Each week we venture to a new restaurant to check out what they have to offer during our favorite time of day — happy hour. Whether it's the most delectable appetizers, the best beverages, jaw-dropping deals, or none of the above, we'll vet the entire situation and tell all about it in Happy Hour Report Card.
The Spot: Squid Ink Sushi Bar
2 East Jefferson Street
The Hours: Happy hour is daily from 3 to 7 p.m.
Perfect for: Sake bombs and sushi in downtown Phoenix
Interior: Those who have been around Phoenix for a while know that even with the growth the city has experience in the past few years, the streets of downtown are often empty during weekend days. Maybe that's just because everyone is at Squid Ink Sushi Bar. We were surprised to see how packed this urban sushi destination was on a Sunday afternoon. The sushi bar, drinking bar, community table, and indoor tables were filled during our visit, as were a few tables on the patio.
Despite the Sunday afternoon happy hour rush, the staff was still charming, speedy, and accommodating. Our server was happy to offer recommendations and quick to make light of how close together the fully occupied tables were.
The Food: During happy hour, Squid Ink features half-off all starters and select sushi rolls in addition to $2 off select house rolls. We couldn't turn down $2 edamame and added a $3.50 spicy crab roll, $5 grilled squid, and a $12 Flying Phoenix roll.
The spicy crab roll, which barely had any spice at all, was the most disappointing dish, but the grilled squid and Flying Phoenix roll more than made up for it. The sliced, charred squid was tender and smoky, and we could have dunked every piece in a vat of the accompanying yellow curry sauce. The halved tomatoes offered a nice balance to the rich sauce with deep, warm flavors.
The Flying Phoenix roll also leaned toward warm, hearty flavors, an interesting change from the usual delicate sushi rolls. Shrimp tempura, spicy crab, and avocado wrapped in rice acted as the base for the real stars of the dish, tuna tataki and a black pepper sauce. While the spiced sauce basically overpowered every other flavor in the roll, we didn't mind too much, and we found ourselves salvaging the lackluster spicy crab roll by dipping it in the leftover pepper sauce on our plates.
The Drinks: Squid Ink takes advantage of the full bar by offering $5 select cocktails and $4 well cocktails during happy hour. While the Shiso Happens ($5) tasted too much like just sweetened lime juice without any detectable vodka flavor, it was pretty with a large shiso leaf decorating the glass.
On the other hand, the Deep Water, made with Sobieski vodka, watermelon liqueur, and orange and lime juices, had a very distinct flavor — that of a watermelon Jolly Rancher candy. Surprisingly, though, the drink ($5) was more tart than sweet, borrowing just the artificial watermelon flavor from its candy counterpart.
Squid Ink also offers $2 off wines by the glass, $3 domestic beers, $4 draft beers, and $6 Kirin Light sake bombers. Some rowdy guests sitting nearby fully took part in the bomber deal.
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Conclusion: We would happily return to Squid Ink just for the grilled squid and black pepper sauce on the Flying Phoenix roll. While the spicy crab roll wasn't as spicy as we would have liked, we can't argue with the $3.50 price tag or really any of the happy hour prices. On the other hand, we may skip the cocktails next time. Maybe our rambunctious fellow diners had the right idea with the sake bombs, after all.
Don't Miss: The grilled squid
Skip This: Spicy crab roll