The Spot: Earnest 4991 S Alma School Rd #101 Chandler http://corkrestaurant.net
The Hours: Happy Hour is 5 to 6:30 pm, Tuesday through Friday in the bar and lounge.
Interior: Earnest (formerly Cork) is, at first glance, just a strip mall pop-and-pop restaurant at the edge of suburbia. But all memories of the exterior vanish as you enter the warmly lit bar area and cozy dining room. An attentive staff, fancy barware, and upscale warm lighting make the experience sophisticated.
Food: An extensive, 6 item happy hour menu features items from $5 to $8. My dining companion and I settled on the cheeseburger ($8), pot roast sandwich ($8) and the mac & cheese ($8). Ah yes, eating light. The burger was by far the best item, with a delicious bun and aioli, but we'd have had a hard time paying more than $8 for it. The mac & cheese was also a winner. Not too rich, but accompanied by bacon and mushrooms, it quickly schmoozed us. It would have been good to note to additions of bacon and mushrooms on the menu to avoid the element of surprise meat. My dining companion doesn't eat bacon, but she made an exception for this dish. The pot roast sandwich with goat cheese, might have been a bit ambitious. While the flavor was there, the bun provided little structure and overall, it fell flat compared to the other dishes.
The Drinks: Luckily, the drink options are plentiful at Earnest. Beer offerings are $2 for draft and selected bottles, $4 for house red or white wine, and $6 for a featured cocktail. While price-wise the beer is a winner, the cocktail of the day featured watermelon and our lust for a never-ending summer won out. Added plus- it was NOT fruity in color, just clear and smooth.
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Conclusion: A pretty strong showing in Chandler. Earnest is worthy of a stop in after work or even for a great date-night dinner. Chef Brian Peterson's happy hour offerings await in an unsuspecting East Valley plaza.