Chow Bella

District American Kitchen and Wine Bar: Happy Hour Report Card

See also: Humble Pie: Happy Hour Report Card See also: Sierra Bonita Grill: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: District American Kitchen and Wine Bar, Sheraton Hotel, 320 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix. 602-817-5400,

The Hours: Breakfast 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Lounge 11 a.m. to midnight. Happy Hour: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Reverse Happy Hour: 10 p.m. to close Monday through Saturday.

The Interior: Most of us turn up our noses at hotel restaurants and bars, assuming they'll be cold and generic. But in District American Kitchen's case, all that corporate money translates to an elegant space that's way more inviting and comfortable than you'd ever expect.

What's not to like about a sweep of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the street, a curving granite-topped bar (TV-furnished and deep enough for serious chowing down), plush, white leather bar stools that keep your back and bum happy and a thermostat set to arctic temperatures? This is a perfect summer hangout -- streamlined, classy and blessedly cool.

The Food: Chef Jay Bogsinske (whose resume boasts stints at Michael's at the Citadel, Zinc Bistro and Chelsea's Kitchen) has the chops to take happy hour beyond the trough mentality and he does, using local produce and products, plucking fresh basil from the Sheraton's rooftop garden for his crouton-topped tomato soup and putting a creative spin on happy hour standards.

Most small plates ring in at $4 (the Caesar salad is $5), which means two people can eat extraordinarily well for 20 bucks or less.

Mac and cheese, which tastes like the creamy, idealized mac and cheese of your childhood, gets a crispy topping of crumbled Cheez-Its and a couple of slices of Schreiner's spicy beer hots (sausages). Yum! And the portion is so generous there's a little left over for lunch the next day ($4).

Singh Farm Honey Wings are so deliciously clever I could put away two plate-fulls. The drumettes (not the bonier wing half), have been frenched, leaving a neat little handle for swirling the chicken in cilantro lime salt and Singh Farms honey.

Slivers of pickled jalapeño offer up the requisite heat, making an irresistible trio of flavor contrasts ($4). I can't imagine anyone but a devout Buffalo wing purist not loving them.

Candy-like dates, stuffed with chived cream cheese and wrapped in Schreiner's bacon, come served with a sticky (and completely unnecessary) puddle of Vermont maple syrup, but do you me hear me complaining? You do not.

Bogsinske makes wonderful Sloppy Joe sliders out of naturally raised buffalo meat from Big Sky Ranch in North Dakota, piling the rich, meaty mixture on fluffy pull-apart rolls. Comfortus Maximus.

The Drink: House red and house white wine sells for $5 per glass, as do basic cocktails made with UV vodka, Gordon's gin, Bacardi rum and Jack Daniel's whiskey.

But the beer section is probably the better place to spend your money and time, given that craft brews such as Nimbus Blonde, Stone IPA, Lagunitas Pils, SanTan Hefeweizen and Four Peaks Kiltlifter cost $3.

There's also a super-light white sangria, filled with peaches, that isn't half bad if you're more in the mood to be refreshed than high ($5).

The Conclusion:District puts real thought and energy into its happy hour, making it one of downtown's best options. Get over your prejudice about hotel dining and give it a shot.

Grade: A

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