Mid-Century Marvels & Tiki Hideaways

By local contributor
Dawson Fearnow

Thanks to a world-class collection of mid-century modern architecture and even a few stray Tiki bars, Scottsdale is the perfect place to throw back a few throwback cocktails in style.


History in a Glass


An award-winning gastro-pub in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, citizen public house is well worth the visit for its modern, meaty takes on traditional American comfort foods, as well as the extensive list of handcrafted and house-aged cocktails. But if you step outside and squint at the soaring roofline, you can tell that this trendy pub was once home to an altogether different type of cocktail palace. Yes, back in the swinging 1960s this building was the world’s first freestanding Trader Vic’s restaurant, a jungle-themed and tiki torch-lit showroom that once hosted John Wayne, hamming it up alongside two live cheetahs to promote his latest blockbuster. Unfortunately, there’s not much left to mark this former Polynesian hotspot, but you can still sidle up to the circular bar and sail away with a delicious rum drink. 


Classic Hollywood Glam


Originally opened in 1956 in the heart of Scottsdale and then stunningly restored back in the mid-2000s, Hotel Valley Ho is a must-see for any mid-century modern aficionado. Step inside the sweeping, glass-lined lobby and imagine you’re classic Hollywood royalty like Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, who tied the knot here (for the first time) back in the late 1950s. Then kick back in a colorful cabana surrounding the gleaming, palm tree-studded pool deck, or enjoy throwback-style eats like gourmet meatloaf and frozen Ho-Jos (a twist on the classic Orange Julius) at the on-site ZuZu café. Or simply sip classic cocktails in the sleek lounge as you soak in the stylish crowd and the fab Space Age furnishings. But don’t miss the rooftop patio (available for private events or via escorted tours), featuring 360-degree views overlooking Camelback Mountain. 


Bank on it


Originally founded inside a former post office in Phoenix, Postino WineCafé has grown into a series of popular neighborhood hangouts by pairing a chill, welcoming vibe with gourmet-yet-simple food. Not to mention the daily “$5 before 5 p.m.” deal on glasses of wine and pitchers of craft brew. But the real secret to Postino’s success is transforming quirky old buildings into fun, stylish indoor-outdoor spaces overflowing with cheeky artwork and vintage furniture. And none are as striking as the new Postino Highland in downtown Scottsdale. Carved out of a former mid-century modern bank, this glass-and-concrete gem boasts a jewel box-like bar that glows seductively at night. But the real hideaway here is the tree-lined back patio, surrounded by soothing water features and cozy fireplaces. 


Scorpion’s Bite


If you still associate Tiki bars with obnoxiously sweet drinks and cheap rum, then you need to navigate your way to Hula’s Modern Tiki in downtown Scottsdale. A sister spot to the Phoenix original, Hula’s tosses the usual Tiki decor overboard, instead offering a clean minimalist space accented with Tiki carvings on the walls and a sprinkling of Tiki tchotchkes behind a glass display wall. And happily, the drinks and fare at Hula’s also are updated, including modern version of the classic Mai Tai, Zombie or even the four-person Scorpion bowl, all made with fresh ingredients and premium rums. And even hops-heads can get in on the fun, with bottles of Hinano beer imported from Tahiti.