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2021 recap: A look at the attractions, bars, and restaurants that opened around Phoenix

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Posted at 10:18 PM, Dec 31, 2021

PHOENIX — As we close out 2021, you have to acknowledge that it was another tough year for bars, restaurants, and businesses, — everyone, really — as we all continue to navigate the continued challenges during the pandemic.

We saw businesses close including Sibley's West, Rula Bula, Rancho Pinot, 24 Carrots, SanTan Brewing Company's Phoenix brewpub, Hot Noodles, Cold Sake, Cotton & Copper, Friday's Front Row at Chase Field, and Bandera.

Disney also closed three of its stores in the Valley.

At the same time, we also saw new attractions, bars, and restaurants open this year. Here is a brief look at some of the new spots that opened in 2021 around town, though this is certainly not an exhaustive list.


Eegee's: The Tucson-based fast-food joint made its much-anticipated return to the Valley opening two restaurants in Gilbert and Mesa. A third restaurant is expected to open in Gilbert in early 2022. More locations are also planned. Eegee's is known for its fruit-flavored drinks, called eegees. Its menu also features sandwiches, grinders, and sides.

By The Bucket: You can order a pound of spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread, and have it served in a movie theater-sized popcorn bucket. Founded in Payson, Arizona, the concept expanded to the Valley with its first licensed spot opening in Ahwatukee. Others are reportedly planned in Flagstaff, Gilbert, Mesa, and Tucson.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken: The Memphis, Tennessee-based restaurant chain opened two restaurants in downtown Mesa and downtown Phoenix, making its debut in Arizona.

Carousel Arcade Bar: Play arcade games, order some drinks, or try to tackle one of their over-the-top milkshakes. Carousel Arcade Bar opened at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale and features a carnival-like flare.

El Charro: After closing years ago, members of the Munoz Family took over ownership of their family's restaurant, El Charro Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Mesa, and decided to reopen it. It was renovated and brought to code, but the owners intended to keep the charm from when their father and grandparents owned it.

36 Below: The team at Sip Coffee & Beer opened 36 Below, an intimate, greenhouse-inspired cocktail bar in an old oil well beneath Sip's Arcadia location. It replaces UnderTow, which relocated to the Century Grand building next door. 36 Below's menu features martinis, craft cocktails, and lush decor, such as a trio of in-wall water fountains and LED screens that depict seasonal images.

UnderTow: After moving out of Sip last year, UnderTow, an immersive nautical-themed cocktail bar, reopened next door in the Century Grand building. Designed to look like the hull of a Clipper Ship, the bar is known for its decorations, audio-visual effects, and its cocktails. The new space is slightly larger with a few more seats, but the owners kept the same atmosphere and vibe as the original.

Fox Restaurant Concepts: Sam Fox continued his expansion with the long-awaited opening of North Italia, his Italian concept, and Flower Child, a health-focused concept, in Gilbert. He also opened Fly Bye To Go, a Detroit-style pizzeria, inside Culinary Dropout at The Yard in Phoenix. A second one is expected to open in Desert Ridge. He also announced his hotel concept, The Global Ambassador, which is expected to open in 2023.

Chino Bandido: After decades at its original location in Phoenix, Chino Bandido relocated to a brand new building — and slightly larger — up the street, near Bell Road and Third Avenue in Phoenix. The restaurant was featured on the TV show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives," and features a mix of Asian, Mexican, and Jamaican food.

Beard Papa's: Beard Papa's opened a location at the Scottsdale Quarter. The dessert concept specializes in customized cream puffs. People can choose to have a plain or chocolate-covered shell, as well as different flavored creams.

Christopher's at Wrigley Mansion: Set next to Wrigley Mansion overlooking the Biltmore neighborhood, Chef Christopher Gross' new namesake restaurant, Christopher's, opened. The restaurant is nearly encased in glass from floor to ceiling, providing unmistakable views of the Valley. The menu is more of a fine-dining tasting menu, where the restaurant's chefs curate the evening's menu and dishes.

Angie's Lobster: Two of the founding partners of Salad & Go sold their stake in the company and "soft" opened Angie's Lobster, their new restaurant concept showcasing lobster tenders and lobster rolls for ~$10. A food truck opened in Tempe, essentially a preview for the seven physical drive-thru restaurants they plan to open in 2022.

Chompie's: The Phoenix-based New York-inspired deli opened a new flagship restaurant in Phoenix, not far from where it originally began decades ago. The new restaurant near 32nd Street and Cactus Road featured a bakery and deli, grab-and-go market, bar and restaurant, outdoor patio, and a large commercial kitchen.

The Mexicano: Chef Joey Maggiore, the owner of Hash Kitchen, Sicilian Butcher, and Sicilian Baker, opened his own Mexican restaurant, The Mexicano, in the former Salty Sow space in Phoenix. It features a DIY Michelada bar, inspired by Hash Kitchen's Bloody Mary Bar, as well as festive drinks, like the 50-ounce marg. and the piñata margarita.

Rough Rider: The Teddy Roosevelt-inspired bar and restaurant opened in the basement of the Ten-O-One Building, along Roosevelt Row.

Pedal Haus: The Tempe-based brewery opened a restaurant and taproom in the MonOrchid Building in downtown Phoenix. It is the brand's third location in the Valley. The main brewery is located in Tempe and a restaurant in downtown Chandler. A beer garden-style restaurant was announced for downtown Mesa, though the timing is unclear.

Air Guitar: The owners of Air Guitar wanted to create a modernized version of the everyday convenience store. Air Guitar in Gilbert is their vision. They have everyday snacks, like chips and candy, as well as grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, as well as beer, wine, and soda. The convenience store also has a pizzeria, coffee shop, and ice cream stand.

Don Woods' Say When: Atop the Rise Uptown Hotel in Phoenix is Don Woods' Say When, a rooftop lounge that specializes in spritzers and highball cocktails. They also have a small appetizer menu.

The Ainsworth: The upbeat sports bar opened across from the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix in the former Hard Rock Cafe restaurant space. The sports bar featured dozens of TVs, a DJ booth, food, drinks, and beer. Two of their over-the-top specialties are the mac and cheese burger and the gold leaf-dusted wings.

Phoenix Bourbon Room: Also across from the home of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury is the Phoenix Bourbon Room, a new restaurant from the owners behind State 48 Brewery.


Bam Kazam: Bam Kazam opened at The Pavilions at Talking Stick Shopping Center, near Loop 101 and Talking Stick Way. The attraction features a half-dozen interactive games each with three levels that act as both a puzzle and escape room. Depending on the attraction, there may be riddles to solve, obstacles to climb on, and buttons to press.

New movie theaters: Look Cinemas replaced Flix Brewhouse in downtown Chandler, Touchstar Cinemas replaced Studio Movie Grill in Scottsdale, and Landmark Theatre replaced iPic at Scottsdale Quarter. Alamo's locations in the Valley became Majestic after the local owners and Alamo's owners reached a settlement to part ways. Pollack Cinemas in Tempe reopened after renovating all of its auditoriums with new seats, flooring, curtains, and entrance atrium.

Paqua Park: Scorpion Bay at Lake Pleasant opened a 5,000-square-foot inflatable obstacle park this year. The course features various obstacles, including ramps with ropes or footholds to climb, inflatable "cliffs" to jump off, monkey bars, and a large airbag that can launch people into the air when someone else jumps on it.

Donut Boats: The boat concessionaire brought "Donut Boats" to Tempe Town Lake. These round boats have a small electric motor and can carry up to 10 people. They also have a table with drink holders and an umbrella.

810 Billiards & Bowling: You can string bowl, play arcade games, billiards, and bags at 810 Billiards & Bowling, a South Carolina-based entertainment venue. Two locations opened in Chandler and at CityScape in downtown Phoenix. The Chandler location closed in early December, but according to its Facebook page, it plans to reopen on Jan. 1, 2022, under new management.