Hillside Spot: Happy Hour Report Card
The Hours: 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday
The Details: Both draft beers - including Arizona favorites like the Oak Creek Heifeweizen and Four Peaks Hop Knot - and bottles are down to $3. Select wine by the glass is $3 off, and bottled wines are 15% off. The "Pick 3 Grazers" appetizer (with options like Brie & Tomato Jam served on MJ's grilled rustic bread), usually $12, is now $10, while you can get Chips and Guacamole or Cheese Nachos and Salsa for only $5. The regular Chips and Salsa, usually a steal at $2, is now pure daylight robbery at $1.
Looking to get something like dinner out of this happy hour deal, we ordered the Chips and Salsa ($1) and Chips and Guacamole ($5 - made to order with citrus, jalapenos, cilantro, cojita cheese, and house-made tortilla chips), then picked off the regular apps menu for the Frico Cheese Crisp ($7 - aged Manchego crisp served with aji chile aioli) and Open Face Grilled Cheese ($5). Which is to say, there was a lot of cheese and even more chips on our table.
You will definitely want to come back for the Chips and Salsa, a happy hour steal at $1.
We were standing in line for takeout one day when they were mixing the new salsa in the back, and - with many, many warnings about how spicy it was - we were offered a sample. Thick, red, and with both a fast kick and lingering heat, this salsa was a new favorite with one bite. It was still the standout app (and for $1, too!), though the Frico Cheese Crisp was as terrible-for-you-tasty as fair food. And there's a reason Hillside Spot does these dishes so well; Chef Doug Robson, who opened the Ahwatukee market & cafe, also recently co-opened the new Cocina 10 downtown with Pizzeria Bianco's Chris Bianco. At Hillside Spot, you can now order off the Cocina 10 menu (with its rich "El Tejano" and "Al Pastor" burritos) after 4 p.m.
The Frico Cheese Crisp felt a little like fair food - in that, after finishing it, we wanted to lick our fingers and win a goldfish.
The Interior: It's a huge space with high ceilings and a completely open kitchen, so those seated at the bar can watch the pancakes and fries sizzling. The tables are a mix of woods, and the walls painted bright red and lime green. Each table has a tiny vase of fresh carnations. It's always light and airy, and in particularly good weather the windows by the patio open up like garage doors to connect indoors with out.
The Cost: Two apps at happy hour prices plus two off the regular menu, plus two draft beers, came out to (as usual) just under $25. In other words, you can get a lot to eat at this happy hour for relatively little.
Fans of Hillside Spot's breakfast will recognize the hearty MJ's bread used in the Open Face Grilled Cheese.
The Conclusion: We watched Hillside Spot grow from a breakfast spot to a lunch spot - with an often heavy 10 a.m. crowd of laptop lingerers and gathering moms - to a fine restaurant for dinner that's still just a little too popular with the local flies. Like every moment in its evolution, the happy hour is still stumbling a bit before getting settled: A small info sign greets visitors with the details, while two servers when asked spout contradictory information (watch your bill to make sure the discounts go through). But like the patio that grew week by week outside the big windows - with its colorful tile, twinkling lights, and potted plants - the happy hour at Hillside Spot is likely to soon gather a regular following.
Overall Grade: B+
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