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House of Tricks: Happy Hour Report Card

Pizza at House of Tricks
Pizza at House of Tricks
Nikki Buchanan

The Spot: House of Tricks 114 E. 7th Street, Tempe, 480-968-1114 www.houseoftricks.com

See also: -- Tastemaker #57: Robin Trick -- Cartwright's: Happy Hour Report Card -- Timo: Happy Hour Report Card

Hours: Happy Hour is offered from 4 to 6 p.m. every day.

Coming in the gate to House of Tricks
Coming in the gate to House of Tricks
Buchanan

The Interior: When Tricks opened in 1987, it was little more than a cozy 20s-era cottage with lace-curtained windows and a fireplace made of local river rock. Customers who wanted to eat outdoors snagged a picnic table (there were maybe three) on the grass under a canopy of trees. The place had an unaffected, almost rustic charm back then. And although the patio has been tricked out over the years -- there's a shaded patio bar and grape arbor now, built on a deck, as well as two bricked patios, a fountain/fire pit, a goldfish pond, a jungle of ferns and flowers and a few resident cats -- it's a "Best Patio" award winner, year after year, for very good reason. In good weather, there are few places I'd rather be than the Mexican tile-topped bar, built around two lovely old shade trees.

The Food: Tricks offers five happy hour selections -- all of them upscale takes on bar food, four of them falling in the golden $4-$6 range. The only outlier is thin-crust, crisp-bottomed flatbread-pizza ($9.25), topped with house-made mozzarella, basil and a thick, sweet tomato sauce that brings Spinato's to mind. If you tack on Schreiner's sausage (and why wouldn't you?), the price jumps to $12.25. But the thing feeds three people easily, and it hits the spot if you've come hungry.

Chips and dip
Chips and dip
Buchanan

If you're more of a nibbler, you won't want to miss crispy house-made potato chips, tucked in a paper funnel and served with creamy onion dip ($4). The single reason I show uncharacteristic restraint on this one? Too much other good stuff to chow on.

Wings with a side of umami
Wings with a side of umami
Buchanan

Namely -- meaty chicken wings, coated in a sticky Asian caramel glaze so irresistible I swipe the plate with my finger to get every last drop of it ($6). It's a great change-up on the usual Buffalo wings, and although I hesitate to use pretentious food jargon, this dish perfectly exemplifies umami. Lip. Smacking. Good. Three fat celery stalks (leaves left on) and coriander ranch dip are the accompaniments.

Spinach artichoke dip
Spinach artichoke dip
Buchanan

Meanwhile, spinach-artichoke dip is just right -- chunky, creamy, fat-laden deliciousness, served with toasted French bread and good crackers ($6).

The Drink: House of Tricks prides itself on its eclectic wine list and climate-controlled cellar, offering about 30 wines by the glasses, the prices knocked off two bucks for happy hour. If you care more about drinking a decent wine than finding a happy hour bargain, you'll be very happy here. Expect $1 off for beer and cocktails, which, admittedly, isn't much of a discount.

Conclusion: I like pretty much everything about happy hour at Tricks: great noshes, great wine selection, good food prices and one of the prettiest, most pleasant settings in town.

Grade: A-


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