Martinis are served until 1:30 a.m. daily at this Old Town Scottsdale institution.

Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we’ll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they’re required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix

34: Martinis at AZ88

AZ88 calls itself a "modern saloon," a description that evokes swinging doors, country music, and lots of whiskey behind the bar.

AZ88, though, is a different kind of saloon — one with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a serious propensity for modern art. The restaurant and bar, which is tucked into the Scottsdale Civic Plaza greenbelt (a.k.a. "art alley"), is as famous for its elaborate, ephemeral art installations as it is for its ultra-stiff martinis.

Eye-catching art installations are regularly featured behind the bar at AZ88 in Scottsdale.
The bacon-wrapped chestnut platter at AZ88 is one of the restaurant’s signature starters.

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