The History, The Vision
If there is one bar in Phoenix that has been most crucial to the revival of the Phoenix art culture, it is The Lost Leaf. Situated right in the middle of “Roosevelt Row”, the art and music hub of Phoenix, The Lost Leaf has made a name for itself with its vast selection of craft beer, art displays and nightly live music.
On the one block space between Garfield and Roosevelt, 5th Street is home to many great small businesses like Jobot Coffee and Lawn Gnome books. Each of which are strong supporters of local art and music in their own way. For example, Lawn Gnome hosts poetry slams and open mic nights, while Jobot provides space for DJs, art displays and occasionally bands. Located across the street from Lawn Gnome and next door to Jobot, The Lost Leaf takes no back seat in its influence of art and culture.
Owner and creator Eric Dahl, an art and beer enthusiast, originally opened The Lost Leaf as a showcase for local artists, and 14 months after opening secured a liquor license and began selling craft beer.
“The original concept was from an online art site I had,” Dahl said. “Where I sold antique art prints… I knew a lot of local artists and I decided it would be better to focus more on local art rather than historical art.”
That focus moved into monthly features of local artists, out of which The Lost Leaf takes no commission.
“We rotate the art every month, and we try to stick with only Arizona artists,” Dahl said. “[Everything] goes straight to the artist. They’re dealing with the people who want to buy it, we try not to middleman the art too much.”
Dahl says the liquor sales help offset their overhead costs so they can provide a free gallery to artists. But while art is a focus of The Lost Leaf, it’s the beer that really makes it a unique location.
There are many bars across the country that focus on craft beers and providing wide selections. Places like Yard House boast hundreds of taps, but few are able to offer the selection The Lost Leaf has with a local and personal bar feel. At anytime The Lost Leaf has between 120 and 158 beers! That selection includes everything from low ends like Pabst Blue Ribbon to high end beers like Deschutes, New Belgium or Stone Brewing. A large glass fridge displays their bottled beer, which is most of The Lost Leaf’s selection.
If a bar, such as The Lost Leaf, doesn’t have the space or resources to provide a large selection of taps, they at least need to provide taps that matter. One of the best qualities of The Lost Leaf is its focus on local Arizona beers that are worthy of being featured on one of their only four taps.
“We just started doing taps in this last year and we decided to stick to local, from the freshness point of view, and the fact that Arizona beers have gotten a lot better,” Dahl said. “Right now we have the Lumberyard IPA, the Phoenix Porter, the Nimbus Blonde and the Oak Creek Amber from Sedona.”
Not only has Arizona seen a revival in its art and culture, but it has also seen a growth in Arizona craft brewing. Immediate local brewers like Four Peaks (Tempe) and the newly opened Phoenix Brewery have helped redefine the valley’s craft beer. But Arizona also boasts craft breweries like The Prescott Brewing Company, Oak Creek Brewing (Sedona), Nimbus Brewing Company (Tuscon), and Lumberyard Brewing Company (Flagstaff) to name a few. All of which are often staples of The Lost Leaf’s featured beer and tap selection.
It is important to note though, that The Lost Leaf is not just a place to get quality beer but also a place to enjoy a glass of wine. Phillip McCarty, bar manager, says The Lost Leaf isn’t just interested in providing good beer but also wine.
“We try to carry the standard varieties but try to get a different twist on them,” McCarty said. “[Wines] from different regions, so it’s familiar but different. Then from time to time we’ll bring in something people may not have seen and put it on the chalkboard.”
McCarty says currently they’re featuring an Italian Moscato, which he said has a little “fizzle,” giving it a crisp, almost champagne texture. An important guide to your experience at The Lost Leaf is observing the chalkboard behind the bar. As seen in the picture above, the chalkboard is a run-down of featured beer, featured wine, discounted items and a list of music acts that are playing that evening. Whether you have a taste for wine or beer always make sure to check out the chalkboard for that evening’s specials so you can find the best craft item to satisfy your tastes that night.
The Lost Leaf is unlike other bars in its daily happy hour. Most bars restrict themselves to happy hours during the work week, but we all know that drinking on the weekend is the best time to enjoy a quality beverage. Understanding people’s desire to not be limited to silly weekday restrictions, The Lost Leaf is a safe haven of happy hour specials 7 days a week.
Everyday happy hour is featured from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. where you can look for $1 off every beer. Which if you think about it, can certainly add up when trying the massive selection they have to offer.
For those on a budget, The Lost Leaf does feature its most popular item, not suprisingly Pabst Blue Ribbon, for only $2 everyday. Now of course, almost no one ever desires a PBR, but when you can stop by and experience the bar atmosphere, music and art, and only pay $2 for a brew… well I guess we can call this the “college special”.
The most important thing is to look to the chalkboard. It will always list the wine and beer specials that just might make your drinking experience more enjoyable than a PBR, and for not much more.
On First Friday, a well known downtown art and music walk, The Lost Leaf features its backyard “Beer Garden”. Because the bar is a house turned retail location, there is an expansive backyard with a stage that is used to feature bands on First Friday and provide outdoor taps. When speaking with Dahl, he said that they’re working on opening up the backyard into a permanent open hangout. I like the idea because it would open up the inside to help alleviate the sometimes cramped interior, but currently city ordinances and rules are restricting their ability to so. Dahl says he hopes to permanently open the backyard soon.
You will find a great selection of local bands. The Lost Leaf has offered more than 400 acts a year for six years now and shows no sign of letting up. Every. Single. Night. There is live music and more often than not, bands worth listening to. My particular favorite is Monday nights in which The Lost Leaf rivals for Phoenix’s best jazz night. Seriously… if you haven’t ever seen live jazz, take a look at The Lost Leaf on Monday nights. Usually there is a fantastic jazz band playing, often made up of members of ASU’s music program, that feature original jazz pieces or interpretive covers.
Other than the jazz nights, there is always a featured local artist. Every night bands from different genres like folk, rock and alternative play and more often than not garnish a good response. Local artists like Andrew Jackson Jihad, What Laura Says, and Scorpion vs. Tarantula have all played on The Lost Leaf’s stage. In their everyday effort, The Lost Leaf has worked to become a staple of local music for people seeking good and entertaining bands in Phoenix.
One more benefit: Never a cover. The Lost Leaf never has a cover charge to enter the bar or see the acts/shows.
The Pros; The Cons
- Large beer selection
- Good wine selection
- Daily specials: Happy hour, cheap Pabst
- Local/Comfortable feel
- Friendly staff
- Good music
- Good location
- Limited number of taps
- Small size/Limited seating
- Weekends can be loud and busy
- Small patio and smoking area
My rating: 8.5/10
This is a bar I really enjoy in downtown Phoenix. I am usually there a night or two a week and have grown to enjoy the place quite a lot. It is one of my favorite spots to study or read while I enjoy a beer, but when the music begins around 9 or 10 p.m. that can be difficult to do. I try to avoid the weekend nights because it’s small and seating space is limited, but it is a great place to go with some friends to hang out, drink and talk. I understand this may not be a bar everyone enjoys, so I’ll attempt to narrow it down to the qualities one would enjoy: Craft beer, music, art, dim lighting, young artistic college crowd.
Don’t go looking for: Club dancing, sports bar, a “pick up on chicks” kind of bar, those who are seeking to get their “groove on.”
The Lost Leaf is located at: 914 N 5th St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Telephone: (602) 258-0014
Hours: Seven Days a Week 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
In the third paragraph of the original version of this article, it was brought to my attention that stating 5th Street and Roosevelt Row had no music or art walks was incorrect. Art walks in downtown Phoenix and on Roosevelt Row date back 25 years. It should have been stated that for this reason, that is why The Lost Leaf decided to open on 5th Street due to the longtime art walks. The original text is below and has been deleted:
When The Lost Leaf opened its doors seven years ago Phoenix was quite different than it is today and 5th Street is no exception. Image, no venues, no poetry slams, no art walks, hardly any music shows; only residential housing. But thanks to some legislation that rezoned local neighborhood houses into residential or retail locations, the doors swung open for a new awakening in Phoenix. Suddenly Phoenix began to cultivate more local and small business, rather than the “big” businesses Phoenix had been known for like U.S. Airways and Freeport-McMoRan.