The Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 4 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday
The Details: Domestic drafts and bottles are down to $3, with well drinks at $4, select wines by the glass (with five whites and five reds to choose from) at $5, and Bistro Wine Flights (red, white, or sparkling) for only $5. Select Bistro Bites - including the Crispy Zucchini Parmesan, Crab Fritters, and Beef Sliders - are also only $5.
Mimi's Cafe's new happy hour scheme - debuting this past fall and dubbed the "Happiest Hour" - may seem at first glance inconsistent with the chain's brand: frilly curtains, big breakfasts - the kind of place you'd take your grandmother at around 4 p.m. for tea, not a tea-tini.
But this is also the same restaurant that serves to-get-out-of-bed-for Mimosas alongside those overflowing plates of French toast and salutes La Vie en French New Orleans in its signature kitschy decor and kicky Jambalaya.
From the six choices on the $5 Bistro Bites menu, we went with the Chicken Tenders (plus a side of fries, added for $1 to any selection), BBQ Pork Sliders, and Signature Cheese & Fruit Plate. The sliders - topped with red onions and a pickle slice - took their name literally as the ingredients spilled over the sides of the bun. Though they were better eaten with a knife and fork (and cooled too quickly), the BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy. The tenders and fries were both pleasantly crispy: always a good go-to for the whiney 5-year-old in your life (or your stomach). The cheese and fruit plate was a good value at $5, including walnuts, dried cranberries, brie, apple slices, and a couple strawberries. Note to Mimi: It wouldn't cost too much to add a couple crackers or a wedge of bread here, would it?
The Interior: Mimi's Cafe looks a little like an HGTV Design Star challenge in which the incongruous inspirations are a French country kitchen and Las Vegas casino Circus Circus. There are motifs of jazz singers and ceramic roosters, curtains in brightly colored stripes and flowers, and signs written in chalk hanging from the high ceilings. You are greeted on entering with a cheerful "Bonjour!" and guided to one of the restaurant's many booths - but there is also a full bar and, usually, a pretty patio.
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The Cost: Two beers, one wine flight, and three appetizers (one with a side of fries), plus tax, came out to around $28.
The Conclusion: The Ahwatukee location of Mimi's Cafe recently took third place in the restaurant category in the 2011 Best of Ahwatukee awards, an annual vote conducted by the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Biscuits took first, a fitting commentary on the evolving demographics of this Phoenix suburb. Unfortunately, there's no halo effect here: Our happy hour experience was by no means award-winning. The prices were decent and the portions large, but there was a general blandness to the dishes that the $5 wine flights couldn't undo. That said, there was one standout of the afternoon: Our server, Greg, was funny, enthusiastic, and endlessly attentive to detail. We overheard him talking the table next to us into the happy-hour deals, and he was no less eager to introduce us to the Mimi's Classic Ensemble dessert trio. Three small (but not that small) servings of bread pudding, apple cinnamon crisp, and a brownie with ice cream, all for little more than $5? Now that's something we're going back for.
Overall Grade: C+