Stax Burger Bistro: Happy Hour Report Card
The Hours: 3 to 6 p.m. daily
The Details: The Stax happy hour is all about 3 hours of $3 deals. On the $3 menu: five choices of Stax mini-burgers, like Turkey and Beef; Baskets of Tots, Sweet Pots, or Rings; all three choices of appetizer dips; house-made Sangria; and all draft and domestic beers. You can also get $3 off all hand-crafted cocktails.
With deals like that seven days a week, we could very easily make this a regular happy hour hangout. We started with the Spinach & Artichoke Dip with chips, which was recommended by the server. It came to the table pretty and colorful but unfortunately lukewarm. On the bright side, you could see every ingredient in the dip, a welcome deviation from some of those blended versions where to see what's actually in it you have to hold it up to your face and then blur your vision like with a Magic Eye book (they say we're 10 years out from 3D technology that won't require glasses - can't they ask the Magic Eye people and speed this process up?). That said, you saw a lot of spinach, and it often dominated the flavor.
See how we rated the Stax happy hour after the jump.
The Spinach & Artichoke Dip ($3) arrived luke-warm, but still served as a good afternoon snack.
For sides, we went with both the famed Sweet Pots (sweet potato fries) and the Rings. The onion rings are kind of like the Anne Baxter to the sweet potato fries' Bette Davis: The sweet potato fries are getting most of the press, but the onion rings are waiting in the wings. Light, flavorful, and oh-so-crispy, with at least two layers of crust, these rings are stars in their own right.
The Turkey burger (front right) was layered with sweet and tangy flavors, while the Veggie (front left) was less flavorful but still fresh.
Stax is known for their mini-burgers, what today we call sliders and our parents and grandparents before us - back when the McDonald's small fry was a large fry and every walk to school somehow detoured through the Siberian winter - just called burgers. We went with the Turkey and Veggie burgers and the Chicken sandwich. The Chicken was fresh and juicy, but a one-note flavor. The Veggie is decent, but the Turkey is fantastic: If you're staying away from Beef, this is the way to go.
Feeling festive, we washed everything down with two tall glasses of the Four Peaks Arizona Peach Ale - and Stax is one of the few places to get this sweet treat. Stax really won us over when the glasses arrived promptly and ice cold.
The Interior: It's a little like the reclaimed factory loft of your 20-something friend with great taste but a small budget: stained concrete floors, IKEA lights, primary-color accents, and high-tops with shiny, white plastic swivel chairs that could use a trip through the car wash. Now that the weather's cooled down, the glass doors are opened up to a nice-sized patio area with a view of the canal and the funky Soleri Bridge.
The Cost: The bill is a long list of $3 charges. Three burgers with two shareable sides, plus the spinach and artichoke dip, plus two beers, plus tax, all comes out around $25.
The Conclusion: Here's the thing about the Stax happy hour: It's brilliant, but you might have to ask for it. When we got there at just after 3 p.m., the happy hour menus were not on any of the tables, and we were only supplied one when we asked about it. After we had read over the menu and ordered (and it's one of those small, tented menus you generally see lounging in the center of tables), the server snatched the menu back to return it to its hiding place behind the bar.
Overall Grade: A-