America's Taco Shop: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: America's Taco Shop, 735 E. University Drive, Tempe, AZ 85281. (480) 751-6250. (Two more locations in downtown Phoenix) www.americastacoshop.net

The Hours: 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

The Details: Tacos Al Pastor (with marinated pork, cabbage, guacamole, cilantro, and grilled pineapple, served with tomatillo salsa) are just $1 a piece. Chips & Salsa are also a steal at $1, while all Mexican bottled beer is down to $2. The selection includes Dos Equis, Negra Modelo, and Tecate (a beer you can also find at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, at Phantom Ranch -- that's a fun fact). The America's Margarita is discounted at just $4, and you can get it with either salt or sugar. The happy hour doesn't extend beyond weekdays, but to cheer you up on Saturdays and Sundays, you can get Pacificos for just $2 all day.

The Interior: Inside, America's Taco Shop is casual and unpretentious: like your dorm room, but uncluttered and clean. You order at the registers and take a number; pop this on your table and your tacos and drinks will soon be delivered. Service is fast and friendly, and when we went up to order, we experienced one of those things that makes us really believe in a place: We were reminded that it was happy hour and encouraged to order the discounted items. Too many restaurants hide their happy hours or appear to hope you don't ask, but here, even when the regular menu prices are already so reasonable, the staff was eager to give us the best deal available. And when the weather is fine, the patio space overlooking University Drive on one side and the light rail on the other (decorated with twinkling lights for when the sun sets) is an ideal spot to kick back and take a break (like, say, during finals week).

The Cost: One beer, one margarita, one order of chips and salsa, two Al Pastor tacos, and one non-happy-hour-priced Carne Asada taco squeaked just under $12 before tax and tip.

The Conclusion: The Tempe location of America's Taco Shop is so close to Arizona State University that it may as well be considered on campus. And with four happy-hour hours every weekday, it's easy (maybe a little too easy for our own good) to drop by America's between classes for a midday snack and moment of relaxation. It's hard to fault a happy hour that will serve you a taco, chips and salsa, and a beer for less than $5 total. The tacos may be cheap, but the flavors are rich. And did we mention the drinks are cold? With 90-degree weather descending this week, we can't emphasize that enough. Salt or sugar your $4 margarita (we won't judge), you'll love the ice as much as the Three Amigos tequila.

Overall Grade: A

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