ice cold beer or some BBQ delicacies.
Both Drifters have had experiences of eating here over 25 years ago with our families, and yet after a more recent visit, we still feel that its friendly staff, cheap food and large portions make it a quirky “Old West” vibed place for all to enjoy. Depending on the day and time of your visit, live music may also accompany your meal. Taking the wide variety of musical tastes and degrees of talent in town, this is not necessarily a good thing, though entertaining nonetheless.
The Horny Toad is open 11:00 AM until 10:00 PM Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM Fridays and Saturdays. On weekends, this place is rammed so expect to wait awhile since they do not take reservations on the phone. Set of Drifters tip: Outside dining erases the stale beer smell that permeates indoors; though just make sure to ask for freezing cold beer when it is over 100 degrees in the shade!
The Horny Toad - 6738 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, (480) 488-9542, or (602) 997-9622
Lounge at the Ocotillo Inn (Carlsbad, NM)
Day four of our cross-country move from New York to Santa Monica was harrowing, and not just for our sad spider plant who did her best to hang on from inside the moving truck! While nearing the Texas/ New Mexico border, we realized that we were almost out of gas. Set of Drifter Brady should have glanced at the gas gauge while making a pit-stop back in Pecos! In hopes of flagging someone down at the state crossing line, we hopped out of the truck only to be comforted by wind-whipping silence and the odd calls of vultures swirling above!
Since there was no one around to assist, we hopped back into the truck and prayed that the gas tank’s fumes would carry us almost 25 miles to the next town! Thankfully, we were victorious, rolling into Loving, New Mexico some frantic 15 minutes later. After refueling and finally checking into our hotel, we were definitely in need of a stiff drink! Now, there is not much in Carlsbad, New Mexico other than a series of Wal-Mart’s, and thus, in order to unwind, we headed down the road to the illustrious cowboy bar at the Ocotillo Inn. It is here where Rock & Roll faves of yesteryear and country karaoke went surprisingly hand-in-hand.
We eagerly downed some delicious steak and fries for around $5 USD and watched the local youths, and not-so-youthful power through some pretty incredible music choices. (What the owners don’t realize is that their karaoke night offers entertainment and humor that most would pay extra for!)
The bar at the Ocotillo is by no means fancy, and yet if you are planning a trip to nearby Carlsbad Caverns and plan on staying in town, this inexpensive hotel and lounge make an unbeatably cheap deal. We would certainly come back if we ever make our way to the caves again, if only to hoot and holler at the local cowboys and cowgirls giving it their all on their dancefloor stage! Oh, and did we mention that there was some serious Brokeback Mountain action going on at the next table? Ooh-la-la, or shall we say, “Aw, shucks.”
Lounge at the Ocotillo Inn - 3706 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88221, (800) 321-2861
We also recommend:
The Museum Club (Flagstaff, AZ) - 3404 Historic Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86004, (928) 526-9434, http://www.themuseumclub.com/
Crema Cafe (Cottonwood, AZ) - 917 North Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, (928) 649-5785, http://www.cremacafe89a.com/
Asylum at the Jerome Grand Hotel (Jerome,AZ) - 200 Hill Street, Jerome, AZ 86331, (928) 639-3197, http://www.asylumrestaurant.com/