The Hours: Happy Hour Tuesday through Friday 4 to 7 p.m.
Perfect for: Showing both locals and out-of-towners that downtown Phoenix is worth a look.
Interior:From the lofted ceilings, stained concrete floor, exposed brick walls, dark wood finishes, and relatively nondescript exterior to the fact that we were asked if we had a reservation (we did) for happy hour on a Wednesday evening, it would be hard to argue that this spot housed inside the historic Luhrs Building isn't one of the coolest places downtown has to offer. It's unlike anything else in the Valley and probably the closest thing to something you would find in any of the country's other large cities. Also, the check will arrive in an old cigar box. Just saying.
The Food: Bitter & Twisted's happy hour deals may not be the most enticing in town, but when you've got chef Bob Tam's creative and unexpected offerings on the table, we'll try not to say another word about it. The Hurricane Popcorn ($5.50) and Smashed Chips ($6.50) were both delicious and elevated twists on standard bar fare.
Thick-cut potato slices, crispy around the edges and tender in the middle, were slathered in horseradish crema, a smoked red pepper sauce, salsa verde, and something called twisted chili sauce. Once combined on the dish, the sauces were almost indistinguishable in flavor, but they worked so well all mixed together that we didn't mind.
The secret to Tam's addictive snack? It's microwave popcorn, but we love it. By shaking garlic, sesame, nori, shichimi, and spicy rice crackers inside the bag with the just-popped corn, the steam and signature butter flavoring create the perfect environment for the spices to completely coat each kernel.
The Seoul Fried Chicken ($8) introduced us to watermelon kimchi, subtly sweet yet tart, thinly shaved pieces of fruit.
The Drinks: Sometimes we get overwhelmed when we have too many options, but thankfully, Bitter & Twisted's happy hour drink deals cut down their 24-page cocktail book to just five discounted cocktail options and dollar-off domestic beers and well spirits. We went with the Thrifty Cocktail of the week ($6), a dark and stormy, and Market Price Mojito ($6), to which we added pear juice.
There was nothing to complain about when it came to the dark and stormy, and we would have been disappointed in owner Ross Simon, who was behind the bar and attending to tables the whole evening, if there had been. The rum and ginger beer were perfectly balanced with just enough lime to add some brightness. The pear mojito was similarly well executed except the pear was hardly noticeable.
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We were warned that the pear juice was one of the subtler flavors, but we weren't even sure if any pear juice made it in there. Next time, we'll be sure to choose a bolder option.
Conclusion: With the hip atmosphere, interesting bar fare, and expertly made cocktails, Bitter & Twisted would be a safe bet if you're looking to impress. Though we wish the deals would have been a little better, we'll let that slide based on the quality of food and drink we received. For a second, sitting in the plush high-backed booth with buttery, spicy popcorn in one hand and a dark and stormy in the other, we forgot we were in the heart of Phoenix. But we can't decide if that's a good thing or not.
Don't miss: The Hurricane Popcorn Skip this: Adding pear juice to anything Grade: A