Chow Bella

Happy Hour Report Card: Secreto

The Spot: Secreto, 4232 E Chandler Blvd, 480-706-2220

The Hours: 3 to 7 pm Monday - Friday

The Details: Happy hour is only available at the bar. Drink prices range from $2.25 for domestic bottled beer to margaritas and martinis for $5. All happy hour menu items range from three to six dollars.

The Interior: Our entry from the hot parking lot was a relief. It was appropriately dark and cool and just the right remedy for a hot afternoon. Secreto's interior design does say "New Mexico Adobe" in a beautiful way. The cactus rib-filled windows and adobe partitions create the feeling of entering an old hacienda. The bar has very soft lighting accented with candles, beautifully reflected on the hammered copper bar. 

We were disappointed that the happy hour was limited to the small bar area. In front of the bar was an adobe wall fitted with a wood counter, which had stools to seat about eight. While waiting for our order we checked out the regular restaurant seating, which was beautiful. Very private booths were created with adobe walls. The booths were square and filled with pillows. This looked like it could be the site of some serious food porn.

The Cost: Two margaritas, a carne adovada quesadilla and southwest eggrolls with avocado cream sauce were $22 before tax and tip

The Conclusion: The secret of Secreto, in our estimation, is they really don't want to do a Happy Hour but they seem to feel compelled to. Being limited to the bar area felt restrictive. There is no place to really sit and enjoy happy hour with friends. The bartender seemed to be having a bad day and the look on his face was "Oh no, customers!" At 5 pm there were about four businessmen at the bar and the bartender seemed to like it that way.

There was not a drink menu so we asked what the recommended margarita was and he said they made a very good Cactus Margarita. But this margarita tasted like orange juice with a shot of tequila. The closest a cactus got to this drink was that Chandler Blvd is in the Sonoran desert. We asked for the best martini and were served a lemon drop that was better than the margarita.

The star of the happy hour menu was the quesadilla, filled with smoky, tender pork and manchego cheese. By contrast, the chicken taco was topped with cheese and lettuce from a bag. The egg rolls were filled with tender chipotle spiced chicken but fell short with guacamole that did not taste fresh or homemade. The hummus was not seasoned correctly and had a huge scoop of caramelized Serrano chiles on top. The chiles were actually very good but may have been better in the dip. This was served with red white and blue corn chips -- again, out of a bag. The artichoke dip was greasy and predictable.

We didn't notice anyone come in to eat dinner till about 5:30. If we'd been allowed access to those booths, we can guarantee we would have stayed for dinner and spent much more than our happy hour bill. We would have been licking the carne advovada from our fingers, ignoring the awful margaritas, and creating more heat than those Serrano chiles. Isn't happy hour about being happy? But we weren't.

Grade: C