Arizona Pro Arte a beautiful orchestra/dance pairing

Orchestral music + ballet-infused modern dance = awesome. That describes the latest show by Arizona Pro Arte, a local orchestra that combines classical and modern works with visual art. I checked them out last night at Tempe Center for the Arts, where they performed with their own AZ Pro Arte Dance Ensemble for some of the works.

Arizona Pro ArteThe 40-piece orchestra’s Apotheosis of the Dance concert featured Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, along with two modern composers’ works, Michael-Thomas Foumai’s The Divine Comedy: Paradiso, and Aharon Harlap’s Sinfonia Breve. Every year, Arizona Pro Arte conducts a Call for Scores competition, where composers from around the world may enter to have their piece performed for the Arizona masses – these were two of the winners from that competition.

Arizona Pro ArteLike all of their performances, the ensemble played beautifully, entrancing audience members with their deftness and passion while playing. The dancers in the second act were a really fun touch. They went through several costume changes and performed a variety of dance styles, and the fact the choreography was specialized just for these new, innovative orchestral works was really neat.

Arizona Pro Arte is gearing up to kick off their summer season, Saturday, July 5, with a patriotic music-themed show paired with singer/actor/comedian Hector Coris. Learn more about Arizona Pro Arte founder Timothy Verville here on Phoenix People, and find out more details about shows here.

Tempe Tavern serves good food for a dive bar

Tempe Tavern is definitely a dive bar, but it also serves way better food than you’d expect from a spot that also serves Mike’s Hard Lemonade on tap and looks more like a rock club than a restaurant.

My favorite thing to order there is the grilled cheese sandwich, a really simple sandwich (I get pepperjack cheese instead of American), with a side salad with ranch. The portion is large (the same is true for the fries if you order those), and the food is good – greasy, but good.

Tempe Tavern

I’m a fan of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, so I’m thrilled it’s on tap here. There are also TVs throughout the bar that make it a great place to watch a game, while live music fans can enjoy concerts every night of the week after 9 p.m.

Tempe Tavern is located right across the street from a light rail stop (and next door to a sex shop.) The cheap prices and laid-back atmosphere make it a good spot to head to for a game. Find more info here.

Skip the food, get $1 beers at Bar Louie at Tempe Marketplace on Wednesday’s

I’m always excited when new bars open up at Tempe Marketplace, and I headed to Bar Louie this past Wednesday. Lucky us — Wednesday’s at Bar Louie means $1 domestic drafts, which is quite the great deal.

We sat on the patio, which had some skewed views of the televisions at the indoor bar. What was probably supposed to be the hip and college-friendly inside of Bar Louie seemed like a more brightly colored Cheesecake Factory. There was nothing striking about it that made it seem like a dining destination based on ambiance alone.

The food wasn’t much better. My companion’s fish po’ boy ($10) seemed to be served on the same burger basket you would find at Chili’s, and I was really disappointed with my own meal, which was nothing above the average sports bar in taste.

Fish Po' Boy at Bar Louie in Tempe MarketplaceWe started with chips and salsa, nacho cheese and guacamole ($7), but there was nothing exciting about it. The chips didn’t taste homemade, and the salsa was bland. It was a disappointing start.

Chips and Salsa at Bar Louie in Tempe MarketplaceNext, I had a cheese quesadilla ($7), which was just as meh. The tortilla wasn’t evenly distributed with the cheese, and it was too crispy.

Cheese Quesadilla at Bar Louie at Tempe MarketplaceBesides the mediocre food, the service at Bar Louie was pretty bad. It was awhile before our own table was bussed, and the one right by us (where we actually wanted to sit to get a better view of the game inside) was left unbussed for probably 20 minutes after we sat down at ours. Bar Louie might be seeming like it’s trying to class it up at Tempe Marketplace, but I wouldn’t want to go back unless it was for one of those $1 beers.

Loco Patron on Mill Avenue in Tempe has great happy hour deals

Loco Patron has long been a fixture on Scottsdale Road in Old Town Scottsdale, but I’ve always gone there more for the margaritas and barcrawler atmosphere than for the food. I haven’t had any food at the Scottsdale location in several years, but I was highly impressed with the amazing happy hour offerings I sampled from the new Tempe location, which opened this past December on Mill Avenue right by the light rail.

Loco Patron in Tempe, ArizonaTheir happy hour runs from 3-7 p.m. daily and features a ton of hearty food options for very little moolah. On my recent visit there, my boyfriend and I shared tostadas ($5) and tacos ($3), which were basically the same thing, save for different cheeses — go for the tacos with a corn tortilla and cojita cheese instead of their shredded mix, and you should be good.

loco patron mill avenueWe also got a cheese crisp, a steal at only $2! The food was all great and a really phenomenal value for the portion you got, too.

loco patron mill avenuePlus, you get free chips and salsa with any meal, so we were definitely feeling full without spending a ton.

Besides the great food offerings, happy hour drinks are worth the visit, too, with $3 beers, wine and wells and jumbo beers starting at only $4.25. The Mill Avenue location also features a cool patio overlooking the busy street, and there’s a huge bar and tons of televisions broadcasting sports throughout the venue. The service was fast and friendly, and it’s nice that it’s conveniently located to the light rail in case you have too many margaritas. For more information on the Tempe Loco Patron, go here.

Bully Mammoth spreads holiday cheer at Tempe Center for the Arts

Man, it’s great when local comedians make the holidays laughable. Just like A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 has brought some naughtiness to the holiday season, local sketch comedy troupe Bully Mammoth spread their own version of holiday cheer this past weekend at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Bully Mammoth at Tempe Center for the Arts

The group performs rehearsed sketches, and for this show, all of them were holiday-themed. There was a hysterical bit about how silly Christmas traditions are created, a scene involving broken toys, and a sketch involving a new baby Messiah with a mustache. The variety of topics and characters were great, and their live show is way better than watching SNL on television.

Catch them next time on Friday, February 8 At Tempe Center for the Arts. For more information, go here.

Desert Roots in Tempe a new vegetarian joint

Celebrate: there’s a great vegan/vegetarian breakfast and lunch spot on Mill AvenueDesert Roots Kitchen, and it offers up a rotating menu of tasty veg-friendly items with local ingredients for peeps who love eating healthily.

Desert Roots Kitchen in TempeThe cafe, which has been open for about the past 5 months, is hidden in the plaza off of 5th St. and features a great case of vegetarian dishes, such as pasta salad, pumpkin pudding and dolmas. The spot also serves coffee and breakfast items and a changing daily special, which I got when I went there recently—the pinto bean wrap, with brown rice and peppers.
Desert Roots Kitchen in TempeThe joint is order-at-the-counter, and there’s a little patio outside where you can nosh. Getting my food was super-quick, and the staff was very friendly. Most meals cost only around $10, and you can build your own meal with a variety of sides, an option I loved since everything looked so good. My pasta salad was really tasty, and the wrap packed a protein punch and was really filling. While the spot doesn’t currently serve dinner, the owner said she anticipated dinner hours in the near-future. Check out more info about Desert Roots here.

Bully Mammoth brings edgy sketch comedy to the Valley

I have a pretty twisted sense of humor (I’m a huge fan of dead baby jokes!), which is probably why I love Bully Mammoth so much. The local sketch comedy troupe can make the most horrible situations funny, which I think is a great indicator of intelligent comedians — having the ability to make people laugh about anything.

Bully Mammoth

The troupe performs often in the Valley, bringing SNL-style sketches to live audiences. I saw them perform at the Tempe Center for the Arts this past weekend along with the hysterical stand-up comedian opener Joleen Lunzer, and they kept the audience laughing with vignettes on everything from organ donations-gone-wrong to an intervention involving an elephant fetish. The scenes are very well-acted and well-written, and it’s evident the troupe members fully trust and support each other because of the chemistry in the scenes.

After the first sketch-filled half of the show, Bully Mammoth put on a faux fighting show in a WWE style. While I would have just preferred more sketches, it was still fun to watch the crazy characters the guys came up with. Hopefully they’re working on a slew of new sketches for their Thursday, August 2 show at Stand Up Scottsdale. Learn more about the troupe here.

Thirsty Lion at Tempe Marketplace offers tasty eats in sports bar atmosphere

A new bar and restaurant recently opened at Tempe Marketplace that differentiates itself from the typical outdoor mall chains–Thirsty Lion Pub and Grill, the first location in Arizona with only two additional ones in Oregon. The Thirsty Lion is populated with sexy female servers in cute outfits and has an extensive menu of pub fare and 52 draft beers. I went there for lunch recently and enjoyed sitting on the patio in this almost-spring weather.

I had soup and salad for lunch, with a garden salad and beer cheese soup ($8.95). This was my first time trying this kind of soup, and while it was probably made well, the beer taste was a little overwhelming for me. Don’t order this unless you’re a huge fan of beer.

My salad was great and came with cucumber, carrot, red pepper, onion and croutons. The portion was generous, and the greens were leafy, and as far as soup and salad at sports bars go, this combo was one of the best I’ve had based on the portion and ingredients.

My pal tried the Southwest Smoked Chicken Salad ($11.95), which was also an enormous portion and looked mighty tasty.

There were a ton of other menu items that made me salivate, and I wish I could have tried them all. If I go back, I’m going to have to decide between the brick oven pizzas, the ultimate nachos and the chipotle mac and cheese. Everything sounded really great, and the service was friendly, too.

If you don’t want to sit on the patio, the dark interior features lots of sports televisions and a masculine atmosphere of wood furnishings. The place reminded me a little of D’Arcy McGee’s, so if you’re on the other end of Tempe Marketplace, you have another option for pub fare.

Anthony Jeselnik shines with dark humor

If you’re looking for something fun to do tonight, get tickets to Anthony Jeselnik at Tempe Improv. I saw the dark stand-up comedian there last night, and his show was hysterical–though yes, it has its fair share of jokes about topics some would argue you should never joke about–including The Holocaust, rape and dead babies.

Some may wonder how an audience can laugh at things like that. Jeselnik has this charming boy-next-door demeanor that somehow makes you still like him even though he’s saying some really messed-up, twisted things. He was a stand-out star at the Comedy Central roasts of Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump, and if you liked him there, you’ll love his stand-up act.

Tonight, he has shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. For tickets, go here.

If you go, stop at America’s Taco Shop before you go. The restaurant is already one of my favorites from downtown Phoenix, and with the same menu in the Tempe location, you can’t go wrong. The bean and cheese burritos are my fave, and the chips and salsa are great!

Tempe Improv beats winter blues with funny men

The Tempe Improv is giving comedy lovers lots of reasons to smile these days. Their upcoming line-up features some really funny peeps, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time there the next couple months.

My 2012 stand-up comedy adventures started this past weekend, when I saw Saturday Night Live and Weeds actor Kevin Nealon perform for the New Year’s Eve show, after an amazing dinner at Sassi in north Scottsdale.

It’s always fun to see someone you’re used to watching on television get on the stand-up stage, since his or her live, on-stage persona is often really different from the characters he or she plays.

Nealon’s comedy style was a little bit frenetic, with him going from topic to topic without much transition. He almost reminded me a little bit of a more sober Mitch Hedberg, but even though he jumped around a lot, everything he said was really funny and with a raunchy-meets-paternal tone.

Five minutes to midnight, the audience watched the ball drop in New York City and rang in 2012 with Nealon. It was a really neat way to usher in the new year considering such a hysterical guy was in the room with us, and I would definitely go see a stand-up show for a future New Year’s Eve.

This weekend, I’m seeing Comedy Central roast veteran Anthony Jeselnik.

I really love his serious and sarcastic vibe he has to his comedy, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing him on the roasts. He’ll be here Friday, January 6 and Saturday, January 7.

Friday, January 20 and Saturday, January 21, you can bet Saturday Night Live will be a repeat because Jay Pharoah is coming to town.

He’s the young cast member whose Eddie Murphy impression is spot-on, and he’s one of the most talented supporting players in the cast today. I can’t wait to check him out live.

And next month, Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18, one of my favorite comedians ever, Tom Green, comes back to the Improv.

This will be the third time I’ve seen him, and believe me, it’s worth it! The weekend after, Dave Foley performs February 24-25–yet another great comic!

I’m really impressed by this current line-up, and I’m so excited to see more great things to come from the Improv. If you’ve never been, it’s a really wonderful experience to see live comedy in an intimate setting, and the Tempe Improv is a great venue. And with shows averaging around $20 a ticket, there’s no excuse not to support it!