Each week we venture to a new restaurant to check out what the spot has to offer during our favorite time of day — happy hour. Whether it's affordable appetizers, delicious drinks, jaw-dropping deals, or none of the above, we'll check out the situation and report back.
The Spot: House of Tricks
114 East Seventh Street, Tempe
The Hours: House of Tricks' “Hour of Tranquility,” also called “H.O.T. 46,” is from 4 to 6 p.m. It is offered in the bar area only.
Perfect For: All you lovers out there. Or those looking to find lovers. (Especially those of the thirtysomething persuasion who seem like they have their lives together.)
The Interior: House of Tricks, a jewel in Tempe's crown for more than 28 years, is tricky indeed. Don’t let its rustic setting fool you; though the restaurant is just two small houses in the middle of a grove of shade trees, the menu and the service at House of Tricks as professional as it gets. Happy hour is offered in the bar, which is situated on a platform in the trees between the two houses, Robinson Crusoe-style. The staff is really, really, ridiculously good-looking (did Jesse Pinkman just clear our plates?), and yet somehow, they’re also warm, friendly, and super-knowledgeable. White tablecloths and strings of twinkling lights add a magical feel to the woodsy surroundings.
The Food: Though not for the weak of wallet, House of Tricks’ happy hour menu is as delicious as it is fancy. We ordered the pistachio butter bruschetta ($8). The trio of toasted bread is topped with mascarpone, macerated strawberries, bacon, fennel, and a handful of arugula, then drizzled with balsamic reduction. Is it dessert? Is it an appetizer? By the third piece, you won't care. The combination of strawberries and pistachio butter will have you reminiscing about your favorite waffle truck experience, before the bacon and fennel remind you that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he just brought you bacon.
We also ordered the beef tenderloin carne seca tacos ($9.50), which are every bit as good as they sound (with a little kick, consider yourself warned). Other gems on this menu include a spinach, green chili and artichoke dip ($9), Berbere spiced chicken wings ($9), and toasted almonds with wasabi candied cashews ($6). An added bonus to this happy hour menu is that none of the items are repeated on the dinner menu, so you feel like you’re getting something special by making it to the magic hour.
The Drinks: In the interest of full disclosure, we must admit that we did not try nearly as many drinks as we should have. In fact, the Greek Moscofilero, a Georges Skouras white wine that was recommended by our smarty-pants bartender, was so perfect that we had two of those, instead. Other wines and quite a few cocktails called out to us from this extensive menu, but we shushed them as we slammed our wine — elegantly, of course. During happy hour, wines and cocktails are $2 off the regular price, while beer is $1 off. Not the best deal in town, but at least you know you’re getting the good stuff.
Conclusion: There is no magic behind House of Tricks’ pricing strategy. It is clear that this is not the pregame spot for fans on their way to Sun Devil Stadium. Looking around, the clientele appeared to be professors, young(ish) professionals, and the occasional saucy book club. At this price point, the only students you’ll see here will be dining with their parents. In the end, the romantic setting and stellar food make House of Tricks perfect for date night, or a fancy drink before the show at Gammage. And if you want to end the night with penny beers or dueling pianos, loosen your tie, and change into comfortable shoes, then Mill Avenue is just a few steps away.
Don’t Miss: The public parking lot across the street. Avoid the meter and use your coins for more food from HoT’s outstanding menu instead.
Skip This: Coming here with anyone who won’t appreciate fine dining. Take your “bros” to Mill, take your “colleagues” to House of Tricks.